Yankees prioritize future with blockbuster trades, Gonzalez caught in the crossfire

Oscar Gonzalez could leave the Yankees
Amanda Paula
Wednesday January 17, 2024

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The New York Yankees have officially announced the acquisition of right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman, marking a notable addition to their roster. However, this move comes at the expense of outfielder Oscar Gonzalez, who has been designated for assignment as part of the corresponding transaction.

Gonzalez, aged 26, joined the Yankees in early December after being claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians. His initial impact in the major leagues was impressive, particularly during the 2022 season with the Guardians. In that breakout season, he recorded 11 home runs in 382 plate appearances, showcasing his power at the plate. Despite a relatively low 3.9% walk rate, Gonzalez managed a solid overall batting line of .296/.327/.461, earning a wRC+ of 125. His memorable moments, such as using the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song as his walk-up music and hitting a walk-off home run in the Wild Card series, endeared him to fans.

However, the promising trajectory took a downturn in 2023, as González struggled both offensively and defensively. His performance slumped significantly, resulting in a prolonged stint in Triple-A on optionable assignment. In his 180 major league plate appearances during the season, his walk rate plummeted to 2.8%, accompanied by increased strikeouts, leading to a disappointing line of .214/.239/.312. Although he fared better in Triple-A with a line of .287/.323/.496, his wRC+ remained subpar at 98.

González’s limitations, such as being considered a subpar defender and not excelling in stealing bases, intensified the importance of his offensive contributions. His power potential was evident, but issues with plate discipline persisted. Notably, he has swung at an elevated 49.1% of pitches outside the strike zone throughout his career, the highest rate among MLB hitters with a minimum of 550 plate appearances over the past two seasons. Moreover, his minor league track record includes a mere 4% walk rate in 2,734 plate appearances.

Despite his youth and the presence of option years, the Yankees’ outfield dynamics shifted significantly with the subsequent acquisitions of Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, and Alex Verdugo. These moves seemingly relegated González down the depth chart and ultimately led to his designation for assignment.

The Yankees now face a decision regarding González’s future within the organization. They have a one-week window to either trade him to another team or pass him through waivers. If he goes unclaimed, there’s the possibility of retaining him as non-roster depth. However, given his potential, another team in the league might take a chance on González, hoping to harness his talent and address his developmental areas.

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