Yankees trade Estevan Florial to Cleveland for intriguing swingman

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Continuing with his recent track record of prospect-hoarding, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman traded outfielder Estevan Florial to the Cleveland Guardians for right-handed pitcher Cody Morris on Tuesday. Florial has spent time in the big leagues each of the last three seasons.

Florial was once a consensus Top-100 prospect, being billed as an all-around outfielder with great defense and speed, as well as above-average power. Instead, Florial has managed just a .209/.313/.296 slash line with one home run and six stolen bases in 48 big-league games. Florial still rakes at the Triple-A level, hitting above .280 in each of the last two seasons. This move was neccesitated by Florial exhausting all his minor league options, meaning he either had to make the Yankees' roster or be exposed to waivers (as he was earlier last season, when the entire league passed on him).

Florial still possesses some of the tools that made him such an exciting prospect, ranking in the 94th percentile for sprint speed and posting a 9.9 percent walk rate, above the major league average. Despite strong plate discipline, Florial posted a concerning strikeout rate of 28.2 percent, highlighting contact issues. The lefty crushed fastballs to the tune of a .379 batting average, but posted a ~50 percent whiff rate on all other pitches. A major league future for Florial is likely as a part-time player, relying heavily on defensive value and occasional power to produce some value.

Cody Morris, the return for the Yankees, presents an interesting piece for the team's player development machine. Morris was a seventh-rounder out of South Carolina in the 2018 Draft, making his professional debut as a starter in 2019. Morris has pitched briefly in the big leagues the last two seasons, pitching to a 3.41 ERA in 31.2 innings. Command issues have popped up at the highest level, with Morris posting a double-digit walk rate in his brief time. As a prospect, Morris was lauded for his fastball/changeup combo, both of which were graded as plus by scouts. In 2022, Morris' most significant time with Cleveland, his three non-fastball offerings (cutter, changeup, curveball) all produced positive run value.

Big league opponents have never gotten a hit against Morris' curveball (11 plate appearances), yet that pitch is merely an afterthought in his repertoire. Morris' minor league walk rates have been a little more palatable when compared to his MLB walk rates, and there is a chance those will stabilize across a full season. Having been developed as a starter, it is likely that Morris gets deployed as a multi-inning reliever. With two option years remaining, Morris gives the Yankees a potentially solid reliever with roster flexibility, something all teams value.