Yepez, 26 in February, was recently non-tendered by the Cardinals after a disappointing 2023 season, but posted strong results in the two prior campaigns. In 2021, Yepez split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting 27 home runs in 111 games. He also walked in 11.8% of his plate appearances, leading to a combined batting line of .286/.383/.586 and a wRC+ of 154.
In 2022, he was moved between Triple-A and the majors, performing well at both levels. He hit 16 homers in 50 Triple-A games and slashed .277/.341/.580 for a wRC+ of 137. In the big leagues, he hit 12 home runs in 76 games, producing a line of .253/.296/.447 and wRC+ of 107. He also hit a pinch-hit two-run home run in the first game of the Wild Card series against the Phillies, though the Cards ended up losing both that game and the series.
In 2023, he hit just .183/.246/.300 in 28 major league games and spent most of the season on optional assignment. But he didn’t thrive in Triple-A either, hitting .255/.323/.413 in his 86 games at that level for a wRC+ of 82.
Even if Yepez had been performing well, it would have been tough for the Cards to find a spot for him. He has played some third base in the past but not in 2023, primarily lining up at first base and the outfield corners. Since St. Louis has Paul Goldschmidt at first and a surplus of outfield options, he had a tough hill to climb in finding playing time there.
The Nationals, however, should be a much better fit for him. Dominic Smith was the primary first baseman for that club in 2023 but he was also non-tendered and is currently a free agent. Joey Meneses could be in line for a regular role there but he can also play the outfield and the Nats don’t have anyone strictly locked into the designated hitter slot. Even in the outfield, Victor Robles is heading into his final arbitration season before reaching free agency while Lane Thomas is just two years from the open market, though prospects like James Wood and Dylan Crews should be factors in the near future.
If Yepez can hit his way back to a roster spot, he still as one option year remaining and barely a year of service time. That means the Nats could retain him for multiple seasons if he ends up clicking with them.