Who are the Yankees’ potential left field options

The Yankees may have to look outside if their don't want to consider existing players for the left field.

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The Yankees have been one of the most active teams in baseball this winter. They brought back Aaron Judge on a franchise-record nine-year, $360 million deal and signed start starter Carlos Rodon. They didn’t stop with two mega deals and went for ex-Yankee Tommy Kahnle while there was no hesitation in New York to win back first baseman Anthony Rizzo. There’s no guarantee that New York will make any more moves. Hal Steinbrenner has made it clear that the Yankees are ready to sign more players to strengthen the team and build what he hopes will be the team’s first World Series team since 2009.

In 2022, the Yankees have many players on the left field. However, except Aaron Hicks, no one was with the team. Tim Locastro and Marwin Gonzalez are free agents, while Aaron Hicks is still on the team. There have been rumors that the Yankees want to trade Hicks this winter, but he is still on the team and is likely to play some role in 2023. Though the Yankees can look at their team candidates for that position, they can also explore beyond them. Here are their possible options.

In-team options to man Yankees’ left field

  • Aaron Hicks, who was 33 years old in 2022, had a disappointing season. In 130 games, he hit .216/.330/.313 with eight home runs. That gave him a 90 wRC+, which is ten percentage points below the league average. It was the second year in a row that Hicks’ offense was below average. He was a good contributor from 2017 to 2020, but his power has gone down a lot in the last few years. Hicks did get better at defense when he moved from center to left field. He saved 8 runs in 413 innings there in 2022. His contract is for three years and $30.5 million, which includes a buyout on a $12.5 million team option in 2026. If the Yankees don’t sign a left fielder, it looks like Hicks will be the most likely player to play that position on opening day.
  • Oswaldo Cabrera, When he was called up to the big leagues for the first time in August, Cabrera was like a spark plug for the Yankees. Cabrera played in 44 games down the stretch. He hit .247/.312/.429 with six home runs and played every position except center field and catcher. Even though Cabrera only played outfield for 34 innings in the minors, he spent most of his time in the big leagues in the corner spots, where he was so good that he saved 9 runs with his defense in 278 2/3 innings. Even though Cabrera made a strong case to be an everyday outfielder in the future, the fact that he can play almost any position may make him more valuable to the Yankees as a utility player.
  • Giancarlo Stanton can play on the left though he has mostly been limited to the DH spot. Most of that happened in right field, where Stanton saved -4 Defensive Runs. However, Stanton is known for his big-hitting ability and the Yankees look more inclined to have him at DH most of the time and only use him in the outfield sometimes.
  • Estevan Florial, who is 25 years old, has been stuck in the upper minors for a while now. In the last three seasons, he has only had 63 at-bats in the major leagues. In that time, he has hit .185/.302/.278 and has hit one home run. Last year at Triple-A, the former top-100 prospect hit .283/.368/.481 with 15 home runs and 39 stolen bases. He no longer has any options, so if the Yankees want to get rid of him, they would have to put him on waivers. There’s a chance that the Yankees will keep him on the bench as an outfielder, but they haven’t seen enough of him in recent years to give him a long look in the majors, and it’s unlikely that they would do that now.

Free agents Yankees may acquire to man their left field

There aren’t many left-fielders available as free agents anymore, but if the Yankees were to go that route, three hitters would probably be their best options. They are Trey Mancini, David Peralta, and Andrew McCutchen. Except for Mancini, they could probably get these players on one-year contracts. The fact that Peralta bats left-handed could make him more appealing at Yankee Stadium, but all three have flaws that make it unlikely that the Yankees would go this route. At the end of the day, if the Yankees want to improve their left field, it would have to be for someone who is a huge step up from what they have now.

Trade market Yankees may like to explore for left-field options

  • Bryan Reynolds, a star switch-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has been linked to the New York Yankees in recent weeks, after he asked to be traded away from the team. There is no guarantee that the Pirates will trade Reynolds, and it looks like they want a lot in return, including a top pitching prospect. The top of the Yankees’ farm system has a lot of position players, which could make it hard to find a good fit, but Reynolds would work. He is signed for three more seasons, and in 2023, he will make $6.75 million. That is a very low price for a player who has earned 12.5 fWAR over the course of four seasons. The Yankees would have to give up a lot of valuable prospects if they wanted to trade for Reynolds, but it would put them in a good position for the next few seasons.
  • Max Kepler is signed for another season at a cost of $9.5 million, plus a buyout on a $10 million team option for 2024. Last season, he had a bad year at the plate. He only hit nine home runs and had a batting line of .227/.318/.348. He’s a left-handed pull hitter, so the short porch at Yankee Stadium and the rules about where defenders can stand could help his offensive numbers, but his glove is where he really shines. In Minnesota, where he plays right field, he has saved 19 runs with his defense over the past two seasons. Kepler makes some sense, but the Yankees might wonder if they should keep both Hicks and Kepler on the team.
  • D-back Outfielders: The Diamondbacks have a lot of outfielders, such as Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and Jake McCarthy. They have been mentioned in trades, and New York could be interested in them, but maybe they could be persuaded to trade Gurriel to New York. He hit .291/.343/.400 with five home runs for Toronto last season. He is under contract for one more season at $5.8MM. The Snakes are building a strong young team, and while Gurriel is a good player, his one year left on Arizona’s team control probably doesn’t match up with Arizona getting back into contention.

The Yankees have to select who is the best for them. Even though Hicks was bad in 2022, he was still worth 1.5 fWAR, and if the Yankees can’t trade him and don’t want to go after a clear upgrade, such as Reynolds, it does make sense to at least start the spring training with him.

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