The Yankees have discussed Brendan Donovan and Alec Burleson as potential trade targets, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That duo are among a number of controllable Cardinals hitters who could find themselves in rumors over the offseason.
Donovan is the higher-profile and more desirable possibility. Over his two major league seasons, the South Alabama product is a .283/.381/.398 hitter. He has walked at an excellent 11.1% rate while keeping his strikeouts to a modest 14.7% clip. Donovan doesn’t have overwhelming power — he’s hit 16 home runs in 839 career plate appearances — but he’s a good pure hitter.
He also brings positional flexibility when healthy. He secured the National League Gold Glove award for utility players as a rookie, when saw notable action at second base, third base and in both corner outfield spots. He played mostly second, left field or first base in the early going in 2023. A forearm strain eventually prevented him from throwing, relegating him strictly to designated hitter in the middle of the summer. With the Cardinals reeling and selling off pieces at the trade deadline, Donovan shut things down entirely and underwent a season-ending surgery to repair the flexor tendon.
That could lead to some trepidation on the part of other teams regarding Donovan’s health. Yet there’s still plenty to like about the player. He’s a season away from qualifying for arbitration and is controllable for five years. He’s an above-average hitter who could either play regularly at the keystone or bounce around the diamond as needed.
The Yankees don’t have a need at second base. Gleyber Torres is on hand, and while New York could contemplate moving him before his final season of arbitration control, Oswald Peraza could step up. Donovan’s plus contact skills from the left-handed batter’s box would provide some balance to a Yankee lineup that skews towards right-handed power bats. New York general manager Brian Cashman suggested yesterday the club would prefer to add some lineup balance — preferably by bringing in an outfielder or two who fit the description. Donovan would be an option to see time in left field.
Burleson is strictly a corner outfielder. He struggled in his first extended major league action this past season, hitting .244/.300/.390 across 347 plate appearances. He struck out only 13% of the time but rarely walked and didn’t hit for much power. His season ended in September when he fractured his left thumb. Goold writes that he underwent surgery and is currently recovering.
A second-round pick in 2020, Burleson has a much better minor league track record than his middling ’23 campaign would indicate. He’s a .306/.356/.486 hitter over 641 Triple-A plate appearances. There’s risk considering he hasn’t yet shown the ability to hit MLB pitching. That could make him a more realistic trade option than Donovan for a St. Louis team looking to reload, however. At the very least, the asking price on Burleson figures to be quite a bit lower.
He doesn’t have a clear path to immediate playing time on a team that also rosters Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Jordan Walker and Lars Nootbaar. The Cards could keep him in the minors if they don’t find a deal to their liking. They could also trade one of their more experienced outfielders, of course. Carlson was a reported Yankee target back before the deadline.
There’s nothing to suggest the Yankees and Cardinals have any kind of traction on a trade, to be clear. St. Louis has reportedly set high asking prices on Donovan, in particular, in prior trade windows. The Yankees are surely casting a wide net as they identify targets in their search for outfield help. At the same time, it hints at the possibilities available for St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and his front office.
The Cardinals have been clear about their desire to bring in three starting pitchers this winter. It’s unlikely they’ll accomplish all of that via free agency. Mozeliak acknowledged yesterday the club would consider moving a hitter to acquire big league ready or upper minors rotation help (relayed by John Denton of MLB.com).