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Yankees potential trade target: Paul DeJong

The veteran Cardinals infielder is a pending free agent.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals - Game Two Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

Operating with one of the more disappointing offenses among contenders, and with the return of MVP, and linchpin of this team, Aaron Judge, still undetermined, Brian Cashman has a lot of work ahead of him. The market isn’t what you’d want if you’re seeking offense, but the considering they could use upgrades at virtually every position, it at least broadens the spectrum as far as potential targets go. There have been several St. Louis Cardinals players that we’ve highlighted over this time, but today we’re focusing on infielder Paul DeJong.

DeJong isn’t an exciting addition, and that’d be no secret, but with good numbers against left-handed pitching on the season, he could provide another option for an infield in dire need of some power. DeJong is carrying a .865 OPS in 68 plate appearances against southpaws on the season. Although his production, or lack thereof, against right-handers severely brings down his overall numbers, totaling a virtually league-average hitting line (98 OPS+), if he’s deployed wisely he could provide a little bit of help.

The Cardinals have seen the Yankees disappointing their fans and raised the stakes, posting a 43-53 record, good for fourth place in the not-so-great NL Central. John Mozeliak has already indicated his team might indeed be a seller at the deadline, and although the cornerstones aren’t going anywhere, DeJong and other complementary pieces are certainly on the board.

This is the final season of team control for DeJong, and as the Yankees wouldn’t consider him a long-term solution but more of an immediate fix, it works to their advantage in trade negotiations. It’s unlikely the Cardinals will ask for much in return for their starting shortstop. With Tommy Edman, Nolan Gorman, and Brendan Donovan on the roster long-term, St. Louis might not even entertain bringing DeJong back.

Another aspect that makes his addition further intriguing is that the veteran has rated rather favorably at shortstop over the past three seasons, according to Outs Above Average (88th, 87th, and 94th percentile).

DeJong hasn’t had a lot of playing time outside of shortstop, with the likes of Nolan Arenado occupying the hot corner, and both Edman and Donovan receiving significant time at second. Retaining Anthony Volpe at short, the Yankees could feasibly try out DeJong at the hot corner following the injury to Josh Donaldson, at least rotating him with Oswald Peraza, who is the primary option there right now.

Ideally, Peraza would run away with the role and flourish in the second half, but ideally is just that, and the team is probably well-served in looking for another veteran position as insurance, if nothing less. DeJong isn’t quite at the level he displayed over his first three seasons in the big leagues, in which he slashed .251/.318/.467, earned an All-Star nod, and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. However, he is on pace for his best statistical campaign since 2019. Not that the struggles of previous campaigns set the bar really high.

Virtually all trade target pieces come with the caveat that there are no game-changers on the market due to a lack of sellers, and a lack of impactful players on those few ones. Discussing DeJong as a tangible improvement for an offense in dire need of any help sort of clarifies that pretty well. Still, Brian Cashman’s job is to scour under every rock for a potential improvement, and perhaps he sees one here.