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Yankees potential trade target: Jeimer Candelario

The switch-hitter has been a quiet but consistent performer.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

With slumps and injuries abound, the Yankees’ infield could use a boost or two. Though their approach for this deadline isn’t abundantly clear (as they sit in last place in the East), it would seem that at least a partial buy is among the more likely outcomes. Nationals’ third baseman Jeimer Candelario has been a quiet and consistent producer for a few years now, and would fit that bill fairly well.

2023 Stats: 394 PA, .257/.335/.486, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 5 SB, 8.1% BB%, 21.1% K%, 119 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR

Contract Status: Under a one-year, $5 million contract. Free agent following the 2023 season.

Candelario was non-tendered by the Tigers after a rough 2022 campaign, and was given another chance with the Nationals for 2023. He has returned pretty much exactly to form in the nation’s capital, and has turned himself into an intriguing target for teams at the deadline.

After an average first full season in 2018, and a bad partial one in ‘19, Candelario broke out in the shortened 2020 season. The infielder slashed .297/.369/.503, good for a 140 wRC+ and 1.9 fWAR in just 52 games. And in 2021, he maintained his impressive play, posting a 120 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR in a much larger sample, which is near-All-Star level performance.

Last year, however, the wheels fell off a bit. He was well below league-average with the bat, posted a significant career-low walk rate, and slugged well under .400. It was a disappointing detour for the then-28-year-old, and led to him being non-tendered by Detroit.

With a fresh start in Washington, Candelario has returned to form, and should once again be on the radars of buying teams this deadline. He has bumped his walk rate up a bit, is already closing in on a career high in homers, and has been worth 2.9 fWAR in his 93 games.

Candelario has been particularly hot of late. Since the middle of May, the switch-hitter has slashed .291/.377/.581, good for a 155 wRC+, the third-best mark among qualified third basemen in that stretch.

Candelario’s defense at the hot corner has also been top-notch in 2023. Though defensive metrics in just partial seasons can be a bit touchy, he is in the 94th percentile for Statcast’s outs above average. This would rank him well within the top ten defenders at third base.

With all of this considered, the other important thing to consider here is the fit with the Yankees. Candelario will be a free agent at the end of the season, and though he is good and maybe a bit underappreciated, he’s not exactly a superstar, so his price tag won’t be exorbitantly high.

The Nationals, with the second-worst record in the National League (41-59), are obvious candidates to sell at the deadline. The Yankees, who are fellow division basement-dwellers, but sit just 2.5 games out of the wild card, could be at least partially in a buying mindset.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, third base has been a bit of a black hole on this year’s roster. Pinstriped third basemen have accumulated 0.3 fWAR, fourth worst in baseball, and have posted an 81 wRC+, which ranks them fifth worst. Some combination of a concerning DJ LeMahieu, an even more concerning (and injured) Josh Donaldson, and a few others who can at least man the hot corner simply has not done the trick.

Candelario only has this season left of team control, and isn’t Nolan Arenado or anything, so he would be a relatively affordable option to help things in the Bronx. However, the issue remains that while adding a solidly above-average third basemen to the fold would be a big improvement, it won’t fix everything. Candelario is a good player, but not one that could likely push a team up a few pegs in the competitive East.

While I don’t think it’s ever really a bad idea to go after good players, a Candelario trade would seem most appropriate if it was a supplemental one. The Yankees have a tremendous amount of ground to cover if they want any chance in the East, and have to pass at least two teams to occupy a Wild Card spot, with a few clubs in striking distance behind them as well.

The 2023 Yankees offense has been a disappointing one, to say the least. Jeimer Candelario, particularly of late, has been far from that. While he won’t be a complete difference maker, he would be an improvement for a lot of teams, especially the Yankees, and he’s one that wouldn’t cost the farm.