New York Yankees managing owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman expressed quite different views on Tuesday when both spoke to the media.
Steinbrenner was rather vague about the changes that will be made to the front office, and Cashman doubled down on some of his mistakes, but one thing rings true, the team knows they need improvements and will be targeting some of the best hitters on the market.
Steinbrenner said, “Everything is on the table when it comes to free agents.”
The free agent market is rather thin this year. Some may call it top-heavy with Cody Bellinger leading the way in the outfield, but the team still needs to make reinforcements, and they will likely have to open their checkbook to do so. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best lefty hitters available and why the Yankees could pursue them.
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- Yankees should keep ‘lefty Aaron Judge’ out of trade talks
Yankees Targeting Three Elite Hitters This Off-season:
1.) Juan Soto
The Yankees have been connected to Juan Soto several times this off-season, but there are conflicting reports. Some believe that the San Diego Padres will look to move Soto in an attempt to clear salary off their books, while Jon Heyman of the New York Post believes that the Padres likely won’t deal him this winter, instead waiting to see if their playoff hopes are stifled and try to move him at the deadline next summer.
If he does become available, though, he should be at the top of the Yankees’ wish list. Soto is coming off a season where he hit .275 with a .410 OBP and .519 slugging rate, including 35 homers, 109 RBIs, and a 155 wRC+. Impressively, Soto is only 25 years old and has played three consecutive seasons with a minimum of 150 games. He played all 162 games this past campaign, showcasing his durability, a variable the Yankees would love to improve upon.
Acquiring Soto would certainly force the Yankees to give up some quality prospects, but for a bat of his caliber, it would be worthwhile. The leaders on the team made it known that without Aaron Judge, they struggled to compete. Soto would be the perfect insurance policy in case Judge is forced to miss any time, but with both of them in the lineup, the Yankees would have one of the best offenses in baseball, not to mention other quality hitters.
2.) Cody Bellinger
If the Yankees want to spend in free agency over acquiring a player like Soto via trade, they could look to Cody Bellinger. Heyman believes that the Yankees will make a serious push for Bellinger, who’s coming off an elite season at 28 years old.
Over 130 games, Bellinger hit .307 with a .356 OBP and a .525 slugging rate, including 26 homers, 97 RBIs, and a 134 wRC+. The problem with Bellinger is that he had two down seasons prior to his 2023 breakout campaign with the Chicago Cubs. This seems like the perfect bait contract that would lock the Yankees into a long-term deal just to see Bellinger revert back to his 2022 self.
They may be better off avoiding Bellinger altogether and letting other teams drive up his price, waiting for a player like Soto to become available, even if it means during the 2024 free agent class.
3.) Shohei Ohtani
The Yankees have a long-shot chance at landing superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani. The 29-year-old played 135 games this past season but suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He will miss the entire 2024 season in the pitching department but should be able to hit, and he is still one of the best in baseball in that regard.
Ohtani should land a contract upwards of $400 million, but he’s worth every penny, having played a minimum of 135 games the past three seasons. He hit .304 with a .412 OBP, including 44 homers, 95 RBIs, and a 180 wRC+ in 2023. With the short right porch, Ohtani may give Judge a run for his money in the home-run-breaking department, but having two elite players would certainly boost the team’s offensive production.
It is extremely rare that a player like Ohtani hits the open market, so the Yankees should certainly consider offering him a blockbuster deal if he’s willing to travel to the East Coast. Rumor has it that Ohtani prefers the West Coast weather, but money talks and the Bombers may be willing to spend.
At the end of the day, the team is expected to hike their 2024 ticket prices by around 10%, and a player like Ohtani would certainly justify that decision. He would not only bring an international crowd to the Bronx but also provide the team with a superstar player that draws eyes and drives sales.