The Yankees may not “be done” after signing Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million extension, but based on the latest intel from Joel Sherman, it certainly sounds like they’re done pursuing free agent outfielders.
Most notably, that includes Andrew Benintendi, who, rumor has it, is looking to relocate to the Midwest (or, at least, away from the East Coast), and who will certainly cost an uncomfortable amount of money after Masataka Yoshida signed a $90 million deal in Boston and Brandon Nimmo inked a $162 million contract with the Mets.
According to Sherman, Hal Steinbrenner’s budgetary goal is to keep things under $273 million, but he could stretch himself between $273 and $293 million if need be. Unless the team cuts costs, they likely won’t be able to sign Carlos Rodón and stay under that first number, but they could fairly easily stay under the second without a high-profile outfield signing.
Spotrac projects a current payroll, with arbitration salaries and pre-arm estimates baked in, at around $248 million. Rodón is seeking a $30 million AAV. The Yankees can make that fit, but they’ll need to turn a blind eye to the rest of the outfield market to do so.
Enter the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks, who have outfielders aplenty to choose from! So do the Pirates, in the form of Bryan Reynolds, but his prospect cost will be significantly steeper (even if he is — say it all together now — a better player).
Yankees talking with Diamondbacks, Twins for outfield trade (sorry, Pirates)
Wow, the vaunted Max Kepler vs. Aaron Judge debate just got real!
Kepler hasn’t had an elite season since 2019, when he drilled 36 bombs and finished 20th in the MVP voting (hmm, wonder if anyone changed anything about the baseballs that season). The Twins outfielder still grades out well in Statcast, though, showing remarkable patience and an ability to limit Ks while striking the ball very hard at his peak (93rd percentile maximum exit velocity).
The available Diamondbacks options are a bit more confusing to parse through, especially after the team just acquired Kyle Lewis, the unanimous 2020 American League Rookie of the Year. Top prospect Corbin Carroll will get a full-season chance this year in the desert, as will Alek Thomas … probably, right?
Technically, available names include Thomas (.231 with a .619 OPS in 381 tough at-bats for the former top prospect), Jake McCarthy (a speedster with a .283 average/.769 OPS/23 stolen bags/low-tier hard-hit metrics), Daulton Varsho (27 bombs, sterling defense, probably safe), and Pavin Smith (an outfielder/first baseman whose bat hasn’t developed as Arizona had hoped).
Of that quartet, Varsho is the safest bet to stay. McCarthy will likely be squeezed out, and he just so happens to be the most appealing option. If the Yanks can acquire a left field Bader type who makes contact and swipes bases, will that be enough to carry them over the edge?