Yankees should look into Max Kepler, Adalberto Mondesi trade
The Yankees need to think about next year. It doesn’t mean surrender now. Not when, despite everything that has gone wrong this season, they started Tuesday just four games away from the AL’s second wild card. Not when seven road games against the Red Sox and Rays, which start Thursday, can change their course.
But the 57 percent of the season that has been played cannot be discounted. The Yankees ended this period more likely to miss the playoffs than to do so. If they reach the playoffs, their most likely entry would be the second wild card, which only ensures a sudden death match on the road.
Thus, reality must trump optimism. Those seven games in Boston and Tampa Bay could also go wrong. Thus, they must consider more than 2021 by the deadline of July 30. Can they add actors who help the present, but start to tackle what is wrong to improve the near future?
Each competitor pursues this strategy. So clubs with controllable players charge high prices on them, and that’s why most traded players – like Joc Pederson, who recently switched from Cubs to Braves – tend to be in their walking years. The players most likely to be traded are future free agents, such as Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Starling Marte of the Marlins.
Nonetheless, I’m going to recommend two players that I think the Yankees should try to get, who would be under team control beyond 2021, as I think they would improve the squad now and later with their left-handed bats. and their athleticism. But I also use these players as symbols of where the Yankees should go:
The Yankees have already checked with the Twins about Kepler. In fact, Minnesota is a natural place to shop because the Twins have such an abundance of left-handed hitters. I’ve also heard the Yankees have talked about a bunch of these lefties – imagine Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff and forward Jorge Polanco. The Yankees also asked about center fielder Byron Buxton and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Minnesota’s goal is to extend Buxton for the long haul, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported. It is a difficult needle to thread. When Buxton plays, he’s one of the top two-way players in the majors. But he rarely plays. He’s a much better version of another Twins first-round pick, Aaron Hicks. As talented as Buxton is (and he’s talented), if Minnesota fails to extend him and he enters the market, the Yankees should avoid the potential addition of another injury-prone type Hicks.
The Twins are also asked about ace Jose Berrios. He, like Buxton, may be a free agent after next year. But MLB’s most disappointing team, Minnesota, wants to try to win in 2022, so they will consider swapping Berrios and Buxton, but want to make sure they maximize deals for players of the year on foot such as Simmons, Nelson Cruz and Michael Pineda.
Kepler is hardly on an expensive contract. Including his 2024 option, he has three years left at $ 25.25 million after this season. So why would the twins consider swapping him? Because at Arraez, Kirilloff, and Trevor Larnach, they have left-handed bats to play the corner outfield for less, can acquire the necessary pitch in return, and can reallocate Kepler’s dollars to other needs.
Why should the Yankees buy him, especially in the middle of a lean season (Kepler was scoring .207 at the start of the game on Tuesday)? Because he’s 28 years old and is thought to be more of the 36 home run and .855 OPS player of 2019 than the 2021 version. Because he’s left-handed and athletic enough to play center up to what a better idea of the Yankees presents itself.
The Royals have been disappointing this year, but not as much as the Twins. They thought they could be at least .500. Instead, they’re a last-place club. Part of the reason is that Mondesi has been on the injured list three times, once with a hamstring injury and twice (including currently) with a slant. Like Minnesota, Kansas City wants to win as much as possible next year. So why would he consider moving Mondesi?
The Royals have learned this year that Nicky Lopez can handle the shortstop, and their best prospect, Bobby Witt Jr., is a shortstop who was promoted to triple A to start the second half. Thus, Mondesi can be used as a chip to fix other areas.
Mondesi doesn’t fit the Yankees matrix in that he doesn’t draw walks. But one of the problems with the 2021 Yankees is how one-dimensional and sleepy they are. Just having, say, Greg Allen and Ryan LaMarre aggressively run the bases Sunday against Boston was different and energizing.
Mondesi can really run and is a switch hitter with untapped power potential. He will be 26 next week and won’t be able to be a free agent until after the 2023 season. He just has an 89 OPS-plus career. Didi Gregroius was 88 when the Yankees made an upside down shortstop play.
There is a defensive gem level of 10 trebles, 20 homers, 30 steals at Mondesi, which could allow the Yankees to move Gleyber Torres to second place (I think part of Torres’ hitting problems this year stems from the fact that it -short-stop-time burden) and DJ LeMahieu at first. They are a much better defensive team.
Like the Twins, the Royals have been focused on moving the Guys of the Year, although the fact that southpaw Danny Duffy went to the IL on Tuesday with flexor strain damages that goal.
Kansas City is not required to trade Mondesi, who is about 10-14 days away from returning from IL. The Yankees, however, are expected to force teams’ hands on players who will improve them now and really start to change the dynamics of a redundant roster.