- Chris O'Connor
My Favorite Free Agent Fits for the Yankees
By Chris O’Connor
November 29, 2022
This is certainly an interesting free agent class. The starting pitching market is headlined by Jacob DeGrom and Justin Verlander while their position player counterparts are led by none other than Aaron Judge. Like last year, there are a number of top-tier shortstops available. I would love to see the Yankees go after someone like Carlos Correa or Trea Turner, and bringing back Aaron Judge is obviously a priority. For the purposes of this article, I am looking at guys who are not at the top of the market whom I believe to be good values and good fits with what their skill sets would bring to the 2023 Yankees.
In no particular order:
Andrew Benintendi: After coming over from the Royals at the trade deadline, Benintendi had a tough adjustment period: he started his Yankees career by getting just 2 hits over his first 25 at bats. After the difficult start, however, he bounced back with a .304/.344/.483 slash line over his last 24 games before a wrist injury ended his season. I think that the 28 year-old is a perfect fit for the Yankees. He balances the lineup with a left-handed bat, diversifies the boom-or-bust with a contact-oriented approach, and is a Gold-Glove winning left fielder. An outfield of Benintendi in left, Harrison Bader in center, and Aaron Judge (fingers crossed!) in right would give the Yankees one of the best defensive outfields in the sport.
Michael Brantley: Similar to Benintendi, I can see Brantley as a good fit for the Yankees. Though he is 35 years old and played just 64 games due to a right shoulder injury, the lefty provides many of the same benefits as Benintendi. Aside from the shortened 2020, he has not had a strikeout rate over 10.8% since 2017. He has a remarkably consistent bat: since 2018, his WRC+ has been between 121 and 132 every year. And his defense in left, while not on Benintendi’s level, is competent.
Tommy Kahnle: Significant injuries to Michael King, Chad Green, and Scott Effros, combined with the decline and probable departures of Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman, have decimated the Yankees bullpen depth heading into 2023. While I believe that the Yankees pitching development machine makes the need for a big-money relief addition less prudent, the team still needs to add more cheap(ish) arms. Enter former friend Tommy Kahnle. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in his last year with the Yankees in 2020, Kahnle signed with the Dodgers and missed all of 2021 due to the injury. In 2022, he threw just 12 ⅔ innings due to a bone bruise in his right elbow. Still, Kanhle will be three years removed from the original surgery in 2023. Because of the way the last few years have gone, his price tag will be dramatically reduced from what he would have received a few years ago. And we know that Kanhle can handle the pressure of pitching in New York. This is a low-risk, high-reward option at a position of need.
Nathan Eovaldi: Speaking of old friends, I would love to see a Nathan Eovaldi reunion. The soon-to-be 33 year-old had an excellent 2021 season with a 3.75 ERA and 5.7 fWAR in 182 ⅓ innings, but pitched just 109 ⅓ innings in 2022 after missing time with lower back and right shoulder inflammation. Still, he had a solid 3.87 ERA with better peripherals: his miniscule walk rate of 4.3%, 3.55 SIERA, and 3.46 xFIP reflect a pitcher who may see better days ahead. If the Yankees do not go off after the top of the starting pitching market in Justin Verlander, Jacob DeGrom, and Carlos Rodon, Eovaldi is a nice second-tier option.