The New York Yankees approached the non-tender deadline like more of a guideline than a ticking time bomb, agreeing to new arbitration-beating deals with Lou Trivino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa while otherwise standing pat. Every eligible Yankee was tendered a contract rather than cut loose; therefore, it’s now time to shift attention to the trade market and free agency.
While the Yankees were largely inactive, most other MLB teams added to that free agency pile last week, slicing a few players off their rosters to deal with rising arbitration costs and recent failures and regressions. Cody Bellinger was the highest-profile name to be cut loose — and might be the highest-profile name ever cut loose in this process — but plenty of other notables followed in his wake.
Some of these players don’t deserve a second glance from the Yankees. Some are far too expensive for New York to roll the dice on — like Bellinger, who was theoretically owed something close to the qualifying offer, and who was cut loose by the Dodgers, a vaunted organization that definitely tried everything they could to salvage him before coming to that conclusion. Hopefully, Bellinger’s expulsion has absolutely nothing to do with Aaron Judge. Nah. Nope. Nothing at all.
Additionally, some of the flashier names likely don’t make sense for the 2023 Yankees. A Luke Voit reunion has been floated by fans who’ve let their emotions get in the way of things, but Anthony Rizzo was traded for, extended, then extended again for a reason. Voit also posted a .676 OPS in 53 games in Washington, finishing the season slightly above league-average offensively.
Alex Reyes, formerly of the Cardinals, will be an interesting unlockable bullpen candidate for someone — but the Yankees chose Junior Fernández in this department, and probably won’t go back to that well. Dominic Smith didn’t show enough pop in Queens. Luis Torrens would be an enticing backup if Kyle Higashioka hadn’t been tendered a contract, and the Yankees could’ve righted a Rule 5 wrong there, but nope. Ryan Yarbrough would lose half his effectiveness if he lost the Yankees as an opponent.
After sifting through the Island of Misfit Toys, these three targets should intrigue the Yankees the most.
3 non-tendered players Yankees should sign
3. Aristides Aquino
The wildly strange tale of Aristides Aquino began emphatically with a 2019 season that put him on the MLB map with fervent immediacy. Aquino started his career with 19 blasts in 56 games, good only for a 119 OPS+ during an unparalleled offensive environment. And, for his next act, he made his marquee status … disappear.
Aquino bounced back and forth for the Reds in the three years that followed, beginning with the pandemic-shortened 2020. He failed to top 84 games played in either of the next two fuller seasons, spending some time at Triple-A Louisville during each campaign.
The Punisher hasn’t punished all that many baseballs since his 2019 onslaught, hitting 10 homers in each of the last two seasons while batting below .200 in both years. The advanced metrics are very much still there, though; Aquino reached 92nd percentile max exit velocity last year in limited time on the diamond.
Perhaps his more important metrics are defensive. Aquino is a roughly average outfielder, but his 99th-percentile cannon arm is his most defining feature.
For a Yankees team that has dipped into the Triple-A well far too often to plug outfield holes, Aquino could be a more experienced version of Estevan Florial with a genuinely special defensive tool.