5 under-the-radar free agents Yankees should target during 2022-23 offseason
There’s plenty of free agents the Yankees could pursue this offseason.
Of course, we know about the big ones like Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom, but what of the players not many people are talking about?
Whether it’s a hitter who can give meaningful at-bats or a middle reliever who can give a bullpen that bridge to the closer, there are plenty of names out there who the Yankees can bring in.
Here are five under-the-radar free agents the Yankees should have a dialogue with…
RHP CRAIG KIMBREL
It’s odd to call a future Hall of Fame closer “under-the-radar,” but after the year and a half Kimbrel had with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers a lot of teams may be overlooking this right-hander.
Kimbrel had a 3.75 ERA and converted 22 of 27 save opportunities last season with the Dodgers, but he lost his closer role midseason and is now a free agent.
Despite Kimbrel entering his age-35 season, he’s an interesting option for the Yankees to try and fix as a bridge to Clay Holmes this upcoming season. Without the pressure of closing in New York, Kimbrel could come close to his All-Star self. In the first half of 2021, before he was traded to the White Sox from the Chicago Cubs, Kimbrel closed 23 of 25 games and had a 0.49 ERA.
For a fair one-year deal, the Yankees could take a flier and hope Kimbrel returns to the form he had with the Cubs.
OF CODY BELLINGER
Another player it feels odd to say teams could be overlooking, but with how quickly Bellinger has fallen the last few seasons, we don’t blame anyone who doesn’t see the former NL MVP as a big free agent.
The Dodgers decided not to tender Bellinger a contract, making him a free agent. But at just 27 years old, there’s still a lot of seasons ahead for the outfielder.
What makes Bellinger an interesting look for the Yankees is his skill set. He’s a power lefty bat who would do very well at Yankee Stadium. And he plays Gold Glove-level defense in center field. Now, this is only an option if the Yankees can’t make a deal to bring Judge back. But if he does walk, an outfield with Bellinger in center could be an option.
Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, notes that his client has been hampered by injuries the last few years. Whether that’s what’s been holding Bellinger back at the plate is yet to be seen, but with another season away from those injuries, can Bellinger come close to being a viable bat? It’s not a bad risk to take for such a young player.
OF MICHAEL CONFORTO
The Yankees need outfield help whether they sign Judge or not. With Andrew Benintendi also a free agent, the Yankees have two spots to fill, and Conforto could be one of them.
Conforto brings a lot of the same skill sets — albeit on a lesser tier — than Bellinger, but he’s still a viable option. Entering his age-30 season, Conforto is older than Bellinger, but after missing last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, the Yankees could probably get him on a one-year deal while he tries to prove to the rest of the league that he’s back before hitting the market again.
Before his injury, Conforto was having a solid career. His 162-game average is 28 home runs, a number that would likely go up at Yankee Stadium. And while his average doesn’t stand out, the outlawing of the shift could benefit him. In 2021, 45 percent of Conforto’s batted balls were on the ground.
RHP MICHAEL WACHA
After a rough few years, Wacha seemingly righted the ship with the Boston Red Sox in 2022. In 23 starts, the 31-year-old went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA in the tough AL East.
While his strikeouts decreased from 2021, all his other metrics improved, and he could replace Jameson Taillon in the rotation. Wacha also has pitched out of the bullpen, so the Yankees could use him in that spot in the postseason.
LHP TAYLOR ROGERS
The Yankees already have Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge as lefties out of the bullpen, but Rogers could be that bridge to Holmes or whoever closes for the Yanks in 2023.
While his time as a closer last season went very poorly with the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers, he’s only a year removed from an All-Star selection where he saved nine games and had a 3.35 ERA in a middle reliever role.
Perhaps a fresh start not in a closer role would do Rogers some good. When Rogers is on, he’s very good, but if he’s off he can get hit hard. Hopefully a change to a role in low-leverage innings will help.