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Yankees potential trade target: Brent Rooker

Rooker is a flawed player, but the Yankees should take any outfield upgrades they can get and there is no denying the A’s slugger can hit.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

You probably don’t need us to tell you that left field has been an issue for the Yankees. They rank 26th in MLB (out of 30 teams) in wRC+ by left fielders with 84. Aaron Judge is on the shelf, Giancarlo Stanton and Harrison Bader are injury-prone, and the rest of the outfield alternatives are underwhelming with just a couple of exceptions.

It’s clear that the Yanks need to address the outfield and the starting rotation if they want to have a chance to salvage their season. They just can’t depend on Billy McKinney, Willie Calhoun and Jake Bauers even though they have all had their moments and have been better than anticipated.

Now, there might not be a whole lot of sellers at the deadline this year, or at least sellers with difference-making outfield talent available. The Chicago White Sox, for example, are not going to give Luis Robert Jr. away, and it’s unlikely they seriously discuss Eloy Jiménez. The Pittsburgh Pirates might or might not throw in the towel, and the alternatives in the St. Louis Cardinals or the Kansas City Royals might not be that enticing.

Do you know who will be 100-percent sellers? The Oakland Athletics. The A’s won’t hesitate to trade their best assets if it means they will get multiple prospects back and/or cut payroll.

The Yankees might have some degree of interest in A’s outfielder Brent Rooker. He’s probably not the piece that Oakland would like to trade since he has four seasons of cheap team control after 2023 (they wouldn’t be cutting payroll in this specific transaction since he is making the minimum this year), but he is already 28 and they might feel the perfect time to deal him is now.

Rooker is a former first-round draft pick in 2017. Despite running some high strikeout rates in the minors, he always produced. He made his MLB debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2020, and posted a nice 163 wRC+ in limited time (21 plate appearances). The Twins gave Rooker 213 plate appearances in 2021, but he could only muster a 91 wRC+, nine home runs, and a 32.9 percent strikeout rate. Then, in April 2022, he was part of the deal that sent Chris Paddack to Minnesota, and he landed on the San Diego Padres.

In a span of a year, Rooker was part of four organizations: after that trade, he was flipped to Kansas City on August 2nd. Then, in November, the Royals designated him for assignment, and the A’s claimed him from waivers. In Oakland, he found an extended opportunity to prove himself, and he is taking advantage of it.

The strikeouts are still there (30.5 percent rate in 302 plate appearances), but Rooker has been one of Oakland’s best hitters with a .246/.341/.485 line, 16 round-trippers and a 133 wRC+. He hits the ball really hard:

Baseball Savant

That 133 wRC+ would be the highest among Yankees with at least 300 trips to the plate, and second if we count Judge’s 189 in 213 appearances.

Rooker’s swing-and-miss tendencies make him prone to long slumps. He is a streaky hitter: from the start of the season until May 12th, a span that covered 138 plate appearances, he slashed .319/.428/.673 with 11 home runs and a 203 wRC+. He struck out at a very decent 23.2 percent rate over that span.

Then, from May 13th to June 28th, Rooker was horrible, with a .158/.241/.250 line, two long balls and a 43 wRC+ in 133 trips to the plate. His K% rate in that period? 36.8 percent.

In Rooker’s last nine games, however, he is starting to see better results: he is hitting .333/.387/.741 with a 206 wRC+ and 3 homers in 31 plate appearances, although with a 35.5-percent strikeout rate.

Rooker is far from a perfect hitter. However, and quite frankly, the Yankees should take any upgrades they can get because they’re not going to be able to pull in anyone as talented as a Luis Robert Jr. or a Bryan Reynolds — just to name a couple impossible targets.

He will whiff a lot, but Rooker has shown he can produce at the MLB level when given a true chance. He is not much of a defender (he has acted as the A’s designated hitter more often than he has taken the field, and there is a reason for that), and while that’s not ideal for the Yanks, it will also diminish his trade value a bit. He is not the worst left fielder in the world so if the Bombers want offense and bring him in, they might have to sacrifice some defense.

The A’s took Rooker from waivers less than a year ago so they probably won’t ask for the Yankees’ top prospects, but they also won’t give him away because they had the patience and the ability to turn him into an above-average hitter. If both teams can agree on a fair return, he could be a good option for New York before the deadline.