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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 10/14/23

Harper’s playoff dominance continues; Eovaldi wanted Yankees return; Bellinger rumors heat up; Middleton’s offseason passion

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Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Athletic ($) | Chris Kirschner and Brendan Kuty: Bryce Harper continues to dominate in the postseason, leading the Phillies to their second-straight NLCS appearance, and in this edition of the Yankees mailbag Kirschner and Kuty revisit the Yankees’ decision to sit out Harper’s free agency in 2019. Coming the summer after the team traded for Giancarlo Stanton, Brian Cashman told fans that Harper would be surplus to requirements, as in addition to the incoming 2017 NL MVP, the Yankees had Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, and Brett Gardner to man the outfield.

Fast-forward five years and the Yankees sit on the sidelines watching Harper tear up the playoffs while also staring down an offseason that sees two of the three starting jobs in the outfield sit vacant. In 23 postseason games with the Phillies over the last two years, Harper is slashing .354/.448/.768 with nine home runs and 18 RBI.

Sports Illustrated | Patrick McAvoy: Nathan Eovaldi has been lights-out for the Rangers in the playoffs, helping them return to the ALCS for the first time since 2011. It has since come out that Eovaldi had interest in returning to the Yankees — for whom he pitched in 2015 and 2016 — last winter before signing his two-year, $34 million deal with the Rangers. The 33-year-old righty has won both of his starts this postseason, tossing 6.2 innings of one-run ball against the Rays in the AL Wild Card Series and seven innings of one-run ball against the Orioles in the ALDS.

Sports Illustrated | Brad Wakai: The Cody Bellinger rumors continue to rumble as the Yankees are speculated as one of his most likely landing spots. The Cubs would also love to bring him back, but the former MVP is likely to command nine figures this winter and prior to the mega deal they handed Dansby Swanson last winter, they have generally shied away from long commitments to position players in recent years. The lefty slugger enjoyed a resurgent campaign after signing a one-year “prove it” deal last winter, batting .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, a 134 wRC+ and 4.1 fWAR in 130 games, though it’s worth noting that the same inability to hit the fastball that underlay his awful 2021 and 2022 campaigns cropped back up in the second half of this season.

New York Post | Greg Joyce: Keynan Middleton was impressive for the Yankees after coming over from the White Sox at the trade deadline, posting a 1.88 ERA in 12 games and has expressed interest in returning to the team as a free agent this winter. He praised the Yankees’ pitching coaches for helping him tweak pitch grips, resulting in the uptick in his performance. While he awaits a call from a team this offseason, he will occupy his time with his other sporting love — coaching high school basketball. He was recently hired as the assistant varsity basketball coach at Rex Putnam High School, Scott Brosius’ alma mater.