Four games separate the Yankees from the AL East-leading Orioles, and Yanks GM Brian Cashman is looking at Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, among other bats, to bolster an offense that ranks 20th in the majors in runs scored.
The rumor, as reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, would give the Yankees a much-needed additional outfield bat. The trio of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki has proved to be serviceable, with OPS totals of .770, .748 and .647, respectively, but the team's lack of outfield depth and Ichiro's age (he's 40) have made acquiring another outfielder one of Cashman's top priorities.
A Willingham-to-the-Yankees deal would make plenty of sense. For one, his contract is reasonable; he makes $7 million this season before becoming a free agent this offseason. The Twins are also likely eager to get rid of him given the team's last-place standing in the AL Central and the risk of failing to re-sign him in the offseason.
Willingham is also putting up stats that make him a valuable trade commodity. His .777 OPS would rank first among Yankees outfielders, and that's while hitting at Target Field, a favorable hitter's park (according to ESPN's Park Factor data) but one that doesn't quite match up to Yankee Stadium when it comes to home run rates.
Perhaps Willingham's best asset is his ability to reach base. His .357 OBP this season (despite a .215 batting average) is right in line with his career .359 total, and he's consistent: Only twice has he failed to post an OBP above .350 in his career, which spans about a decade.
The potential for power is also there. Willingham hit 35 homers in 2012 and 29 the season before, and he's reached the 20-homer mark on five total occasions. He also owns a lifetime .827 OPS and an OPS+ of 121. He presents a bit of an injury risk, with a fractured wrist earlier in the season and just three seasons overall with more than 140 games, but a healthy Willingham could make an impact on the crowded AL East.
Other outfield names floating around this year's trade rumors are Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd, but Heyman makes the case that Willingham is a better fit for the Yankees than either of those two, thanks in large part to his more reasonable contract. Either way, the Yankees will likely need an additional outfield bat in order to contend this year, and they appear to be in the mix on Willingham.