The New York Yankees seem confused about their outfield mix for 2022 at the moment.
Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo are firmly entrenched in right and left, though when a need for a fill-in center fielder arises, it’s always Judge who shifts over, which still feels unnatural. Aaron Hicks is the team’s presumptive starting center fielder, though Brian Cashman has made it clear he’s open to upgrades — as he should be, considering Hicks is aging and almost never provides a full season of healthy competence.
As for the rover behind those three? As of now, it won’t be Brett Gardner, but check back with us in mid-February.
So, who fills that need? Who plays right or left when Gallo or Judge slots over? Who can theoretically handle center for ~60 games a season to make things easier? What about 27-year-old Japanese star Seiya Suzuki, who’s primarily a right fielder but also has experience in center (and at third, and left, and short, and first…)?
For a top-level financial commitment, adding the (theoretically) unproven Suzuki could be a serious risk.
But for the price he’s rumored to command? Risk away! That’s two-thirds of what we expected.
The Yankees need to pursue Seiya Suzuki at his rumored cost.
Now, five years seems like one or two too many for a *somewhat* unproven commodity, but how can you not be intrigued by a potential All-Star talent who can fill left, right and center at $10 million annually?
Hell, make it $11 million!
Add in the fact that the Mets are among the lead dogs, and the Yankees might want to change their calculus here.
Though the metric is always a touch sketchy, Suzuki’s remarkable 6 DRS in right field in 2020 proves that he’s figured out how to maximize his defensive skills to impress the computers. Add in his counting stats (319/.436/.640 with 38 home runs and only 87 strikeouts in 2021), and you have a player who profiles as instantly impactful at the big-league level.
Athleticism? Check. Power? Check. Versatility? Check. You don’t have to plop the numbers in a blender and break them down to discern the obvious fit here.
Suzuki’s posting, like many other things, may get scuttled by the impending Dec. 1 lockout. As of now, the deadline for his signing is Mon., Dec. 22, an impossible date if the baseball world is shut down at that time.
With interest heating up and a bidding war likely beginning anyway, though, we expected Suzuki’s price to be too high for New York to get involved with so much uncertainty elsewhere.
If that price gets it done, though, Brian Cashman should sneak to the front of the line — especially before Steve Cohen does.