As the free agent pool of outfielders continues to dry up – Brandon Nimmo, Masataka Yoshida, Michael Brantley, and other good offensive players have already signed with other teams – the Yankees might consider the trade market to bring in an upgrade in left field.
They probably don’t want Aaron Hicks and his 83 OPS+ between 2021 and 2022 — in 162 games and 579 plate appearances — starting again next year, and they know that Giancarlo Stanton shouldn’t be playing the field regularly. As for Oswaldo Cabrera, the organization likes his versatility and would prefer to have him play in a super-utility role.
If the Yankees fail to sign Michael Conforto or don’t want to pay the price (in prospects) for Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds, they could potentially turn to Oakland Athletics’ outfielder Ramón Laureano to play left field. Left field in Yankee Stadium has a lot of ground to cover, and Laureano has a reputation for being a strong fielder even though his numbers in 2022 weren’t really that good — he had -5 Outs Above Average and -1 Defensive Runs Saved in 742.1 innings between right and center field.
More than his defense per se, Laureano is known for his arm. It can definitely be a weapon from an outfield corner. Here is a glimpse of what he can do:
Laureano is obviously not as exciting as Reynolds, but he could get the job done. Over the course of his career, he has been an above-average hitter with a 114 wRC+, although it should be noted that he was suspended for using PEDs in August 2021 and missed 80 games between that year and 2022. It’s impossible to know to what extent his performance prior to that was aided.
He had a 131 wRC+ as a rookie in 2018 and a 127 mark a year later. He then slumped a bit in the pandemic season (104 wRC+) but returned to form in 2021 with a 113 wRC+. Even this past season, the worst of his career, he was almost a league-average hitter with a 96 wRC+, and he had to deal with a hamstring strain, an injured hip, a Grade 1 left oblique strain and a sore right hand. With all those injuries and the cloud of his PEDs suspension looming over him, he almost managed to touch league-average performance and hit 13 homers and stole 11 bases in 383 trips to the plate.
With a clean bill of health and a chance to start over with the Yankees, he could potentially return to being a 110 wRC+ type hitter with 15-20 homers, 15 steals and good defense in an outfield corner. Considering the difference in cost (compared to Reynolds, at least), at least theoretically, Laureano should be an option for the Yankees to consider.
He is still 28 years old and he has three seasons of team control remaining. A healthy Laureano doesn’t have the kind of upside Reynolds and Conforto have, but could be a cheaper solution for the left field situation and return satisfactory on-field results. His floor is definitely not as low as, say, Joey Gallo, and his ceiling is a 20-homer hitter with a 120 wRC+ and great defense.
Laureano would not be the most exciting option to start in left field for the Yankees, but could get the job done if given the chance.