Typically at this time of the offseason, the dust has settled with most top free agent options and it’s time for teams to negotiate trades. For the Yankees, that means getting an idea of the type of prospects they’ll need to give up to get impactful players. As the roster currently stands, there is only one hole, and it is in left field. Andrew Benintendi is off the board, and the only realistic free agent option beyond him is Michael Conforto. While I’m a big fan of Conforto as a hitter and player, I’m not sure the Yankees are interested in taking on a player who may or may not be healthy.
That means the most likely option could very well be via trade. One name that has floated around the league in reports and rumors is Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson. It’s not that the Cardinals want to trade Carlson. He is an extremely talented player and is still so young entering his age 24 season with just over two years of MLB service time under his belt. Trading him will come with the caveat of wanting to improve their major league roster. While some, and probably the Cardinals, may have expected him to be a more impactful player by this time in his career, he still has plenty of time to figure it out and break out as an above average hitter. Maybe that’s with the Cardinals, or maybe it’s with another team!
The team I have in mind is, of course, the New York Yankees. Looking for an upgrade in left field, particularly on offense, Carlson could be a very suitable for the team. He is currently a center fielder, but his speed and jumps probably have him bound for a corner spot. Originally, he was going to sit alongside Harrison Bader in the Cardinals outfield. I have a similar picture in my mind, except they’re both in pinstripes.
Carlson would provide the team with an additional good defender in the outfield, possibly making them the best defensive outfield in baseball. And if he plays up to his prospect pedigree, they could be getting an above average switch hitting bat that could help their splits. Carlson is a fantastic right-handed hitter — with a 143 wRC+ from that side of the plate, he is borderline elite. However, his 83 wRC+ from the left-handed side is a bit of an issue. The Yankees are more in need of a lefty bat than a righty bat to balance their lineup a bit with diverse options.
In theory, maybe the Yankees could use Carlson mostly against lefties, but I’m skeptical they would acquire a player like this with the likely high prospect cost just to be a platoon bat. On the flip side, they could be confident that his breakout is coming, but if I know anything about the Yankees preferences on offense, it’s that they prefer players who consistently hit the ball very hard. Carlson is not that. In 2022, his average exit velocity was in the seventh percentile. That note always feared prospect evaluators and seems to be playing out.
So, here we are. I’ve officially talked myself down from the Carlson fit, ha! Okay, but to be fair, I don’t think Carlson is doomed from the left side of the plate. The exit velocity numbers are scary, but not enough to completely put me down on him, for now. He is more than capable of improving from that side of the plate, but similar to the situation with Conforto, I wonder how interested the Yankees are in a player that isn’t already a finished product. This team is in win-now mode, and may not be willing to fix another player, given their holes in the lineup. The smartest move is to go for the sure thing, and it’s not exactly clear if Carlson is that. The hard hit rates are worrisome, and it is probably worth paying a higher prospect price for somebody like Bryan Reynolds.