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Examining the Yankees’ need in the outfield at the trade deadline

The Yankees are the best team in Major League Baseball with a 61-26 record. This season seems to be their best chance to win the World Series with their current core of players, especially as star outfielder and MVP favorite Aaron Judge still does not have a contract after this season. That said, the Yankees still have holes on their roster, and general manager Brian Cashman will undoubtedly be aggressive in getting this team to the promised land of a 28th World Series trophy. I will be doing a deep dive at each possible position of need for the Yankees, including the outfield, shortstop, the starting rotation, and the bullpen, and ways that that need could be addressed, from internal options to trade targets and who is currently there. Here is a look at the Yankees' outfield.

The Yankees have two outfielders, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who, barring injury, will be in the lineup nearly every day without question for the team. Judge is currently the favorite for the American League MVP award as he boasts a .968 OPS and an MLB-leading 30 home runs. Stanton has also been excellent, with a .826 OPS, 22 home runs, and the ability to hit the ball harder than anybody in the Majors. Beyond Judge and Stanton, however, there are a lot of questions and few answers.  

Aaron Hicks turned it on after a slow start to the season, with a .919 OPS over his past 30 games before leaving Tuesday's game against the Reds after fouling a ball off his shin. Should he be okay, he provides superb defense in left field and exceptional on-base skills and should be a staple in the lineup. However, Hicks has not played an entire season since 2018 and had a brutal start to the season before coming alive recently. Although he should be a solid contributor in the lineup, he should not be expected to maintain a .900+ OPS over the rest of the season and should be considered a league-average hitter. Regardless, should Hicks stay healthy, he is a solid option to be in the lineup and gives the Yankees three solid outfielders daily.

When the Yankees traded for Joey Gallo at the trade deadline last season, Yankees fans dreamed of his sweet lefty swing and Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. He was a Statcast darling who would give the Yankees another big power bat in the outfield, and the 'Death Star' lineup with Gallo, Judge, and Stanton in the outfield was something that the Yankees thought could carry them through the postseason. Alas, Gallo has been a massive disappointment. His .629 OPS this season is well below league average, and despite having 40 home run power with the Rangers, he has only ten home runs over halfway through this season and has been relegated to the bottom of the lineup when he plays at all. His expected batting average of .192 is the third lowest in MLB, better than only Brett Phillips and Martin Maldanado. Although his expected slugging percentage says he should be slugging at a slightly above-average clip, he is not the player the Yankees thought they were getting when they acquired him last summer. Fans have clamored for an upgrade as the Yankees have attempted to deal Gallo for some time. Both the Padres and Rangers are reported to have interest in the lefty slugger, but the Yankees' return for Gallo now would surely be much less than what they paid for him a year ago.

One of the hottest names on the trade market has been Andrew Benintendi. The Royals' left fielder has had a great start to his 2022 season, with a sparkling .384 on-base percentage and a solid .784 OPS. Benintendi will be a free agent after this season, so he would be a 'rental' player for whatever team acquired him, but that hasn't stopped the Yankees from reportedly being interested in trading for him. However, don't count on Benintendi wearing pinstripes just yet. The Royals asking price for him has reportedly been astronomical, as both Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News say that the Royals are looking for a top prospect in exchange for the outfielder. For the Yankees, this may mean parting with a prospect like Oswald Peraza, Ken Waldichuk, or Austin Wells. It seems unlikely that the Yankees would meet such a demand for a rental player of Benintendi's caliber, so unless the Royals come down on their asking price, don't expect Benintendi to be playing in the Bronx.

Another name linked to the Yankees in trade talks is the Pirates' Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds, who is only 27 years old, has been a hot name in trade talks since he plays for the lowly Pirates, who are slogging through another lost season. Despite this, The Athletic's Rob Biertempfel reported that the Yankees had wanted Reynolds since this past offseason. However, the Pirates have denied 'tempting offers' for both Reynolds and closer David Bednar from multiple teams. Given that Reynolds is under team control through the 2025 season, the Pirates appear to view him as a part of their long-term rebuilding plans, not somebody they want to trade away. For the Yankees to acquire Reynolds now, they would likely have to blow away Pittsburgh with an offer that would probably need to include a prospect such as Peraza or Anthony Volpe. Since the Pirates do not seem to want to trade Reynolds for anything less than a king's ransom, it seems unlikely that the Yankees, or any other team, trade for him at the deadline this season.

