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Who Should the Yankees Target in Free Agency?

Who Should the Yankees Target in Free Agency?

Yankees need some help.

They certainly don’t need to tear down everything from their 99-win squad and start over, but the dawn of a new era may have dawned upon them if Aaron Judge uses his status as a free agent to leave for more peaceful pastures.

No matter what, the best move the Yankees can make off-season is to convince the judge to stay. Rescaling Anthony Rizzo would also be nice, and Andrew Benintende’s new deal tip would prevent Aaron Hicks from having to play more than he should.

But for the purpose of this exercise, we’re not talking about bringing anyone back, we’re exploring the potential aspects of people who will be joining the Yankees for the first time. Also, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s say DJ LeMahieu is the third starting player for next season, with Gleyber Torres in second and one of the kids at short notice. Obviously, all of this could change before the season actually begins. But we’re assuming here that, for the second year in a row, the Yankees won’t be pursuing any of their quarterbacks.

Every team has needs, and some will always be greater than the other, but five free agents with different talent levels and presumed salary requirements will be a logical boost for the Yankees for 2023.

Brandon Nemo

The Met has long been checking a large number of chests on the Yankees’ wish list.

He’s a left-handed hitter, and he could join a team that gave 71% of his appearances last season to the right. He has speed and defensive acumen in great numbers. There’s some slug in his racket as well, but he’s not the type of feast or famine that has wiped out crime in recent years.

With Harrison Bader now firmly established in the field position, Nemo will be forced back into the corners he used to occupy at Flushing. Having established himself as a highly skilled midfielder, Nemo’s glove would translate well, especially on the left court at Yankee Stadium, which is more spacious than the right court.

Nimmo is in line for a $100 million deal, and he’s got that, because it’s very likely that he’s a better version of Benintendi. The two players are only two months apart in 2016, and over the course of their careers, Nimmo has the edge in base percentage, slowdown percentage, OPS, gait rate, wRC+ and Wins Above Replacement. Benintende is more suited to the team’s plan to reduce attacking strikes, but Nemo is a better hitter, defender and basic runner in general.

Carlos Rodon

Imagine replacing Jameson Taillon with Carlos Rodon.

Taillon, one of the unsung heroes of last season, is now a free agent. While Rodon would cost a lot of money, these are Yankees in the literal sense. They can afford it.

It’s not quite a perfect plan, but the Yankees can hook their bandwagon up to start playing and try to offset the judge’s potential drain by winning a bunch of low-score games. According to FanGraphs, Rodon was the second most valuable starting bowler in Major League Baseball last season. He just hit 237 hitters in 178 innings, and finished his second consecutive season with a sub-2.90 ERA and over the past two years the hitters have held a .197/.260/.307 slash.

He would be a great addition to any team, but especially the one that imagines itself as a contender in the world championships and has some question marks after Gerrit Cole, Nestor Curtis and Luis Severino.

Wilson Contracts

The best available support will get a lot of attention. The Yankees should be a part of that.

Usually this saying refers to two back players, but it can be applied here as well: if you have two players, you don’t have one.

Aaron Boone began last season by referring to his status as a tandem striker rather than naming a final start. But Jose Trevino quickly proved himself out of the gate. No one will ever be able to turn Trevino’s All-Star Game look away from him, but he was shocking in the second half, posting numbers that are likely more indicative of his identity.

A career .245 hitter with .634 OPS heading into the season, Trevino introduced himself to Yankee fans by hitting .263 and rocking .749 OPS in the first three months of the season. As of July 1, with the most playing time in his career, those numbers are down to 0.38 and 0.620. He went 1 for 22 in the playoffs.

If that’s really what Trevino is going to deliver offensively (and his career numbers give us no reason not to believe it), the Yankees could improve. Kyle Higashioka seems to be the odd guy if the Yankees are looking for an outside catcher, as it’s hard to completely give up on a guy like Trevino who was just an All-Star and Gold Glover.

Higashioka is a great defensive player too, but he’s never really figured out how to hit consistently, and he’s two and a half years older than Trevino. A non-give attitude wouldn’t be out of the question for Higashioka, but the Yankees would have to make that decision by November 18, usually before the stove-top hot starts.

Josh Bell

Despite his imposing physical stature and past history as a participant in the Home Run Derby, Bell has a lot more fun than most fans think.

He maintains an above-average touch rate, has reduced strike percentage in each of the last two seasons and provides some versatility as a switch hitter. Bill, a first baseman, is three years younger than Rizzo and has cut .264/.353/.475 over the past four years with a 120 wRC+.

If they gave up on Rizzo, the Yankees could do a lot worse than Bill.

Andrew Chavin

The last, uninteresting (but rational) member of this group is a left-handed savior who just passed 400 career rounds.

You can never have too much painkiller, and Chafin had good strike numbers in 2022 while being shown in a shadowy position for Tigers. Left-handers never hit him hard, and Chavin’s average hits were lower in 2022 than their left-handed contemporaries. Chavin is also a safer and healthier bet than bringing back Zac Britton.

The Yankees can and should look at the arms of the other bulls (Taylor Rogers, Robert Suarez, Nick Martinez), but maybe Chavin can be had for less money. Former Yankee Adam Ottavino is an interesting option as well, as is new world champion Rafael Montero, but Chafin’s 2.29 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over the past two seasons could find a nice home in the Bronx as well.


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