Yankees Exploring Market For Outfield Upgrades

The Yankees have been baseball’s best team by a wide margin — their .727 winning percentage trounces the Astros’ second-ranked .640 mark — but they’ll naturally still be on the hunt for improvements as the Aug. 2 trade deadline draws nearer. To that end, general manager Brian Cashman and his staff have already begun to survey the outfield market, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post.

It’s wholly unsurprising that the Yanks would be in the market for outfielders, given the way both Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks have floundered so far in 2022. The 28-year-old Gallo, though he’s in the prime of his career, is limping through a career-worst .165/.276/.330 season and has fanned in a staggering 39.2% of his plate appearances this season. Hicks, 32, looked to be turning a corner when he opened the month of June with a .321/.410/.434 showing through 61 plate appearances across 16 games. However, he’s fallen into a 2-for-24 slump since that time and is hitting just .218/.338/.284 on the season overall. He’s still signed three more years beyond the current season, while Gallo is a free agent this coming winter, so the leash on Hicks figures to be longer.

Gallo’s struggles have pushed him into a decreased role of late, as Giancarlo Stanton has seen his time in the outfield tick upward. Stanton has already logged 242 innings in the outfield (all but seven coming in right) — the second-highest total in any of his four seasons wearing pinstripes. Stanton played in 139 games in 2021 but still logged just 199 innings in the outfield. Hicks, meanwhile, has shifted to left field in deference to MVP candidate (and free-agent-to-be) Aaron Judge, whose 337 frames in center this year have already exceeded his combined career total from six prior seasons.

There’s no indication yet as to which direction the Yankees are specifically leaning, and the outfield market figures to feature a broad range of available players. Speculatively speaking, a left-handed bat would be sensible — particularly one capable of playing center field. Anthony Rizzo is the only current regular who bats left-handed in the Yanks’ lineup. Hicks is a switch-hitter but better from the right side of the plate throughout his career, and the only other lefty bats on the big league roster are the struggling Gallo, switch-hitting utilityman Marwin Gonzalez and veteran infielder Matt Carpenter.

Kansas City’s Andrew Benintendi is among the likeliest outfielders to be traded, given his upcoming free agency, his strong .305/.370/.393 batting line and the Royals’ fifth-place standing in the AL Central. Other outfielders likely to be available include Oakland’s Ramon Laureano, Baltimore’s Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini, Cincinnati’s Tyler Naquin and Tommy Pham, Detroit’s Robbie Grossman, Pittsburgh’s Ben Gamel, Arizona’s David Peralta and Chicago’s Ian Happ.

We’ll surely see ample rumblings on Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds and Orioles outfielders Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays, but all three of those players can be controlled three more years beyond the current season. That’s also true of the aforementioned Laureano, but the A’s are only just beginning to dismantle their roster and as such could be a bit more amenable to parting with some more years of control than the Pirates or O’s, both of whom have been rebuilding for several years already.

The Yankees are already well over the new $230MM luxury tax threshold, currently checking in at about $246MM worth of luxury obligations, in the estimation of Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. They’re paying a 20% tax on every dollar spent over that line (approximately $3.2MM as things currently stand) and would pay that same 20% on every dollar up to $250MM. Any spending thereafter would be taxed at a 32% rate, up to $270MM.

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