Yankees trade power-hitting lefty to Brewers for 2 outfield prospects

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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With the non-tender deadline on the horizon, the Yankees make their first trade of the offseason by dealing 1B/OF Jake Bauers to the Milwaukee Brewers for two Minor League outfielders. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Yankees will be receiving outfielders Jace Avina and Brian Sanchez in return, and the Yankees clear some payroll and a 40-Man Roster spot. Bauers, who was a supplementary piece for the team who came up following various injuries in their outfield, finished with an 89 wRC+ last season.

Injuries slowed him down towards the end, but his 18.7% Barrel Rate and 48% Hard Hit Rate enticed a Milwaukee Brewers’ roster that lacked serious power last season, and the Yankees netted two young prospects with some MiLB success in return.

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees, jake bauers
Jul 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Jake Bauers (61) hits a single against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees knew they likely couldn’t find playing time for Jake Bauers, who is more of a first baseman than an outfielder and struggled to hit his way into the starting lineup down the stretch. In return, they get two lottery ticket prospects with some upside, as Brian Sanchez is just 19 years old and wrapped up his first season in professional ball. The left-handed outfielder slashed .297/.414/.446 with an 18% strikeout rate and 15.6% walk rate, displaying strong plate discipline and contact skills at an early age.

On top of Sanchez, they also received Jace Avina, the Brewers’ 14th Round Pick back in the 2021 MLB Drafty who had a strong campaign in Single-A in his age-20 season. Avina slashed .233/.373/.442 with a 134 wRC+ and 14 HRs in 99 games this past season, putting up a monster second-half as over his final 38 games, he hit six home runs and drove in 26 runners with a 203 wRC+ and .339 average. Considering their perceived lack of leverage in this deal, given that Bauers was a likely non-tender candidate, it’s hard to complain about the overall package the Yankees got in return.

Jace Avina could start the season in Hudson Valley and won’t turn 21 years old until next June, and with a 49.8% flyball rate, has already displayed really strong power tools from the right-handed side. The Yankees have a knack for developing Minor League hitters, as this past season they finished second in Baseball America’s age-adjusted hitter score and had multiple top offenses across the Minor League circuits.

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Hudson Valley Renegades infielder Caleb Durbin during media day on April 5, 2023. Renegades Media Day

Last offseason the Yankees were able to turn around Caleb Durbin’s career, as they correctly identified skills he could develop upon his arrival in the organization and could be looking to do so again here. Joe Migliaccio and the Yankees’ MiLB hitting coaches are raved about in the industry, and a transition from Milwaukee to New York could give them the fresh start they need to potentially boost their stocks in 2024.

Getting two young outfield prospects for a player that was going to be underutilized is great, and for the Brewers, they get a hitter who many in the Yankee organization felt strongly about. Bauers had multiple stints with the organization and broke out in Triple-A this past season, and while his numbers to end the year weren’t pretty, there were stretches where he looked legit. Perhaps a full-time role with the Brew Crew is exactly what he needs in a strong-side platoon role to put up more consistent numbers, but that just wasn’t going to happen in New York.

There are still multiple arbitration-eligible players the Yankees will have to decide upon in the next coming hours, most notably catcher Kyle Higashioka, as they look to navigate through a roster and payroll crunch and pursue top names on the market.

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