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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Jesse Winker

The Mariners have already begun making deals. Could one with the Yankees be in their future?

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

In typical Jerry Dipoto fashion, the Mariners wasted little time getting started this offseason. Last week, they acquired slugging outfielder Teoscar Hernández from the Blue Jays for Erik Swanson and a pitching prospect. At the time especially, the deal left Seattle with a lot of mouths to feed in the outfield. Although they have already sent Kyle Lewis to Arizona to free up space, and Jesse Winker was a headline acquisition just last offseason, the stage could be set for a deal. The talented lefty could be a good fit for the Yankees if a deal were to happen.

I’ll start with some of the drawbacks Winker brings along with him in a potential deal. He had a mostly forgettable 2022 campaign, finishing as an around-average offensive player, with his usual defensive troubles in the outfield. He had a 108 wRC+ and wrapped up the year with an underwhelming 0.4 fWAR over 136 games. Winker also underwent knee surgery in October, and is scheduled to undergo a neck procedure at some point as well, so his health isn’t exactly clear either. There are also the rumblings of some attitude issues the Mariners dealt with this year. This is obviously not an ideal situation for a player, but it could also make a deal more realistic, and more appealing for Seattle.

With the bad out of the way, I do think there could still be a lot of good left for Jesse Winker going forward. Outside of a mostly rough 2022, the former Red has brought a formidable bat for the entirety of his major league career. He was a solid prospect coming up, but his power really developed as he reached the majors and helped grow his ceiling immensely. That pop, combined with always excellent plate discipline, helped Winker become of the game’s most dependable hitters for a time.

He had shown some very solid skills between his debut in 2017 and 2019, during which he posted a .405 on-base percentage in 2018. But he really began to blossom in the shortened 2020 season. Over 54 games, he hit 12 homers while slugging .544 with a 142 wRC+.

An even larger sample size last season brought an even better performance for Winker. He hit 24 homers in 110 games, lowered his strikeout rate by nearly 10 percent, and earned himself a starting spot in the All-Star Game. All in all, among players with 600 plate appearances, Winker was a top ten hitter in all of baseball by wRC+ between 2020 and 2021 with a mark of 145. These standout numbers seem a lot further removed than they did when the M’s acquired Winker before this season, but Winker has proven himself in decent samples, and even in a down year had the fourth-best walk rate in the sport.

Winker is a free agent after the 2023 season, but he is only on the books for around $8 million next year. He is a 29-year-old left-hander who was a starter in the All-Star Game just last year, so it wouldn’t cost nothing to bring him in. But, there is a real possibility he could return to form as a legitimate middle of the order bat wherever he plays next year, and be a bargain for what it would take to acquire him.

Winker could also be a very solid fit in New York. With Aaron Hicks’ future in doubt, Aaron Judge being a free agent, and Giancarlo Stanton serving mostly as a DH, the Yankees could be very much in need of someone with Winker’s skillset. A lefty with pop and excellent plate skills in a corner outfield spot is something that would serve the Yankees well under any circumstances.

I have really liked Winker’s profile for a while now, and and the hope is that his 2022 was more of a fluke than anything else. The Yankees could use another bat, especially in the outfield, and Winker could be the odd man out in Seattle. With rumblings that the relationship between Winker and the Mariners is also not in the best shape, a move could make a lot of sense from all sides.