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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Kyle Seager

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Kyle Seager is a plus defender who is coming off a career year in terms of home runs. Could he be a fit for the Yankees in 2022?

Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Many Yankees fans went into the offseason with a Seager at the top of their free agent wish list. New York sat out the beginning of free agency prior to the lockout and saw Corey go off the board after signing a $325 million deal with the Rangers. That leave just older brother Kyle for the Yankees to pursue on the open market. Kyle has put together an outstanding resume, but the question for any team pursuing him is how much he has left in the tank. Could the elder Seager be a fit for the Yankees when MLB opens again for business?

Seager has been a steady and at times outstanding player for the Seattle Mariners during his 11 years with the team. Over his career, he has produced 34.8 fWAR, twice peaking with 5.2 fWAR in a season. The 34-year-old hits the open market coming off a career high with 35 home runs and played outstanding defense on the hot corner.

Seager’s power may have spiked in 2021, but it also resulted in a career-worst strikeout rate, as he struck out 24 percent of the time. That rate on its own is not high, as it is better than any season of Aaron Judge or Joey Gallo in that category. The problem is that outside of the home runs, Seager’s batting average and on-base rate dropped noticeably from his career norms. He finished below league average in offensive production for just the second time since his rookie season with a 99 wRC+.

It is no secret that the Yankees looked to become more left-handed last season, as they acquired both Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo heading into the trade deadline. Seager would likely be a piece that the team could acquire in lieu of bringing Rizzo back and could fill the lefty power niche. He did not have dramatic platoon splits, hitting a .736 OPS and just a .699 OPS versus lefties. There was a clear advantage against right-handers, but not a dramatic one.

The split that is more interesting is Seager’s home and away stats. According to Statcast Park Factors, T-Mobile Park in Seattle rated as just a 94, tied for the lowest in baseball. This dampening of offense at home was evident in Seager’s numbers, as when the team hit the road last season, he produced an .861 OPS and hit 22 home runs in 80 games.

Could moving to the friendly confines of the AL East help revive Seager’s bat and increase his power even further? His spray chart from 2021 shows a player who is geared to take advantage of Yankee Stadium.

While Seager’s bat struggled at times, his glove continued to show up in a big way as he ranked in the 86th percentile for Outs Above Average. He has also displayed outstanding durability, as he played 149 games at third base in 2021. As much as Yankees fans appreciate Gio Urshela for his diving plays and throws from the ground, Seager rates as a much better defensive third baseman and would serve as a significant upgrade at the position.

MLB Trade Rumors predicted at the beginning of the offseason that Seager would command a two-year, $24 million contract. He is coming off a 2.5 fWAR season and even if the offense does not bounce back outside of Seattle, he can play above-average defense. The Yankees do not need another third baseman, but his skill set could free up the Yankees to move pieces around the diamond to build a more complete lineup.

Kyle Seager is likely not on the top of the Yankees offseason free agents list. The team has needs beyond third base, where both Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu have played significant amounts of time over the last few seasons. Still, Seager would provide an upgrade defensively while providing the left-handed balance that the lineup has consistently lacked in recent years. He is not a perfect fit, but he could be a fit that helps improve the Yankees — even if just incrementally.

Update

Scratch Seager off the Yankees’ possibilities. He has announced his retirement.