The New York Yankees' solution of playing non-outfielders in the outfield hasn't worked too well in 2023. Nor has their eternal inability to balance out their lineup with left-handed bats. If they can, they should address two of those areas with one trade at this year's deadline.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is enjoy a revival this year after largely being irrelevant for three straight seasons. The shortened 2020 was a forgettable one more him. In 2021, he was limited due to injuries and was a league-average hitter. He was pretty much the same in 2022, except he was able to play in 154 games.
This season, though, he's been among the best in the league. Through 84 games, the slugger is hitting .287 with an .830 OPS and 128 OPS+. He has 64 runs scored, 11 homers, 45 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He's been good for 2.4 bWAR thus far (he accumulated a total of 4.5 from 2020-2022).
Though the Brewers remain firmly in the NL Central and Wild Card races, things can change over the next three weeks. And it's probably no secret the team was looking to get off of Yelich's contract when he went from MVP candidate to replacement-level player in the blink of an eye.
If the Brew Crew think it's time to capitalize, free up some money, get decent value in return, and re-tool for 2024, should the Yankees be on the phone with David Stearns?
Yankees Rumors: Should Christian Yelich be an option if he's available via trade?
Why not go after the one former Marlin they should've pursued from the jump?! Instead of trading for a controllable Yelich at the time, the Yankees opted for Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million contract, which was the largest deal in North American sports, to avoid having to surrender too much prospect capital (even though they hardly ever develop top major league talent from start to finish).
What are the potential dilemmas here? Yelich is already in his age-31 season. The Yankees have far too many aging players, which has certainly impacted their athleticism and ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways. The other?
Christian Yelich contract details with Milwaukee Brewers
Yelich is signed to a seven-year, $188.5 million contract. He'll make $26 million annually from 2023-2028. He has a $20 million mutual option for 2029. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. But the Yankees clearly don't want to keep packing the payroll with players either past their prime or almost on the other side of it. The front office may feel that way about Yelich.
Then again, Yelich possesses that superior mix of athleticism the Yankees need -- and he seemingly has enough left in the tank to help prop open New York's World Series window now that he's out of the woods with his injuries. He steals bases. He can hit for average and power. He has experience playing all over the outfield.
Outside of Shohei Ohtani, are there any other desirable free agents worth opening up the purse for over the next couple offseasons? Check them out for yourself. If the Yankees passed on the last few years' worth of marquee names, we can expect more of the same for another two years.
Yelich's contract would put him atop the payroll with Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Rodón. That's who the team has invested in and are likely stuck with for five full years after 2023. Outside of a Harrison Bader extension, there probably won't be any extraneous spending this coming offseason, either.
They'll continue to create effective relievers out of thin air. The rotation can use a couple of back-end additions in the form of mid-tier signings or prospect promotions. Their infield talent is the most plentiful in the organization.
If the Yankees are believers in Yelich's rebound, he should be their "big-money" acquisition, which would essentially cancel out Josh Donaldson's expiring deal. Plus, if they're serious about 2023, they need a competent left fielder and lefty bat. Yelich checks both of those boxes, and would do so for at least another three years.
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