The Yankees have been in contact with free agent outfielder David Peralta this offseason, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. It isn’t clear whether talks are ongoing, as Heyman suggests the Yankees look likelier to roll with their in-house options in left field.
That position has been a prominent talking point among the fanbase throughout the offseason. That’s due to the two-year struggles of Aaron Hicks, who’s coming off a .216/.330/.313 showing through 453 plate appearances. That marked an improvement over his .194/.294/.333 line during an injury-riddled 2021 season but was still below average.
Given the stiff competition the Yankees are facing in the AL East, one could certainly argue for general manager Brian Cashman and his staff to seek out an upgrade. They’ve been tied to an array of left field possibilities. That includes the top remaining free agent, Jurickson Profar, and trade candidates like Bryan Reynolds and Max Kepler. Pittsburgh has reportedly set a massive asking price in talks regarding Reynolds. Minnesota dealing Kepler this offseason still seems possible, though Heyman writes there isn’t any current traction between the Yankees and Twins on that front.
Peralta’s part of a veteran fallback contingent for teams looking to augment their corner outfield but unwilling to meet Profar’s asking price. The longtime Diamondback had a great 2018 season in which he connected on 30 homers, but he’s posted roughly average offensive numbers in the four years since then. The left-handed batter owns a .266/.329/.425 mark since the start of the 2019 season. That includes a .251/.316/.415 showing over 490 trips between Arizona and the Rays last year.
While the bottom line numbers for the nine-year MLB veteran didn’t much change, the shape of his production did. Peralta significantly cut back on his ground balls last season, putting the ball on the dirt 36.3% of the time after hovering around 50% in every previous season of his career. The fly-ball oriented approach looked to be resulting in better power output earlier in the season, as Peralta carried a .460 slugging mark through 87 games in Arizona. Things cratered after he was dealt to the Rays, as he didn’t collect a single longball and stumbled to a .255/.317/.335 slash over 180 plate appearances with Tampa Bay.
Peralta’s a low-cost veteran option during his first trip to free agency. Yet even a modest deal might prove too costly for the Yankees given their reported spending limit. Heyman wrote last week the club doesn’t want to surpass the $293MM luxury tax mark that’d subject them to the highest penalization level on spending. Roster Resource calculates their CBT number around $292.3MM at the moment. Virtually any acquisition would likely push the Yankees past that threshold.
If the Yankees do stick with their internal left field options, the competition would figure to come down to Hicks and youngster Oswaldo Cabrera. The latter hit .247/.312/.429 in 44 games as a rookie, outperforming Hicks in 2022. Nevertheless, Cashman suggested last weekend in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM the veteran could have the upper hand in a camp battle (h/t to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). While Cashman called the situation “fluid,” he noted he expects “(Hicks) will be the guy that emerges, because he’s still really talented and everything’s there.“