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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

With 20-homer power, a low walk rate, and a big arm for left field, Gurriel makes for an intriguing free agent case.

Texas Rangers v. Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Yankees are reportedly going hard at the free agent duo of Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Cody Bellinger, while also pursuing Juan Soto via trade. In a perfect world, fans would love for them to get two of that group, but one is much more realistic and zero is, of course, a possibility.

If New York desires a mid-tier free agent outfielder — and they should, given that they need more than just one if they want to field a true championship roster — former AL East foe Lourdes Gurriel Jr. would be a good target.

2023 Statistics: 145 games, 592 PA, .261/.309/.463, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 106 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projections: 136 games, 588 PA, .272/.323/.450, 20 HR, 77 RBI, 109 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR

Previous Contract: Seventh and final season of a seven-year, $22 million contract signed in November 2016 ($5.4 million salary in 2023).

Gurriel was part of the Daulton Varsho-for-Gabriel Moreno trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Arizona Diamondbacks ahead of the 2023 campaign. It’s safe to say the D-backs won that one, since Moreno is looking like a franchise cornerstone for the National League champions and Gurriel provided 24 dingers and 82 RBI with a steady .463 slugging percentage, a 106 wRC+ and 2.1 fWAR.

Gurriel is obviously not a perfect hitter, as he hardly ever works walks and his wRC+, OBP, and other metrics suffer as a result. However, considering the Yankees had to use too much of Willie Calhoun, Billy McKinney, Jake Bauers, Franchy Cordero, Aaron Hicks and other similar options this past season, the righty outfielder makes sense.

A look at Gurriel’s profile tells you everything you need to know about him. He makes a lot of contact, evidenced by his relatively low 17.4-percent strikeout rate in 2023, but since he chases quite a bit (33.4-percent O-Swing% this year) it’s not always ideal contact. Still, he was able to hit .261 and has a career batting average of .279.

The Yankees offense is so putrid that Gurriel, a 113 wRC+ hitter for his career with consistent 20-homer power, would be one of their best hitters. This is not a knock on Gurriel, but instead, a testament of how difficult it has been for the Bombers to live up to that nickname lately.

Gurriel’s career 5.7-percent walk rate leaves plenty to be desired, and Yankee Stadium can sometimes suppress righty power, but there is no reason to think he can’t be a steady 105-115 wRC+ guy with 20 dingers per season in the Bronx. It’s also important to point out that he hit 35 doubles in 2023 and has 67 in the last two years.

For what it’s worth, Gurriel performed well in the postseason, with a .273/.290/.455 line, 3 home runs, 11 RBI, and a .745 OPS in 17 games for the surprising D-Backs.

Defensively, Gurriel has improved over the years. The 30-year-old had a career-high 14 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2023, plus 16.7 UZR/150 and 1 Out Above Average (OAA). He had eight outfield assists this past campaign, and his arm is an asset from left field. He should be adequate out there for the duration of his next contract, or at least most of it.

Speaking of Gurriel’s next contract, Ben Clemens of FanGraphs has him inking a three-year, $45 million deal in his top 50 free agents article. It seems like a reasonable number, both in the length and the money, and the Yankees can clearly pay it if they want.

Will they want to? It will, as it always happens, depend on the market dynamics, which of their top targets they are able to land, and how do they want to play their Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) situation. Performance-wise, and given the current team needs, Gurriel would fit in nicely in New York.