Michael Conforto is off the market, and it doesn’t look like the rosters of the Yankees and Pirates line up for a Bryan Reynolds trade. If New York wants to make a move to improve left field, the options are drying up. The Conforto deal with the Giants, in conjunction with their signing of Mitch Haniger, might actually open up a trade option, for a player who could benefit from leaving Oracle Park: Mike Yastrzemski.
Baby Yaz has been more or less the definition of league average the past two seasons, with a 102 wRC+, 4.5 fWAR in 287 games, and a +7 OAA rating in the outfield. Those numbers may not jump off the page, but all three are a damn sight better than the likely incumbent Aaron Hicks. Moreover, Yastrzemski looks like one of those players who suffers in a pitcher’s park, and he may just be due for a surge at the plate in Yankee Stadium.
Like most hitters, Yaz does the most damage on balls he pulls — a 131 wRC+ and .287 ISO last year — but there are some material differences between Oracle Park and Yankee Stadium. Oracle famously features the shortest distance to the right field foul pole in the NL, and the second-shortest in the game, right field quickly runs out to the deepest in baseball, with the right-center power alley 415 feet from home plate.
Overall, right field out west is 4,500 square feet larger than in the Bronx, sapping some of Yastrzemski’s power potential. The 17 home runs he hit last year as a Giant turn into 21 playing at the Stadium, and that alone bumps his wOBA more than a dozen points, in line with both Oswaldo Cabrera and Andrew Benintendi, while still posting above-average range and jump metrics.
That bat may appreciate further if he’s able to adapt the way that someone like Anthony Rizzo has to the specifics of Yankee Stadium. Rizzo ate a 22-percent increase in strikeouts in order to post his best offensive season since 2019, with 19 home runs at Yankee Stadium and not a single one to the left of Monument Park. It’s at least possible that Yaz could accomplish something similar, but it should be noted that he’s never shown the raw bat control that Rizzo has, and that control is a big part of Tony being able to adjust in the first place.
Still, with the move to the more cozy confines of the AL East, Yastrzemski is better than Aaron Hicks and at least as good as Oswaldo Cabrera, but his presence allows the Yankees to move Cabrera around the field rather than lock him in at one position — something the team at least seemed to value last season. Longtime fans might take particular amusement in a Yastrzemski excelling in pinstripes years after his grandfather wreaked havoc on their pitching staff.
The Giants are in a weird space competitively. They’ve invested in a trio of players in free agency, but missing big on both Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa puts a big hole in their chances of making the playoffs. They may be in the midst of a retool, if not a rebuild, and the Yankees could benefit from a relatively cheap, single-season upgrade at the last position of real need.