Just a few weeks after Diego Castillo, dealt to Pittsburgh in the Clay Holmes deal, found himself temporarily a Yankee once again, New York has another opportunity to swipe a forgotten former face from the open market.
Canaan Smith-Njigba, dealt to the Pirates just over three years ago in the Jameson Taillon trade, was DFA'd by Pittsburgh on Wednesday to clear a spot for Aroldis Chapman, a former Yankee that nobody wants a reunion with. No, not even local tattoo artists.
Unlike Chapman, Smith-Njigba showed plenty of growth potential in 2023 at the minor-league level, posting a .280/.366/.473 triple-slash with an .839 OPS, 15 homers and 74 RBI in just 105 games at Triple-A Indianapolis. Offensive stats in the Pacific Coast League are often inflated by west-coast ballpark conditions, but Smith-Njigba played in the International League, where such caveats don't really exist.
The ex-Yankee farmhand had a legit good season that can't be smudged out by 37 tough plate appearances at the MLB level, where he hit .125. The end of New York's 40-man roster has been a revolving door this winter, but might they have room for one more?
Yankees could take second chance on Canaan Smith-Njigba for outfield depth
Smith-Njigba hasn't appeared in a Yankees uniform since breaking out for Single-A Charleston in 2019 due to the pandemic; he hit .307/.405/.466 with an .871 OPS in that final year with the organization. Oh, and did we mention he bats lefty?
Odds are the Yankees don't end up reaping the rewards here, but at the very least, Smith-Njigba represents another example of New York choosing the correct prospects to send off in their blockbuster trade packages. If he does find big-league success, it won't be with the organization the Yankees sent him to initially.
Smith-Njigba, to his credit, has the right attitude about suddenly entering the waiver wire.
Hopefully, if the Yankees don't decide to take the plunge, the Seattle Mariners do. That way, he can play in the pacific northwest, right down the street from his wide receiver brother Jaxson, who's entering his second year with the Seahawks.