Ex-MVP joins roster of free-agent outfielders being pursued by Yankees

The New York Yankees want Aaron Judge back. In fact, you could say the Yankees need the judge back. But even if Judge decides to return it in the Bronx, New York still needs to find another outfielder before next season.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees are “keeping in touch” with “Andrew Benintendi, on-base Masataka Yoshida, former Met Michael Conforto and recently released Cody Bellinger.” Heyman also reports that the Yankees “were also in touch with Brandon Nimmo, but he’s expensive enough that he probably wouldn’t be in the game unless Judge left.”

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So let’s break that down, starting with Benintendi, who has also been fielded for the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros.

When the Yankees traded for the 28-year-old Benintendi before the August 2 deadline, he was a league leader in batting average for the Kansas City Royals and had his first All-Star appearance of his career.

But the Gold Glove Award winner didn’t exactly impress in pinstripes, hitting .254 in 33 games before being sidelined by a broken right hand.

The Yankees hoped he could return in the postseason, but he never made it back before New York was swept out of the American League Championship Series by the Houston Astros.

As for Yoshida, the Yankees were linked to him by MLB trade rumors last week:

Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix Buffaloes will field an outfielder Masataka Yoshidaaccording to a report by Yahoo Japan, which qualifies him to explore opportunities with MLB clubs. (Hat tip to Baseball America’s JJ Cooper and Jason Coskrey on twitter.) The Japanese-language link lists the Yankees, Mariners, and Blue Jays as prospects.

The left batter has played for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball since 2016. Yoshida, 29, has a career slash line of .326/.419/.538 and in 2022 he hit 21 home runs and had 89 RBI.

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Conforto sat out the 2022 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. According to The New York Post’s Joel Sherman, agent Scott Boras said team officials at GM meetings earlier this month “kept asking about 29-year-old Conforto,” who was a 2017 All-Star for the Mets.

Heyman reports that the Cubs are “considering” Conforto, who is “seeking a two-year deal with an opt-out.

Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, became a free agent last week when he was not offered a contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers. MLB Trade Rumors named the Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants as speculative candidates for Bellinger.

The Athletics Jim Bowden tweeted on Sunday: “There is significant FA interest in Cody Bellinger as at least 5 teams called within an hour of him not being tendered, several more have called since, according to a source close to Bellinger… .. his LH slugger…plus plus defense The OF & 1B Great Base Running & former MVP is only 27.

On Thursday, Heyman reported Bellinger has “interest from 11 teams” and “will seek a one-year deal to reset his value.”

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Mike Rosenstein can be reached at [email protected].

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