After Andrew Benintendi took a five-year guarantee in Chicago (not shocking behavior!), the New York Yankees are in need of a starting left fielder for 2023 and beyond.
It’s looking increasingly likely they’re going to have to deal with the “beyond” part some other time, either at the trade deadline or after the season.
At the moment, the long-term free agent options are bleaker than the internal ones; unless Brian Cashman is enamored with Jurickson Profar (and if he were, he’d be here already), there probably isn’t a fit worth pursuing on the open market right now.
Except Manny Ramirez, the Terrell Owens of MLB, who claims he’s ready for a comeback right now.
If Manny’s available, the Yankees should definitely call … to convince him to pester the Red Sox until they sign him and further wreck their excessively strange chemistry.
Who will be Yankees left fielder to open 2023 season?
Profar’s not a half-bad idea, considering he can play all around the diamond and just came off a stint as a spark plug for a budding NL West powerhouse. $10 million a year for three years in exchange for a .722 OPS, good (and versatile) defense, and one of Cashman’s long-time crushes? Don’t rule it out.
At this point, though, it seems most likely that the Yankees will look internally before pivoting at the trade deadline to add a left-handed upgrade. Without Benintendi, the handedness of the current lineup is once again skewed in the pre-2021 deadline wrong direction; only Anthony Rizzo is a natural lefty, while Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks can both switch-hit.
6. Jurickson Profar/David Peralta/Forgotten FA Option
5. Bryan Reynolds
The Pittsburgh Pirates still favor high-end starting pitchers in any potential Bryan Reynolds trade. Despite Reynolds’ personal plea, the team doesn’t seem any closer to moving him. The Blue Jays have the ammo in Ricky Tiedemann, but just traded for Daulton Varsho and have Kevin Kiermaier in center. The Dodgers are lurking, with Bobby Miller in tow. The Yankees traded their potential Pirates haul to Oakland for Frankie Montas. There isn’t a fit here.
4. Max Kepler
If the Yankees wanted to trade for “unlockable” Twins asset Max Kepler, they would’ve done it already. If he ends up in the Bronx, it’ll be out of desperation after Cashman breaks rank and rules out his internal options.
3. Jake McCarthy/Alek Thomas/Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
The most likely trade fit for the Yankees remains the Arizona Diamondbacks’ overflowing outfield. Even after clearing out Varsho, the D-Backs are still packed to the gills, adding Gurriel in that deal and re-clogging their outfield picture. The Piña-Powered slugger is just one year removed from 21 bombs and a .785 OPS. His addition would feel more meaningful — and more likely to click in high-pressure situations in the Bronx — than McCarthy’s. He still doesn’t hit left-handed, though.
2. Oswaldo Cabrera
Cabrera’s best fit in the Bronx is as a super sub. With DJ LeMahieu’s future uncertain (but looking rosier) and Josh Donaldson’s future nearly dead and buried, you’d much rather retain flexibility here and start Cabrera 110 times, but only occasionally in left. Which brings us to …
1. Aaron Hicks
If he’s horrendous — or unavailable — the Yankees will play the Cabrera card and trade for a replacement in July.
As hated as Hicks was for his low-effort nonsense at the end of the year, he frustratingly put up 1.6 WAR in 384 at-bats and continued to get on base at a high clip. Kepler? 2.1 WAR on the season with worse on-base skills.
Hicks is the devil the Yankees know, at this point, and whether he starts the season in the outfield or not, his time of relevance in New York is drawing to a close.
Don’t call Hal Steinbrenner a spendthrift this offseason, of all offseasons. There just isn’t anyone left on the market who inspires much more joy than (gulp) a half-season of Hicks, followed by a more obvious upgrade than Kepler.
And in terms of Bryan Reynolds? The Pirates say no. They always say no. Whatever you’re concocting right now, they’re busy saying no to.