The Yankees have acquired an outfielder from another organization. No, it isn’t the possible Juan Soto trade that everyone is dreaming about. Instead, it’s righty hitter Oscar Gonzalez of the Cleveland Guardians. YES Network’s Jack Curry was the first to report that he had been claimed off waivers.
Gonzalez was one Cleveland’s surprising heroes during their run to the 2022 AL Central crown under the now-departed Terry Francona. Previously an unheralded minor leaguer in the Guardians’ system, he was called up in a pinch in late May and promptly notched multi-hit games in 8 of his first 15 career contests. His amusing use of the SpongeBob SquarePants theme as his walk-up music only won him more fans. On the season, Gonzalez hit .296/.327/.461 with 27 doubles, 11 homers, a 125 wRC+, and one particularly iconic moment when he walked off the Tampa Bay Rays to win the Wild Card Series.
Gonzalez also got the go-ahead hit in extras against Clarke Schmidt to win Game 3 of the following ALDS against the Yankees. New York won that series in five to end his memorable 2022, but it was a delightful debut season for Gonzalez anyway.
The 2023 campaign was not nearly as kind to Gonzalez, or the Guardians for that matter. Cleveland slumped to 76 wins and the 25-year-old looked so bad after the season’s first month and change (.192/.213/.288 through May 5th) that he was demoted to Triple-A Columbus. He returned in late July, but only hit .232/.260/.327 with a single long ball in 27 games before heading back to Triple-A on September 3rd. His season ended with two brief appearances during Cleveland’s final series in Detroit.
So what do the Yankees want with Gonzalez? The most obvious answer is likely just depth since they just recently bid adieu to a whole bunch of random Quad-A names who cycled through their clubhouse in 2023 (Billy McKinney, Jake Bauers, Franchy Cordero, etc.). Gonzalez is merely taking their spot as someone a bit younger, whose 2022 still offers potential for more. More outfielder moves are likely on the horizon anyway; otherwise, we’re going to have words. That would probably be the case anyway, Gonzalez or not.