I can’t lie to you guys: the idea of a clean-shaven, short-haired Bo Bichette kind of freaks me out a little. It would turn a smoke-circle-friendly face into the kind of person that acts like you’re guilty of assault if you bump into the street.
What doesn’t freak me out, though, is a Yankees infield that goes from a relatively high degree of uncertainty to what would have a chance to be the most competitive infield in the league.
Whispers of a trade having been on the table that would have sent Bichette to the Cubs sent waves around the Hot Stove League last week, and on Monday, Ken Rosenthal added more fuel to the fire with the news that the Blue Jays took some calls surrounding both Bichette and his other nepo-star teammate, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. While Rosenthal also reported that neither are likely to be moved, and that this is more of a “doesn’t hurt to ask” situation than one in which they’re actually being shopped, it’s food for thought in the offseason. And we’re all very hungry.
2023 Statistics: 135 games, 601 PA, ..306/.339/.475, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 125 wRC+, 3.8 fWAR
2024 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projections: 149 games, 644 PA, ..291/.334/.480, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 124 wRC+, 4.0 fWAR
Contract Status: Second year of three-year, $33.6M arbitration buyout contract signed in 2023, due $11M in 2024 with MVP vote escalators worth up to $2.25M
Now, why would the Yankees want Bo Bichette, given that they already have a Silver Slugger contender at the keystone in Gleyber Torres and a promising young shortstop in Anthony Volpe who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon? The short answer is that Bichette is a really good hitter, and the Yankees need really good hitters. Unless there’s a complete and utter positional blockage that would make fitting things together truly unfeasible, if you have a chance to add someone who averages 200 hits per year with a fair amount of pop and manageable number of strikeouts at a premium position, you go in, oh yes you do.
It’s not clear why, exactly, the Blue Jays would be super interested in dealing such a player, but teams have their reasons, and the Yankees certainly have the resources in their farm system to make a competitive offer, if they should want to. If it’s within the realm of possibility, the presence of Torres and Volpe shouldn’t be a deterrent. The 2024 campaign will be Torres’ final season before hitting free agency, and there’s been little smoke about any kind of reunion or long-term pact in the works to keep him the Bronx beyond that. Volpe ought to be here for quite a while, and while the reigning Gold Glove winner isn’t moving off shortstop anytime soon, Bichette isn’t of a fielding caliber that there would be any major controversy if he were asked to move somewhere else in the infield.
Defensive metrics are lukewarm at best on the 26-year-old, with Outs Above Average indicating that while his arm strength is generally fine, it’s his range (or lack thereof) that prohibits him from being much more than average in the six-hole. In theory, a switch to third base, then, would be the intuitive move — a position at which the Yankees suddenly have a sizable hole, assuming one would prefer an aging and injury-prone DJ LeMahieu keep his utility spot as it is.
Bichette brings a lot of things to the table that the Yankees very much need. Perhaps the best way to say it is that he simply doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses. He’s not a speed demon, and based on Statcast’s sprint speed numbers, he doesn’t seem to possess the juice that allowed him to steal 25 bases in 2021.
Given that Bichette suffered through knee and quad injuries last season, that’s not surprising, but even if there’s no room for a bounce-back (which there is), he’s not a negative on the basepaths in any case, which is more than can be said for much of the bozo play we saw last summer. He’s no Gold Glover, but he ought to be a fine third baseman, where range matters even less when you have someone like Volpe on the other side. He won’t win any home run titles, but he’s clubbed 20 homers and 30 doubles in each of the last three years, and that includes a full month lost to the aforementioned leg injuries. At the same time, Bo doesn’t swing and miss much, a relatively rare trait for someone whose power is as consistent as his, and that power doesn’t come at the expense of other kinds of good contact, either, as he’s hit at least .290 in every season he’s appeared in the majors.
To sum it all up, Bichette puts the ball in play a lot, he does it with gusto, and while his subpar walk rates leave something to be desired, he rarely leaves the plate empty-handed. Since the start of 2021 season, Bichette has hit .298 (lots of hits), slugged 181 XBH (not an empty batting average!), and struck out 407 times. Only one other player has bested all three of those milestones, and it’s Freddie Freeman. Even lower the thresholds a bit — .290 average, 150 XBH, 450 strikeouts — and the only other names you get are the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr., Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and so on. He may not necessarily have the star power, but Bichette is far more of an elite hitter than he’s typically given credit for.
Scheduled to hit free agency after the 2025 season, at which point he’ll be 28, Bichette will be in line for a Turner-esque deal on the open market, if he keeps this up. Outside of Aaron Judge, the Yankees simply don’t have any elite hitters: DJ LeMahieu’s days as an All-Star appear to be in the past; Giancarlo Stanton has hit the aging wall; Anthony Volpe still has a long way to go; Gleyber Torres has settled into good-but-nothing-special territory despite his early-career promise; Jasson Domínguez has come to the plate 33 times in the majors. If New York whiffs on the thinner-than-usual class of hitters at the top of the free agent market, they’ll almost certainly need to turn to trades for some form of recourse, because simply hoping that Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza make some kind of step forward isn’t going to help them leapfrog two or three teams in the AL East standings.
Bichette is an outside-the-box trade, but it’s the kind of outside-the-box thinking that Brian Cashman will need to engage in to generate that leapfrog. I can’t quite picture the kid in pinstripes and the cost to pry him away from a division rival would almost certainly be daunting, but the sight alone is something I sure wouldn’t mind seeing.