The Yankees have made two deals already this winter for outfielders, and between them and emergent prospects, the depth chart was looking a little bit crowded. For now, longtime bubble man Estevan Florial ended up being the odd man out, dealt on Boxing Day to the Cleveland Guardians for reliever Cody Morris.
Florial, 26 and out of options, has been considered a potential depth or fourth outfielder piece in New York for years now, with strong performances at both Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton in the last two years. His elevated strikeout rate in the minors caused some concern about major league performance and made him a less enticing prospect, but with just 134 plate appearances at the MLB level, a savvy, contact-oriented team might be able to close a hole in his swing with every day playing time.
Florial’s defensive aptitude is real, being trusted at all three outfield positions in both the minors and majors. He also brings speed and decent baserunning instincts, the question is just whether or not he’s going to reach base enough for that to be all that valuable. The Yankees just can’t give him the 500 ABs they need for proper evaluation this season — Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, Aaron Judge, and Trent Grisham will command most of the outfield playing time, and manager Aaron Boone hinted that prospect Jasson Domínguez will be expected to jump into the outfield rotation upon his return as well.
Coming back the other way is 26-year-old old righty Cody Morris, who flashed interesting enough stuff in Cleveland’s minor league system but hasn’t managed to impress in limited MLB action across 2022 and 2023. His fastball and changeup both grade out as above-average, and while he was a starter in the minors seems more fit to the long relief, potential swingman role in the majors. Morris also has two remaining MLB option years left, so the Yankees have some flexibility as they tinker with the pitch mix.
The Yankees have an established track record of taking toolsy pitchers and managing to squeeze something real out of them. Florial plainly didn’t have a role on the 2024 team, and going to a club that’s as contact-focused as Cleveland may be best for him in the long run anyway. Happy trails to Florial, and best of luck to him in his new threads.