Yankees trade former top prospect to Guardians, upgrade bullpen depth

mlb: arizona diamondbacks at new york yankees, estevan florial
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees trading Estevan Florial marks the end of an era for the outfield prospect, but it also gives him and the team a fresh start. Florial was the 38th-best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America entering the 2018 season, he struggled with injuries and swing path issues that led to a lot of strikeouts and inconsistency. It was clear that the organization didn’t deem him MLB-ready, as they rarely called him up when outfielders went down with an injury, and when he did play he posted a .635 OPS.

He’s now headed to Cleveland, where the Yankees receive Cody Morris, who has experience as a starter and reliever at the MLB level, sporting a 3.41 ERA and 5.30 FIP across 31.2 IP.

What Did the Yankees Get in Cody Morris?

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Texas Rangers
Jul 14, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Cleveland Guardians relief pitcher Cody Morris (36) walks off the field after pitching to the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Morris was drafted in the seventh round of the MLB Draft by the Guardians back in 2018, and the right-hander had really impressed in 2021 and 2022 at the Minor League level. Across those two years, he sported a 1.64 ERA with 132 strikeouts across 82.1 innings pitched, and he looked like he could be a force in the Guardians’ pitching staff for years to come. At the MLB level, we still saw a good amount of whiffs with a 13% Swinging Strike Rate, and a 23.2% strikeout rate isn’t that bad either, but a 13% walk rate has limited him from a starter to reliever role over the past year.

He possesses a strong fastball at 95 MPH with good vertical life and spin rates north of 2,400 RPMs on average, but it’s a pitch that’s consistently allowed hard contact as well. This past season, the Whiff Rate was excellent (33.3%) but the xwOBACON (.446) was well below the average. Quality of contact has always been an issue for Morris, who has a career 12.5% Barrel Rate allowed and 1.71 HR/9 across his 13 MLB appearances. The addition of a cutter was supposed to aid with those quality of contact issues but that pitch has been hit pretty hard as well.

Morris has a solid changeup and curveball as well, but the Yankees are hoping the 27-year-old can refine his arsenal with New York, as projections seem to like what he could be in 2024. With a 3.82 ERA and 48 innings pitched according to Steamer, the Yankees would be getting a quality bullpen arm, and if he isn’t working out for the team at the MLB Level, he has two MiLB options remaining and can provide the team versatility. His recent experience as a starter also brings optimism that he could be a versatile weapon that can go two or three innings if need be.

Estevan Florial simply wasn’t going to play next season, the team had acquired Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo to start in the outfield and added a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder in Trent Grisham as their fourth outfielder. The Yankees getting an arm who might help them next season is a win, even if Florial is a solid outfielder out in Cleveland. For added depth, they have Everson Pereira in Triple-A, and Spencer Jones looks like he could be in Triple-A at some point next season as well. Aaron Boone showing some optimism regarding Jasson Dominguez’s return adds another outfielder from their farm system into the fold as well.

Cody Morris could be a fun name for the Yankees’ bullpen, or just another flyer that stays in Triple-A next season, but it’s a nice get for an outfielder who they would have had to release by the start of Opening Day.

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