It is no secret that the New York Yankees need to fill their vacant left-field spot with a free-agent acquisition. Despite Pittsburgh Pirates star outfielder Bryan Reynolds requesting a trade last week, the expectation is that general manager Brian Cashman will prefer to use cash over expending talented prospects who project to be a part of the team’s long-term plans.
At this point in time, the Yankees have been connected to Andrew Benintendi on an extension, Masataka Yoshida out of Japan, and Michael Conforto from the Mets, who didn’t play during the 2022 season. However, there is one other option that could fit the bill and offers impeccable offensive qualities.
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The Yankees should make a play at Michael Brantley:
Playing in just 64 games this past season, Michael Brantley from the Houston Astros could be a match made in heaven if the Bombers are looking for an elite contact hitter with great on-base rates.
Over 277 at-bats, he hit .288 with a 37% on-base rate, five homers, and 26 RBIs. In 2021, Brantley hit .311 with a 36.2% on-base rate, including a 10.4% strike-out rate. It seems as if Brantley is getting better with age and more patient with experience.
At 35 years old, he’s undoubtedly headed toward the back end of his career, but the Yankees might be able to milk a year or two out of his capabilities, which will ultimately come with less-than-desired defensive athleticism.
Brantley has played in 7,717 innings as a left fielder throughout his career, hosting a .994 fielding percentage and 45 total defensive runs saved above average. By most accounts, he’s an above-average player, but with age taking its toll, his athletic abilities in the outfield may be limited.
However, with a lefty bat, the Yankees might be able to extrapolate on his home run-hitting capabilities, considering he would’ve hit three more with a short right porch in Yankee Stadium. Back in 2021, his home run total would’ve doubled, so there’s a legitimate argument to make he’d be even better in pinstripes.
Brantley is coming off a two-year, $32 million deal with the Astros, but after playing in just 64 games this past season, he would likely earn far less than $16 million. A two-year deal at $12-13M seems like a more probable contract, which is more serviceable than the deal Cashman would have to present Benintendi or Yoshida.
Nonetheless, if the Yankees are looking for one of the most consistent offensive players in the game, Brantley undoubtedly fits the bill.