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  • Writer's pictureEthan Semendinger

Left Field Trades: Max Kepler

The Yankees have at least one player set for each position next year but left field. Is there a player out there to trade for?

 

The Background on Max Kepler:

There have been 44 players in the history of the MLB who have been born in Germany. The most recent big names would have been Edwin Jackson, Brendan Donovan, and our player today: Max Kepler. Born to professional ballet dancers, Max Kepler was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. He attended the John F. Kennedy Schools in Berlin and was an athlete from his early years, being offered a tennis scholarship at age 7, playing professional association football (soccer) for Hertha BSC, and playing in the highest level of German baseball for the Legionäre.


Max Kepler was signed as a 16-year-old international free agent out of Germany for $800,000 by the Minnesota Twins as part of the 2009-2010 international free agent class. As is customary, he didn't start his professional stateside career in the minor leagues until the 2010 season. Kepler would spend the majority of the next 6 seasons slowly working his way up the minor league chain, making it to Double-A before getting a late-season call-up in 2015 to make his MLB debut on September 27th. The next season he would start the year in Triple-A and quickly get called back up to the MLB. While having a few short stints in the minors over the course of the season, Kepler spent most of the year in the majors as a injury-replacement. He played well enough that year to earn him a spot as a starter in 2017 and the rest has been history.


Before the 2019 season, Max Kepler signed a 5 Year/$35 Million extension with the Minnesota Twins that will keep him under control through the 2023 season. Included in this deal was a team option for a 6th year at $10 Million for the 2024 season.

 

The Stats on Max Kepler:

Max Kepler has spent parts of 8 seasons (2015-2022) with the Minnesota Twins while playing 837 games. During this time, he has hit to a combined .232/.317/.427/.744 quadruple slash (101 OPS+) with 686 hits, 129 home runs, 304 extra base hits, 400 RBI's, 33 stolen bases (15 times caught) and 345 walks to 603 strikeouts. This has led him to accumulate +16.9 bWAR and +16.0 fWAR.


In his past three seasons (2019-2022), he has played 284 games while hitting to a .220/.314/.392/.706 quadruple slash (98 OPS+) while putting up 217 hits, 37 home runs, 90 extra base hits, 120 RBI's, 16 stolen bases (2 times caught) and 125 walks to 198 strikeouts while accumulating +5.2 bWAR and +5.4 fWAR.

 

Creating a Trade Proposal for Max Kepler:

One of the best things about looking at trades is trying to theory-craft different ideas for how a player could come over to the Yankees. Now, I am by no means an expert at this and if we want to adapt an old saying from the best in the business: "Your Trade Proposal isn't Very Good". That applies to me as much as it does to you. This doesn't mean that we can't have fun attempting to come up with a general trading principle, but it serves as a reminder that there is a reason none of us are running a major league franchise.


For Max Kepler, his value (according to BaseballTradeValues.com) comes out at +5.8 MTV. (MTV means Millions [of dollars] of Trade Value.) That value is calculated to figure out how valuable he will be on his current contract, plus future control. As he's under control for the next season at a rate of $8.5 Million (and 2024 if the team desires it at $10 Million). He also does not have a no trade proposal to work around.


With his value being in-line with a Top-10 organizational prospect for the Yankees, there are a ton of options out there for there being a way the Yankees could find a trade with similar value for Max Kepler. So, instead of diving really deep into one possibility, here are a bunch of options:


Option A - the "Player-for-Prospect" Package: Yankees trade Drew Thorpe (+5.6 MTV). He is their 13th ranked organizational prospect and was a 2nd round pick in last years draft out of Cal Poly.


Option B - the "Player-for-Former Prospect" Package: Yankees trade Domingo German (+2.6 MTV) and Estevan Florial (+1.9 MTV). German serves as a solid 5th starter for the Twins and Florial has a ton of upside, but has yet to discover it.


