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Finding the Yankees a lefty bat

The original Yankee Stadium was nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built,” but really it was built just for him. It opened in 1923 with a short right field fence customized for the lefty slugger. Since then, Yankee roster construction almost always prioritized left-handed hitting…

…Until 2021. This season’s lineup is almost entirely right-handed, especially with switch-hitting Aaron Hicks out for the year. There are four lefty batters on the 40-man roster, but they are four of the worst hitters on the team:

  • Estevan Florial: .191/.290/.362 (triple-A stats)
  • Brett Gardner: .216/.320/.331
  • Rougned Odor: .199/.268/.397
  • Tyler Wade: .233/.283/.279

That’s not exactly Robinson Canó/Jason Giambi/Hideki Matsui. Adding a left-handed bat needs to be a top priority for GM Brian Cashman leading up to the trade deadline. Let’s take a look around MLB to see who could be available.

Pirates 2B Adam Frazier

The Pittsburgh Pirates are once again among the worst teams in MLB, surprising nobody. They’ve been terrible for almost the entirety of Cashman’s tenure with the Yankees, making them an ideal trade partner. The two clubs have completed 16 deals with each other since 2000, most recently for Jameson Taillon in January. 12 of them were midseason moves.

Their hot-hitting second baseman Adam Frazier will be one of the most oft-rumored trade candidates in the coming weeks. While he’s not a power hitter, his .322/.387/.452 slash line will work atop any lineup, and he currently leads the NL with 23 doubles. He’s sort of like a lefty D.J. LeMahieu without the Gold Glove defense, though he can also play left field. He will be arbitration-eligible next year before reaching free agency in 2023. Expect a robust bidding war involving multiple teams.

Diamondbacks CF/2B Ketel Marte

The Arizona Diamondbacks have the worst record in MLB, so they’ll surely sell at the deadline. For the past four years, the switch-hitting Ketel Marte alternated between second base and center field, which just happen to be two of the Yankees’ biggest positional holes. He finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2019 and is enjoying the same kind of season in 2021, hitting .344/.390/.520.

The problem with Marte is that his contract is simultaneously too cheap and too expensive. He is signed through 2024 with the last two years being club options and is scheduled to earn $8.4 million, $8 million, and $10 million over the next three years. That is an absolute steal for an All-Star caliber player. However, his current $6.4 million salary (also a steal) would put the Yankees over the competitive balance tax. They have been clear about wanting to stay under it all year, even though that may cost them dearly in October. Marte’s relatively low salary also means he’ll require a ton of prospect capital in trade.

Rangers OF Joey Gallo

Hey, why not? The Texas Rangers are buried in last place once more. They aren’t likely to compete for the playoffs next year either, which will be Joey Gallo’s final year of team control. His salary for this season is $6.2 million, which would require some cap maneuvering. (Better yet, damn the cap altogether. They’re the Yankees after all!)

Gallo is having a mostly Galloesque season, slashing .214/.373/.391. His 11 home runs are on the low side for him, as is his sub-.400 slugging percentage, but his 19.2 percent walk rate cures a lot of ailments. He’s no one-dimensional player either, earning a Gold Glove in right field in 2020. He can play center field as well and possesses one of the strongest arms in baseball.

Rockies 2B/3B Ryan McMahon

The NL West is a three-horse race, and the Colorado Rockies never made it to the stable. Not much has gone right for the club, but one of the bright spots has been the emergence of Ryan McMahon. When they traded Nolan Arenado this winter, he became the nominal starting third basemen. He also plays a lot of second base and has experience at first base. He’s currently sixth in the NL with 16 home runs and tied for fourth with 2.7 bWAR.

Given his breakout and likely All-Star selection, he will cost a pretty penny in prospects. He is only earning $2.375 million in his first year of arbitration and won’t become a free agent until 2024. Still, he’s an ideal target because of his positional versatility and significantly better production than Odor.

While these four players might be the most desirable, realistic lefty trade candidates, there are plenty more. Bryan Reynolds, Andrew Benintendi, Robbie Grossman, Asdrúbal Cabrera, and Eduardo Escobar could all be on the move this summer. Cashman has plenty of options, but sitting still is not one of them. The Yankees need to go get a lefty bat to bolster their lineup sooner rather than later.