The New York Yankees have been leaving us clues the last few weeks. They let Matt Carpenter leave for San Diego. Marwin Gonzalez is now in Japan. Andrew Benintendi is with the Chicago White Sox.
The Bryan Reynolds rumors are simmering as the trade price comes into focus. The Yankees have instead opted to add two veteran outfielders on minor-league deals, which is seemingly an indication they have waved the white flag on their left field endeavors this offseason.
Over the weekend, Willie Calhoun was brought in to compete in spring training. He spent six years in MLB with the Rangers (and briefly the Giants in 2022), but with little success outside of a sterling 83-game stint in 2019.
Now, Yankees fans can welcome former Chicago Cub Rafael Ortega to the collection of newest Bronx Bombers. The news broke on Tuesday.
What does this tell us? Don’t expect any heavy lifting to address the outfield until the 2023 trade deadline. It’s clear the trade market at this very moment is too expensive and that a preferred option like Ian Happ isn’t available.
The Yankees have signed former Chicago Cubs OF Rafael Ortega
General manager Brian Cashman seems to be playing the “upside” card here. There’s an obvious desire not to exceed the $293 million Steve Cohen tax threshold, so unless there are other deals that cancel out any incoming financial commitments, we’ll be hanging tight until late July.
Ortega, heading into his age-32 season, was a pleasant surprise for the Cubbies in 2021. He hit .291 with an .823 OPS and 121 OPS+ across 103 games. He belted 11 homers, drive in 33 runs and stole 12 bases.
But after a down 2022 (.241 AVG, .688 OPS, 95 OPS+) and the addition of Cody Bellinger this offseason, Ortega quickly became expendable. As for the trade hopes surrounding Happ, it really feels like Chicago is going to ride out their trio of Happ, Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki for 2023 and see where it takes them. Root for that first-half spiral so Happ becomes available!
This will be Ortega’s sixth team since he debuted in 2012. He has ample experience playing all three outfield spots, which is likely what the Yankees are looking for when making these low-risk signings.
Expect a competition with him, Calhoun, Aaron Hicks, Estevan Florial and possibly Everson Pereira in spring training … and then a bigger acquisition come July/August, should none of these options pan out.