Despite a comfortable cushion atop the MLB standings, the New York Yankees don’t appear content to stand pat.
The best team in baseball is still looking to add, according to multiple reports, and the most obvious area in need of improvement is the outfield. Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks are essentially the only drags on an offense that’s driven in 403 runs through 80 games.
Gallo has been atrocious, taking the “three true outcomes” philosophy of home runs, walks and strikeouts to its cynical limit and transforming into a one-true-outcome hitter — as in, strikeouts and basically nothing else. The up-and-down Hicks, for whom hopes were high for a bounce-back campaign, has been supplanted not only in the lineup, but even in center field by Aaron Judge.
If New York is able to bulk up, things would get even tougher for the Boston Red Sox, who are stuck 13 1/2 games back in the AL East standings despite a strong June.
Here are some names that have circulated in connection with the first-place Yankees.
Andrew Benintendi, Royals
There’s a reason the ex-Red Sox outfielder keeps coming up in Yankees rumors. It’s because he makes the most sense. He’s a left-handed batter, which the righty-heavy New York lineup needs; his contract is up at the end of the season; and unlike some others on this list, he’s actually hitting. Although he’s short on power, his .308 batting average and .374 on-base percentage have made him a productive hitter for the struggling Royals.
Ramon Laureano, A’s
Everyone is available in Oakland, which is why Laureano’s name comes up regarding any team in need of an outfielder. His offensive numbers pale in comparison to some of the other names being floated, but he has the added benefit of being able to play center. His price tag might be a tad cheaper, too, with the A’s expected to continue the fire sale they began last winter.
Ian Happ, Cubs
He gets on base, has postseason experience and — before this season, anyway — has played all over the field. From the Yankees’ perspective, he’d likely be the prize of this list, since he’s playing at an All-Star level and has another year of arbitration remaining. Although he’s almost solely a left fielder at this point, his defense has been solid, and his contributions are wasted on a Cubs team going nowhere despite taking two of three from the Red Sox this past weekend.
Anthony Santander, Orioles
A switch-hitter who can play right field, the 27-year-old Santander would bring a couple added elements of versatility compared to others named here. The Yankees would love to be less reliant on Giancarlo Stanton playing right, so Santander would give them another option in that spot and bring some pop with 15 home runs. Standing in the way is the fact Santander isn’t eligible for free agency until 2025, so rebuilding Baltimore might opt to take its chances in arbitration and make Santander part of its plans for the near-future.
Robbie Grossman, Tigers
As a veteran presence who hits from both sides of the plate, Grossman ticks a couple boxes for New York. Besides those factors, though, Grossman probably would be the most underwhelming pick on this list. He has a paltry 73 OPS+ and although he’s played more innings in right field this season, he’s predominantly been a left fielder in his career. Still, Anthony Rizzo appeared to be on his last legs when New York acquired him last summer and he resurrected his career, so maybe history could repeat itself with the 32-year-old Grossman.
Although unlikely, it’s also possible the Yankees could ride things out with Gallo, betting on his putrid first three months evening out into a bonkers stretch run. However it happens, if New York actually finds a way to get production from the supposed holes in its lineup, the Red Sox could be left wondering what they can do to catch up. Boston has the third-best run differential in the American League, even with its pitching issues. A stronger Yankees club would make it even more imperative for the Red Sox to get creative with their own options.