While the Yankees have been linked to a variety of names around the league on the trade and free-agent markets, we haven’t seen any players come out and specifically recommend somebody. This all changed when Anthony Volpe, who was doing a meet-and-greet at the MLB Flagship Store in NYC, was asked to make a pitch to a free agent target, and he name-dropped an interesting bat.
Jason Heyward, who put up a 121 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR this past season, is a free agent entering his age-34 season, and following a disappointing tenure with the Cubs that resulted in an 88 wRC+ and 8.2 fWAR, he was DFA’d and picked up by the Dodgers. He’d put up his best full-season since 2015, with 15 HRs and a career-best 8% Barrel%.
The Dodgers are known for getting the most out of players, and with his strong numbers against right-handed pitching, is Volpe onto something?
Should the Yankees Go After Jason Heyward?
Following a disappointing 2022 season that resulted in the former All-Star being cut by the Chicago Cubs, Heyward would find his grove in the sunny confines of Los Angeles. Heyward’s swing makes sense for Yankee Stadium, as he’s a left-handed outfielder who possesses a low strikeout rate (17%) and a high pull rate on flyballs (35.6%). He was particularly excellent against right-handed pitching, posting a .818 OPS and 123 wRC+, and he’s historically been an excellent hitter in those matchups.
The Yankees are on the opposite end of that spectrum, as they had just a .298 OPS against righties, and if they want to improve on their mediocre 82-80 record, that’s an area of weakness they need to patch up. Defensively, Heyward fits what the Yankees would be looking for in a corner outfield spot as he gad +5 Fielding Run Value while playing all three outfield spots, although he’s primarily been in right field.
His viability in centerfield hasn’t waned too much, as while he has -2 DRS he also has +1 OAA, so if needed he can play the position in a pinch. If signing Heyward, who has a spotty track record and is entering the later stages of his career, is their plan, it likely won’t be their primary move. Brian Cashman spoke to the media about acquiring two left-handed outfielders, and if the Yankees were to get a bat like Juan Soto or Cody Bellinger, perhaps they go a little cheaper on Heyward, who can bolster their outfield depth.
The Yankees’ long-time General Manager seems deadset on having stable options while Jasson Dominguez is out, and with their injury history, it doesn’t hurt to have “too many” quality players. It’ll be interesting to see what the market will look like for Jason Heyward, who is at the very least a strong defensive option for a strongside platoon but doesn’t have much upside due to his age.
Anthony Volpe isn’t the one calling the shots in terms of player acquisition, but Jason Heyward could be a target for the Yankees as they look to add to a depleted position player group and reload for the 2024 season. They’re already linked to various left-handed hitters on the market, and it’s clear that the route they’re trying to take this winter involves more lineup balance.