Insider perspectives on Yankees’ contingency plan amid free agency uncertainty

Yankees' IKF and Anthony Volpe

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The Yankees are in discussion with the Padres about Juan Soto, who is on the market due to San Diego’s financial constraints. The Padres are in search of pitching, a commodity the Yankees are willing to trade, and New York is in need of a left-handed-hitting outfielder, making Soto an appealing option.

Additionally, there’s Cody Bellinger, a player the Yankees have been eyeing since the trade deadline. A deal didn’t materialize then as the Chicago Cubs opted to retain him, but he is now available in free agency.

On Monday, The Athletic’s Brendan Kuty and Chris Kirchner outlined an alternative course of action the Yankees might consider if they miss out on Soto and Bellinger – a contingency plan, so to speak.

In the event that Shohei Ohtani, Soto, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Bellinger sign with other teams, the Yankees could shift their focus to signing Korean center fielder Jung Hoo Lee, he suggested. Lee, who won’t reach 26 until August, could bring athleticism, youth, and potentially high contact rates if his skills from the KBO translate to MLB. As you noted, Jeimer Candelario would be a valuable addition at third base. Additionally, the Yankees might explore options such as Teoscar Hernandez or Jorge Soler, two underrated sluggers who could contribute much-needed power to a team that has seen a decline in slugging.

KBO outfielder Jung Hoo Lee is a target for the New York Yankees.

In acquiring Lee, the Yankees would secure a versatile left-handed hitter capable of playing any outfield position. However, the challenge lies in the uncertainty surrounding him. At 25, Lee has amassed seven seasons in Japan, boasting a career .340 batting average with a .898 OPS. The question remains whether these impressive stats would translate to success in MLB.

On the other hand, signing Hernández and Soler would lead the Yankees down a familiar path of securing right-handed hitters with elevated strikeout rates for the outfield. This move would deviate from their intended strategy of constructing a more balanced lineup, introducing an additional 350+ strikeouts to a team that already ranked 11th in total strikeouts (1,427) in MLB in 2023.

Yankees pitching plan B

Regarding pitching, if the Yankees are unable to secure Yamamoto, Kuty, and Kirchner propose the following strategy:

On the pitching front, re-signing Frankie Montas to an affordable deal could prove to be a sensible move. At the very least, he offers quality depth. Shota Imanaga is viewed as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter, having led the NPB in strikeout rate in the past season and showcasing impressive skills. Alternatively, the Yankees might consider bringing back Jordan Montgomery or pursuing Eduardo Rodriguez, who boasts comparable production and is likely to come with a more budget-friendly cost.

Frankie Montas, player of the New York Yankees

It’s worth noting that the Yankees acquired Montas in a trade at the 2022 deadline. In return, the pitcher participated in just nine games (eight starts) with a 6.15 ERA and 34 strikeouts over 41 innings.

Montas had a limited role with the Yankees in 2023, making only one appearance. During his brief time on the mound, he pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief, conceding two hits, and a walk, and managing just one strikeout—a performance that didn’t offer much excitement for the fans.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Imanaga is projected to follow a trajectory similar to Kodai Senga, evolving into a middle-of-the-rotation caliber pitcher. Senga, however, exceeded those expectations, emerging as the ace of the Mets’ pitching staff with an impressive record of 12-7 and a 2.98 ERA. Such a performance from Imanaga is something the Yankees would eagerly welcome at present.

Montgomery could be a compelling addition to the Yankees, signaling a recognition that letting him go initially might have been a misstep.

As for Rodriguez, he declined an opportunity to join the Dodgers at the trade deadline, expressing a preference to stay closer to family on the East Coast, as reported by Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic. In the current landscape of the game, it’s unusual for a player on a team with a sub-500 record to forgo a chance at the postseason.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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