5 under-the-radar free agents Yankees could target this offseason

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Andrelton Simmons/Brooks Raley Treated Image
Andrelton Simmons/Brooks Raley Treated Image

The Yankees will be aggressive with the top free agents on the market, but GM Brian Cashman knows great teams can be made with bargains, too.

The big splashes make the most noise, and the Yanks very well might make one in multiple areas of the roster. But cheaper players who not only help the budget, but more importantly contribute when called upon are crucial over 162 games.

Here’s five players who would fit perfectly in the Bronx and shouldn’t break the bank...

Andrelton Simmons

This might be a scenario if the Yanks can’t land one of the top shortstops. Simmons is an extremely reliable glove with 15 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, in 1091.2 innings.

His offensive numbers were paltry in 2021, slashing .223/.283/.274, but Simmons would be a stopgap option and mainly there for defensive purposes up the middle. Also, it's worth nothing that his .283 on-base percentage was the worst mark of his career, meaning it could just be a blip for him.

If Simmons gets on base, he fits perfectly each night with Gio Urshela as a solid left side of the infield.

Jonathan Villar

After what Villar was able to produce in Queens this past year, he should have a decent market this offseason. And he could be a fit for the Yankees.

Where’s his fit? Well, anywhere in the infield, really. Villar is a Swiss army knife in that regard, and after losing Tyler Wade, Rougned Odor, and Andrew Velazquez, the Yanks could use someone to be that versatile infielder to allow starters some nights off.

With a switch-hitting approach that slashed .249/.322/.416 with 18 homers and 42 RBI, Villar should be an inexpensive bench infielder who may not mind taking a backseat to others on a postseason-ready squad.

New York Mets third baseman Jonathan Villar (1) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.
New York Mets third baseman Jonathan Villar (1) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

Andrew Chafin

While starting pitching will be a priority for Cashman – he reportedly made a $25 million offer to Justin Verlander before he re-signed with the Houston Astros, showing he’s willing to spend for a high-level rotation arm – the bullpen could use some help as well.

Specifically, a lefty reliever would do with Zack Britton’s baseball future uncertain still as well as Aroldis Chapman’s serious command issues. Chafin could easily be that man after posting a 1.83 ERA between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s last season.

Chafin has a deceptive three-quarter delivery that mixes in a sinker/slider combo that usually gets hitters to either strike out or ground out. That’s the formula when playing in a bandbox like Yankee Stadium.

Brooks Raley

If Chafin doesn’t work out, there’s other options like Raley, who put together a solid campaign with the Astros last year.

Raley averaged 11.94 strikeouts per nine innings in his 49 innings pitched (58 games) with a 3.27 FIP. The Yanks would love to see his .322 batting average on balls in play go down to the .227 it was in 2020 (though it was only 20 innings of work).

But Raley is still reacclimating himself to the league after spending five seasons in the Korean Baseball League as a starter. He joined the Astros during the shortened 2020 season, converting to a reliever. Maybe he can continue that transition in New York on an affordable deal. They did that with Lucas Luetge because of his strikeout rate and that paid off well in 2021.

Kevin Pillar

Finally, some outfield depth would do the Yanks some good with Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier both off the roster at the moment. Pillar is still a very solid outfielder who can add some pop with his bat here and there.

The Yanks said they need center field help with Aaron Hicks’ status uncertain following Tommy John surgery, and Pillar could provide that if no other options are landed. Plus, he can play anywhere in the outfield, too.

Like Villar, he’s acclimated to New York already and may want to be with a contender contributing in any fashion he can.