In MLB, having hitters who can boast a high OBP is a necessity. Getting on base is almost as valuable as hitting for power, making consistent contact or playing good defense, if not more. The Yankees know, understand, and embrace this.
Much has been discussed about his power achievements, but the Yankees’ best player, Aaron Judge, had a .425 OBP in 2022. That’s extremely valuable, and they could be facing a scenario in which they lose that production if he decides to sign elsewhere (he is a free agent).
If the Yankees lose Judge – and even if they don’t, to be honest – they should consider making a bid for former New York Mets outfielder and fellow free agent Brandon Nimmo.
Nimmo is no Judge, and that’s obvious. However, he is one of the most underrated players in the game and has the ability to get on base at a high clip. He’s shown he can be a key engine of a top offense.
In his walk year, Nimmo posted a career-high in Wins Above Replacement (WAR, FanGraphs’ version) of 5.4, eclipsing his previous top mark of 4.8 in 2018. He can have issues staying healthy, but do you know who had his fair share of injury problems before this year and managed to stay healthy all season? Judge himself. Something similar happened to Nimmo, who has missed a lot of time over the years but played 151 games in 2022.
Nimmo slashed a cool .274/.367/.433 in 2022, with 16 home runs, 102 runs scored, and 64 RBI. His 134 wRC+ was very, very good, and right in line with what he has done in his career.
Nimmo’s calling card is his onbase ability. He ranks sixth in MLB among qualified hitters in OBP since 2018, with a .388 mark. Take a moment to digest what that means and represents: he has a higher OBP over that span than elite hitters such as Alex Bregman, Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Xander Bogaerts, Ronald Acuña Jr. and José Altuve.
Over that same timeframe, Nimmo is 12th in wRC+ with 138 and 16th in walk rate with 13.7 percent. In fact, he traded some of those walks this year (he finished at 10.5 percent BB%) for some aggressiveness at the plate, and he truly looked like the best version of himself.
For a leadoff-type, Nimmo sure has a lot of pop, having finished 2022 with 53 extra-base hits (30 doubles, seven triples, and 16 homers). His career-high in round-trippers is 17.
Here is one of his NL-leading seven triples:
He seems tailor-made for the Yankees’ lineup as a left-handed hitter with some pop, contact, and on-base ability. He could be the ideal leadoff hitter in the Bronx, but won’t come cheap.
Yes, his expected cost would be a third of what Judge is looking at, but $100-$110 million is nothing to sneeze at. That’s what Nimmo is shooting for, and he has plenty of suitors. The Mets would love to get him back, the Seattle Mariners want him, the Tampa Bay Rays are looking at him, and even the San Francisco Giants (yes, they seemingly want all the Yankees’ targets) are reportedly after his services.
Nimmo is that good, though. He can not only hit, but also play a competitive center field and run with the best of them. As long as Harrison Bader is a Yankee, Nimmo would play the bulk of his innings in one of the corners, but he is more than capable of handling center field in a pinch.
The overall package is extremely tempting, but it’s not easy to see the Yankees prioritizing Nimmo when they have Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, and can re-sign Andrew Benintendi. If they re-sign Judge, it’s hard to see them handing another $100 million+ contract this offseason, and if they don’t, it might be too late for them on the Nimmo front.