Under the Radar Trade Fits
By Chris O’Connor
July 24, 2021
The trade deadline is always an exciting time in the long baseball season. It’s when contenders and wanna-be playoff teams shore up holes and the teams that are already thinking about next year are selling off their best players.
This year, the Yankees have been connected to many of the big names that are rumored to be available such as Trevor Story, Joey Gallo, Starling Marte, and Jose Berrios. Everyone knows about those guys, and the Yankees could certainly use the help. In my opinion, the Yankees biggest needs are center field and shortstop/1st base (D.J. LeMahieu’s versatility allows them to go either way). Plus, every team can use more pitching.
I wanted to take a look at some potential fits for the Yankees that I have not heard much talk about.
I have always been a fan of Benintendi. The former top prospect came up with the Red Sox and immediately made an impact, hitting 49 home runs with 8.4 fWAR across the 2017-2019 campaigns. While he never became the star that many thought that he would be, he established himself as a solid, if unspectacular, major leaguer. After a poor 2020 that saw him miss time with injuries, he was traded in the offseason to the Royals as the Red Sox sought to get rid of his $6.6 million salary. The 26 year-old has had a decent year with a .271/.320/.426 slash line and 10 home runs in 70 games and he will not become a free agent until after the 2022 season. He is generally regarded as an average to below-average left fielder, so the Yankees would be better off going for someone who can center field. However, if they do not want to pay the price for a Marte or Gallo, they could move Judge to center and play Benintendi in left. Either way, he would bring a nice lefty contact bat to the lineup and would certainly be an upgrade over what Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier have brought this year.
Like Benintendi, Grossman is not a great defender in left field who is under team control through 2022. Playing for the rebuilding Tigers, it stands to reason that the 31 year-old would be available at the deadline. He has a nice switch-hitting bat that would fit in well in the Yanees lineup. He has a .229/.352/.413 slash line with 15 homers in 92 games, good for a WRC+ of 112 and 1.4 fWAR. The Yankees love guys with good plate discipline and Grossman fits well here: his 15.1% walk rate is in the 96th percentile league wide and his chase rate is in the 97th percentile. This is no fluke, either: he had a 127 WRC+ in 51 games with Oakland last year. I think that Grossman would fit in much the same way Benintendi would: a left-handed bat that can take over the left field job for Frazier and Andujar. While Benintendi is more of a contact hitter, Grossman would bring more of a power bat.
The former third overall pick is a pending free agent and, playing for the rebuilding Rockies, has to be on the way out the door. The Yankees have not been connected to Gray much, but no team can have too much pitching. If the Yankees find a way to make the playoffs, who is their Game 2 starter in a series? Corey Kluber and Luis Severino are coming back from serious injuries, Jameson Taillon and Domingo German have been inconsistent, and Jordan Montgomery has been more good than great. Gray is not a big strikeout guy (with 8.42 k/9), but limits hard contact (73rd percentile in hard hit rate allowed and 64th percentile in average exit velocity). In 17 starts, he has a 3.68 ERA and 1.6 fWAR in 93 innings. In an odd twist for someone who pitches in Coors Field, he has a 3.14 ERA in 10 home starts and a 4.54 ERA in 7 road starts. Still, if the Yankees will not pay the steep price for someone like Jose Berrios, Gray would be a nice upside play for the stretch run.