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Yankees potential trade target: Anthony Santander

Baltimore has played surprisingly well of late, but they still could move an enticing switch-hitter in their outfield.

Baltimore Orioles v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Baltimore Orioles have had a surprisingly successful season by their recent standards. They’re just one game under .500, with a record of 46-47, and are a significant but not insurmountable 4.5 games out of a wild card spot in the American League. This is likely a better spot than they expected to be in, but the O’s are still more likely to be in sell mode than buy, considering the state of their roster and the teams and ground they’d have to overtake in the second half.

One piece Baltimore has, that may also interest the Yankees, is switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander. He is only 27, has at times performed very well with the bat, and has two more years of team control after 2022. That sort of combo is one that comes with a price, but the Yanks have what it takes if they were inclined, and a possible need to fill as well.

Santander got a taste of the big leagues in 2017 and 2018, notching just 139 well-below-average plate appearances over that span. In 2019 and 2020 however, he showed more promise, swatting 20 home runs in just 93 games in the former, and putting up a 130 wRC+ in 37 games in the latter. That shortened season served as the outfielder’s breakout, with his aforementioned wRC+ and an impressive .575 slugging percentage over 165 plate appearances. He’s been fairly inconsistent during his short career, but he has shown, both in 2020 and this season, that he has some real talent.

This year, Santander has a 115 wRC+ over 86 games, and has made some significant improvements at the plate. His solid power has remained; he has 16 home runs, including one in this series against the Yankees, and a .188 ISO.

His discipline has looked better on top of it. Santander has a career-high walk rate this year, just shy of 10 percent, 3.5 percent better than he’s ever produced. His strikeout rate has fallen to 18.6 percent, several points below where it was during his down year last season. That combination of quality pop at the plate, and the ability to improve his on-base skills, makes Santander an attractive piece for a contending team like New York.

Santander has consistently made solid contact at the plate, with quality of contact numbers like exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard hit rate sitting between the 51st and 68th percentiles. As a switch-hitter, he has also hit pitchers from both sides at an above average rate with a wRC+ of 108 versus righties, and 129 against southpaws.

Santander’s defense in the outfield has been pretty uninspiring thus far by most measures. His outs above average has been in the 24th percentile or worse in every season, outside of the stint in 2020, which isn’t nearly enough of a sample to judge upon.

The Yankees outfield still features some combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Joey Gallo, with the odd man out usually DH’ing or sitting on a somewhat rotating basis. Hicks and Gallo have struggled for parts (or most) of the season, during which outfield pieces on the trade market made a lot of sense. Hicks has rebounded from his miserable May, and has been a decent bat overall. Gallo has not been as fortunate, but has shown a little life lately, and for what it’s worth I still consider myself a believer in some small capacity.

But, Santander is 27-year-old switch-hitter with power, and has displayed a greater ability to reach base. With two more years of team control remaining, that is a good piece to have by any measure. But given that, his price tag may not be all that cheap. With the Orioles playing some solid ball recently and not out of sight from a wild car berth, it may take even more of a package to pry away one of their middle-of-the-order bats.