Despite their recent reported signings of Willie Calhoun, Billy McKinney and Rafael Ortega, the New York Yankees could still very much use a left fielder to open the 2023 season. Shocking proclamation, we know.
Reticent to pass the final Steve Cohen Tax threshold of $293 million, the Yankees’ best hope for an Opening Day left fielder (without shedding salary) is either Oswaldo Cabrera or Aaron Hicks, lest they turn to a member of that minor-league trio (or Estevan Florial, or Everson Pereira in a shocking twist).
That means there’s still hope for a shiny new left fielder on the trade market, especially provided they don’t cost too much (and assuming the Yankees don’t shoot for the moon). While there’s a good chance the eventual return is somewhat underwhelming — Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy don’t feel like title-winning additions — the Yankees could have a few tricks up their sleeve as they intend to find the next Gio Urshela or DJ LeMahieu.
Those felt like championship cogs once upon a time, right? Right.
If the Yankees want to go the “overlooked” route for their left fielder, there’s one player (OK, maybe two players) in Detroit. If they’d rather poach a top prospect, there might be a more impressive one in St. Louis than the Arizona desert. And if they want to take further advantage of a bizarre San Francisco offseason, there’s a name out there who makes sense, too.
3 sneaky left field options Yankees can poach in 2023 offseason
3. Austin Meadows (or Akil Baddoo?)
We’ll keep rattling the cage for Austin Meadows until the Yankees finish the deal. Though he’s not a natural left fielder, and though the Bombers would be leaving some defense on the table, he’s capable enough in the outfield to adjust and is a perfect change-of-scenery bat who’s battle-tested in the AL East.
Yankee fans know him well from raking their team over the coals for years with the Tampa Bay Rays, but it turns out he crushes everyone in prime time pressure situations, batting better every time he came to the plate with RISP or men on:
"His .279 career average/.372 OBP/.895 OPS with runners in scoring position dwarf his bases-empty numbers (.251/.317/.767 OPS). In high-leverage plate appearances? Same story; Meadows hits .283 with 14 bombs and a .921 OPS in 301 PAs of that variety throughout his career."
If the Yankees want to take a less-established troubled asset off Detroit’s hands instead, Akil Baddoo could be an interesting pursuit, though he has a far shorter track record of success.
Baddoo (aka The Bad Man) hit the bigs with a vengeance in 2021, going from Rule 5 pick to lefty masher by hitting four bombs with an .814 OPS in April. By June, he had established himself as a slugger to be reckoned with, hitting .349 with a .434 OBP and .889 OPS in 76 plate appearances (somehow without a homer).
The year ended rockier and August was bleak, but he still wrapped the season with a 112 OPS+ in a thump-less lineup in his rookie year.
2022? Just a 65 OPS+ in 73 games, and a clear loss of positioning in Detroit’s hierarchy (though he did hit .275 with a .380 OBP in 120 minor-league at-bats).
Baddoo is further away from cementing the Yankees as a certified CONTENDER in 2023, but he’s also a more Yankees-esque move than adding Meadows, who is also likely less available.