It would take a haul to get him, but Twins outfielder Max Kepler is one of the best fits for the Yankees at this year's Trade Deadline.
New York's search for an outfielder has been ongoing as rumors continue to swirl regarding the club's interest in the top players on the market.
Joey Gallo of the Rangers makes a lot of sense, while Miami's Starling Marte and even Trevor Story of the Rockies are names that have popped up consistently over the last several days.
The Yankees are also interested in Kepler, though, an intriguing option that can be a force in pinstripes for the rest of this season and years to come.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, New York has already inquired with the Twins about their outfielder. Another report, from Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, revealed that Minnesota's asking price for the slugger has been "exorbitant," perhaps an indication that Kepler isn't going to be moved at the Deadline.
Remember, Kepler is under contract with the Twins through the 2024 season (if you include a club option for that year). That means Minnesota would be trading away a 28-year-old that has three-plus seasons remaining on his deal, a logical reason to raise the price or hold onto him if no team matches their request.
Even if it would take a load of prospects (and there are financial implications involved here as well), Kepler fits the mold of the player New York has been searching for. He's an option to fill in as a center fielder this season with Aaron Hicks out for the year and Kepler is a sweet-swinging left-handed hitter with serious pop from the left side, a perfect addition to a righty-heavy lineup.
Plus, Kepler arguably has his best years ahead of him.
The outfielder showcased his potential during the 2019 season, stroking 36 home runs, driving in 90 and posting an .855 OPS (all career highs) over 134 games. Kepler has struggled in 2021—batting just .218/.307/.450 with 12 long balls in 64 games—but you have to figure those numbers will jump if he were to be inserted in the Yankees' lineup, playing half his games in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
In fact, even if the production hasn't been there this year, he's still hitting the ball very hard. Kepler's average exit velocity (91 mph) is in the league's 80th percentile, the highest it's been in his entire career. Not to mention the fact that Kepler has a 47.2 HardHit% (36th-best among players with more than 150 batted balls this season), a Barrel % of 11.9 (79th percentile) and an elite chase rate of 21.2% (88th percentile).
Only two Yankees—Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (leading the league with an average exit velocity of 95.8 mph)—have hit the ball harder than Kepler this season within those qualifications.
It's also worth noting that Kepler is sneaky good in the outfield. He has the fourth-best outfielder jump in all of baseball, per Statcast. Kepler isn't as fast as his Twins teammate Byron Buxton (who could also be on the move over the next week), but Kepler has stolen eight bases already this season, more than any individual player on the Yankees.
With the Twins already selling off key pieces—like Nelson Cruz being traded to the Rays this week—the right return will make a player like Kepler accessible via trade. Again, considering the outfielder is under contract and poised to make an impact for years to come, New York can justify the sacrifice of certain top prospects to get it done.
Who knows how negotiations will progress with other available studs like Gallo, Marte, Story and more, but New York should definitely prioritize Kepler if they end up buying at the Deadline.
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