The Cubs have been tearing down their 2016 World Series-winning team over the past year, and the next piece that seems likely to be dealt is newly minted All-Star outfielder Ian Happ. Happ is in the middle of an excellent season, with his .824 OPS being second on the Cubs behind fellow trade candidate Willson Contreras. At only 27 years old and under team control through 2023, Happ would be an instant upgrade for the Yankees should they trade for him. The Yankees also have a history of trading with the Cubs, as they acquired Anthony Rizzo from Chicago last year. Once again, the price may inhibit the Yankees from making a move, as the switch-hitting outfielder would surely command a solid haul for the Cubs, forcing the Yankees to part with one of their top prospects. However, it seems like that may be a price worth paying since the Cubs are clearly tearing down their roster and will be fielding offers for Happ at the deadline this year.

The Diamondbacks have already begun selling this deadline, and one of the players they made available is left fielder David Peralta. Per Robert Murray of Fansided, the Diamondbacks have already indicated that Peralta is available for trade. Peralta is having a solid season, with a .746 OPS, 11 home runs, and elite defense in left field, as his four Outs Above Average rank him in the 90th percentile among MLB players. With numbers like this, and the fact that Peralta is in the last season of a three-year, $22 million contract, Peralta is likely the most acquirable of all the players listed here. However, that means that he would be the most marginal upgrade. While almost certainly better than Gallo, Peralta is not the upgrade that Happ or Reynolds would be. Despite this, Peralta would undoubtedly be a solid upgrade and player for the team and fits the profile that GM Brian Cashman has shown to prefer. He is a left-handed hitter who ranks in the 81st percentile in average exit velocity and the 90th percentile in maximum exit velocity, per Statcast. Could Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson unlock something more in Peralta's swing? That remains to be seen, but Peralta is certainly someone who could be moving from Arizona to the Bronx at the trade deadline this season.

Much has been made of the possible trade options, but some internal options could make an impact for the Yankees this season. Estevan Florial has enjoyed a breakout in Scranton this season, with a .901 OPS in 67 games for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate this season. With the ability to play all three outfield positions, Florial, once one of the Yankees' top prospects, has had brief stints with the big club in 2020, 2021, and 2022, scattering seven hits and one home run over 34 career MLB at-bats. With his elite performance in Triple-A this season, it may be time to give Florial an extended run in the Bronx if the Yankees can unload Gallo in a trade but fail to reel in one of the big outfielders on the market.

Another possible option for the Yankees is old friend Miguel Andujar, who made headlines after requesting a trade from the Yankees when he was sent down to the minor leagues earlier this year. Andujar has put up a very solid .844 OPS in 47 games with the Railriders this season and believes he has what it takes to be in the big leagues long term. He proved this in his breakout 2018 season when he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. He hit 47 doubles and 27 home runs that year and hit a very solid .830 OPS in 149 games with the Yankees. Since then, however, Andujar has failed to replicate his performance with the Yankees, being superseded by Gio Urshela and now Josh Donaldson at third base and moved to the outfield to get more playing time. In 92 games since 2018, Andujar has managed a meager .583 OPS, six doubles, and seven home runs with the Yankees, having been shuttled back and forth between the Yankees and Scranton. Andujar could be given another long look with the Yankees in MLB, but it seems much more likely that he is traded to a rebuilding team where he can start every day.

Players like Tim Locastro and Jake Bauers are also outfielders who could see time in the Bronx this season. It seems unlikely that either of them will be a major factor come playoff time unless Locastro makes the team for his speed and defense. Locastro has a .788 OPS in 34 games in Scranton, and Bauers' OPS is .833 in 23 games since being acquired by the Yankees on a minor league deal.

The Yankees seem likely to make some sort of move in the outfield this trade deadline. However, it is unclear whether that will be a major splash like trading for Reynolds or Happ, a move for a rental such as Benintendi or Peralta, or a trade involving Gallo and a promotion of one of the minor leaguers. This is certainly a position to watch for the Yankees moving forward, and it will be exciting to see the outfield market unfold at the trade deadline this year.

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