Option C - the "Little Bit of Everything" Package: Yankees trade Elijah Dunham (+2.0 MTV), Justin Lange (+2.0 MTV), Agustin Ramirez (+1.3 MTV), and Angel Rojas (+0.3 MTV). In this trade, the Twins get back a prospect for each part of the field, but sacrifice a bit on pedigree while getting an outfield, pitching, catching, and shortstop prospect.


Option D - the "They Wish" Package: Yankees trade Trey Sweeney (+7.8 MTV). Yeah, no.


The Minnnesota Twins Get: see above for ideas

The New York Yankees Get: Max Kepler

 

Would I Do This?

The simple answer is no. For some, the move to make to minimize loss and risk would be to go after Max Kepler, but I feel the opposite. For the Yankees, these years right now are the ones that they need to push and make some moves, even if they are a big risky. Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Giancarlo Stanton, and more will only be in their primes for so long.


Additionally, Max Kepler is not a player to get who really moves the needle. He's an average bat and an average glove in the outfield. He won't impress, but he will disappoint. And not by a lack of his own efforts or abilities, but because if he is who the Yankees get, us fans will constantly be looking at what other options there were that the Yankees could've gone after instead. Think of it like how we looked at Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo last season.


I think Max Kepler is a fine player. Hey, he's one of two German developed products to make the MLB (the other being Donald Lutz) and I think that him sticking around the league for so long is a great sign for the future of MLB talent coming out of Europe. (Max Kepler is the only born-and-raised-and-developed German prospect, however, as Lutz was born in Watertown, New York.) Max Kepler has shown that those kids can have successful careers in the MLB. He's not and never will be an All-Star or superstar, but he's proven that there is real talent in Europe.


If the Twins came calling, I'd be much more interested in seeing if they'd like to take back Donaldson and IKF than try and negotiate a trade for Max Kepler. There are other ponds to go fishing in because this one doesn't have what I'd be looking for.

8 Comments


Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Dec 23, 2022

Great analysis, Ethan, and I agree on the likely return packages. I think German and some other stuff is fair value.


However, I like Kepler more than you do. There's a ton of untapped potential with the bat and he's not an average defender, he's an elite defender - just check his OAA. If the Yanks were able to acquire a premium left-handed bat to play 3B (and dump Donaldson), then I think I'm good with Kepler as the left fielder in 2023

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Dec 24, 2022
Replying to

Unfortunately though, Kepler is an elite right fielder and hasn't played a single inning in left field, in his career. He's been a mostly below average center fielder probably due to the below average Jumps he gets on balls (below average route running and acceleration), which brings into question whether he projects well considering playing left field in Yankee stadium is very much like playing center field in many stadiums, even considering the changes that were made to the outfield layout when the new stadium was designed and built.


Vintage Brett Gardner demonstrated the kind of defesive impact an outfielder who's at least average in center field can make playing left field in Yankee stadium. When the Yankees traded for…


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fuster
Dec 23, 2022

the Yankees need one additional guy who will make a significant contribution to the offense, and that player need not be a left fielder.


if Cashman limits the search to left fielders, he might end up paying too full a price

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Dec 24, 2022
Replying to

I disagree here on the grounds that Stanton isn't a productive DH. If the plan is play him in the field, considering he hits way better when he plays the OF, then Stanton is a ton more valuable. As far as using him as a DH goes though, if that's the plan, he should absolutely be traded if he's willing to go.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Dec 23, 2022

I am with you on this Ethan. The Yankees need a left fielder who will make an impact.


Right now the only name that has interested me has been Bryan Reynolds.


I'm eager to see who else is out there, but for now...


And, it seems the Pirates want pitching. This the Yankees might be able to do... Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German as a start to the deal?


Then the Yankees still have their other top minor leaguers who they could then deal for a back-end starter or two...


If the Yankees can get Reynolds without giving up Peraza, Volpe, or Dominguez... oi is a no-brainer to me.


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