SSTN Mailbag: Interesting Acquisition Targets
I hope that everyone had a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving holiday. Personally, I still feel full enough that I'm really not sure whether I'm going to float away or sink through the floor. That is to say that I am incredibly lucky - everywhere I turn this holiday weekend, I have family and friends around, and everyone loves to cook, eat, drink, and be merry. None of this is good for my goal to lose the new dad baby weight, but sometimes I think it's important to take a step back from the grind of daily life and appreciate all of the good that we all sometimes take for granted. I know that I am luckier than most, and I am incredibly thankful for it. I have a loving, growing family; I have almost all of the people I care most about within driving distance from my house; and I am fortunate enough to be able to spend time with my family on holidays. Not everyone has those luxuries, and for that I am incredibly thankful.
I am also incredibly thankful for the community here at SSTN. In particular, I am thankful for the ability to talk about baseball and the Yankees with a diverse crowd of people. I love that we don't always agree, but when we disagree, generally we do so respectfully. In an era when fewer people hang out with strangers at a bar to talk about baseball, communities like this one are a special outlet for baseball fanatics like us. I am so thankful to be able to write for SSTN and to interact with the community of people here. Thank you for reading and commenting on posts like this one, and for giving this writer an outlet to talk about baseball with people who care about the game at least as much as I do.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll take a look at a really interesting free agent who was recently non-tendered and evaluate a trade candidate from Arizona! Let's get at it:
Paul asks: Here's one to consider..
How about bringing Jeimer Candelario in on a one-year deal to play 3b... assuming the Yankees can move Donaldson?
It gets another lefty (switch-hitter) bat in the lineup...
Those of you that have read my work dating back to the old It's About The Money days know that I loved Jeimer Candelario as a prospect in the Cubs system. When the Yankees sold off the back of their bullpen for prospects in 2016, the Cubs were an obvious fit so I did quite a bit of work looking at the top-10 prospects in their system. Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez were the stars of the system, but lurking behind them was Candelario, who was a bad body at 3B, but whose bat played well above its raw power by making contact with everything minor league pitchers could throw at him from both sides of the plate. While I obviously preferred Torres or Jimenez at the top of a deal for Miller or Chapman, I really hoped a larger deal could net Candelario as a secondary piece.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Candelario was later dealt to Detroit and took awhile to get going at the big league level. It appeared that Candelario finally arrived in 2020 and 2021, producing well above-average results at the plate while hitting the ball to all fields, with solid plate discipline metrics. It looked as though Detroit had a useful switch hitter who could play some 3B and 1B with enough bat that he could even be cycled into the DH slot if better defenders pushed him out.
Everything fell off of a cliff for Candelario in 2022. Candelario didn't hit the ball as hard as consistently as he did in 2020/2021 and his plate discipline metrics fell off of a cliff, so as a result, Candelario's top level numbers suffered terribly. Candelario was barely a replacement level player in 2022, so Detroit non-tendered him this offseason.
Why should the Yankees be interested? Because there is a lot more than meets the eye to Candelario. His max exit velocity figures indicate that his plus raw power remains intact; he's a switch hitter, which is great from a matchup perspective; and video analysis sheds a ton of light on why his performance cratered in 2022. Candelario has made a ton of mechanical tweaks in the last two seasons from both sides of the plate, but in particular to his swing from the left side. At his best, Candelario has a flat swing plane and he keeps his bat in the zone for a long time, which is part of why he made so much hard contact. Candelario's batting stance went from fairly open, with a small leg kick to start the swing to occasionally closed with a mis-timed toe tap. All of the tweaking has fundamentally changed Candelario's bat path from the left side that took that beautiful flat swing plane and made it loopy, causing the bat to stay in the zone for a much shorter period of time. It's not surprising that when looking at Statcast's exit velocity histograms for 2022 that Candelario hit the ball harder from the right side more consistently than he did from the left. I think all of this tweaking led to the cratering plate discipline numbers with less consistently hard contact from the left side.
I think the answer for Candelario is to get back to basics mechanically. The team that can help him do that will unlock a really useful ballplayer.
Does he make sense for the Yankees? Maybe. Candelario's pedigree is such that with some good coaching, I think the chances are good that he can get back to being a useful hitter, one who likely would benefit from Yankee Stadium's friendlier confines. Candelario is also more athletic than he appears, with average running underway. On the downside, while Candelario has decent hands, he has an awful arm at the hot corner. We all complained about IKF's arm strength this season, with good reason. Why do I mention this? The metrics indicate that Candelario's arm is even worse than IKF's, throwing it softer on average with lower max arm velocity.
The Yankees desperately need to get deeper offensively, so I think Candelario is an interesting target, but I also thought it was nice to have a good defense for the first time in a bit. Much as I like Candelario as a reclamation project, I don't think he'd be my first choice as a 3B target. He's on my list, but not at the top.
Oscar offers the following trade target: Jake McCarthy
After our discussion of Alek Thomas in the last SSTN Mailbag, I was waiting for someone to mention McCarthy. McCarthy was something of a revelation for Arizona in 2022. He ran hard on the bases, stealing 23 bases in 26 attempts despite getting just 354 plate appearances, and hit .283 with some pop at the plate. This made McCarthy an above-average regular on a rate basis in 2022. With a glut of outfielders, Arizona will pretty clearly try to deal one of them to fill needs elsewhere, and McCarthy is one of the guys likely on the block.
The aforementioned performance would certainly be enticing for the Yankees in LF, as they could use speed and contact in the lineup. However, I don't believe McCarthy will continue as an above-average player. McCarthy had poor chase, whiff, and walk rates in 2022 with poor contact quality. While McCarthy's wOBA was a solid .337, his xwOBA was a decidedly dreadful .298. Everything about McCarthy's profile suggests significant offensive regression in 2023.
McCarthy has game-changing speed, but I don't expect him to hit again in 2023 and he's a poor defender with a bad arm to boot. Arizona matches up well with the Yankees' needs, but I'd look to someone like Alek Thomas before I made a move on McCarthy.