The Yankees are good, and deep. However, they are currently going through a bit of a crisis in the outfield, for several reasons. Giancarlo Stanton is on the injured list, Clint Frazier has been dealing with a stiff neck and has struggled mightily both offensively and defensively, and the recently-recalled Ryan LaMarre suffered a strained right hamstring, hitting the IL this week.
Most pertinently, the Yankees announced that Aaron Hicks, the regular center fielder, will undergo surgery to repair his injured left wrist. The procedure could potentially keep him out of action for a considerable amount of time, even the whole season, although that’s still not set in stone.
As a result of all the injuries, Miguel Andújar and Tyler Wade have been spending more time in the outfield than they should. Stanton could be ready to return, but he can’t play much outfield. Something needs to be done soon, even a minor move.
Brett Gardner will man center field for now, but it’s fair to say that his best days are behind him. He’s not performing so far in 2021, with a .204 average, no homers or steals, and a .559 OPS in limited action. The Yankees could, and should, go to the trade market to try and secure at least one outfielder, preferably someone who can play center field. Let’s take a look at a trio of alternatives that could work for the Bombers.
These are not meant to be big names — you won’t see a Joey Gallo or Bryan Reynolds here because they’re unlikely to move at this moment. A member of the trio below would be more readily available, on par with (or perhaps a notch above) the rumored Delino DeShields Jr.
Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals
If the Yankees want a cheap outfielder capable of playing a competent center field and also add a little speed, Jarrod Dyson is a potential solution, as long as he isn’t acquired to be anything close to a regular.
Dyson is already 36 years old, but remains very fast (88th percentile sprint speed) and an asset with the glove. So far in 2021, he has three Outs Above Average per Statcast: one each in center, left, and right field.
The issue Dyson is not whether or not he will require a lot in terms of player capital. He likely won’t, given his age. The problem here is that Dyson is a lousy offensive player.
The speedy outfielder is hitting .233/.324/.400 in 35 plate appearances, for a .724 OPS. For his career, though, the numbers decrease to .245/.317/.335 and a .652 OPS in 2,719 plate appearances. He is a cheap backup option to have in mind.
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins
The Yankees and Marlins have a recent history of making trades. Heck, they have even completed transactions involving Cooper, as it happened in 2017 in the transaction that netted the Bombers reliever Michael King.
The 2021 season has been a step down from Cooper’s solid 2020. Despite homering against the Mets last night, he’s hitting just .227/.293/.375 with a .668 OPS in 140 plate appearances. He has shown in his career that his bat can be respectable, with a .270/.334/.431 line and some pop and on-base ability, evidenced by his .766 OPS.
If the Marlins want to give more playing time to uber-prospect Jesús Sánchez, who is raking in Triple-A, they could potentially entertain a Cooper trade even though they would surely prefer to keep him around. Cooper is considerably better as a first baseman than as an outfielder, but he is the opposite of Dyson: a bat-first option. He wouldn’t directly help the center field situation, but he’d all-around depth to the roster.
Shogo Akiyama, Cincinnati Reds
So far, NPB alum Shogo Akiyama has been a bust for the Reds. He has a .240/.344/.284 line with no homers and seven steals in 183 career MLB plate appearances, which is well short of the expectations he had entering 2020 season when he arrived in the States.
But let’s go back a little: Akiyama, now 33, batted .303/.392/.471 with 20 home runs for the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2019. He has a reputation of as a solid defensive center fielder, and several MLB teams were after his services. He ended up choosing the Reds, signing a three-year, $21 million contract, but things haven’t worked out, partly because of injuries and partly because of ineffectiveness.
The Reds currently have a bit of a logjam in the outfield, with Nick Senzel, Tyler Naquin, and Jesse Winker playing most days and other options on the bench and Triple-A. If the Reds kick in a few million, the Yankees could be enticed to try Akiyama as a buy-low option and see if he can produce.