Winter Meetings Day 2: Keppinger, Youkilis, Ross, Pierzynski, Granderson, Hughes

Day 2 of the winter meetings has started to bring a lot more news on the Yankees front, especially given the loss of Alex Rodriguez for the first half of 2013. A few of the bigger free agents have come off the board: Mike Napoli to Boston, Dan Haren to Washington, and Joakim Soria to Texas. Let’s get down to what’s happening related to the Bombers:

First, let’s get to the third base situation. It sounds like Jeff Keppinger is at the forefront of Brian Cashman’s priorities, with the bidding expected to be around two years, $8 million. Keppinger makes a lot of sense in a platoon situation at third base: he pounds lefties, and is proficient defensively at the hot corner. I’m back tracking for what I said yesterday about preferring Mark Reynolds – I now think Keppinger in a platoon with Eric Chavez or Ian Stewart may be a better bet. Keppinger would also fill the utility need, but the one problem is that defensive metrics peg him poorly at all infield positions except third base. Nonetheless, the career 130 wRC+ against lefties would fit well in the lineup.

In terms of dollars, two years at $8 million would be a steal, considering it appears that Marco Scutaro will garner 3/$24M. Scutaro is similar to Keppinger, but five years older. He can play all the infield positions, but only is above average at third per UZR/150 in his career. Plus, he’s pretty much been league average with the bat for his career. It’s pretty evident he’s going to get paid a lot based on his postseason performance.

Brian Cashman has reached out to Kevin Youkilis, who is willing to take a one-year deal at a premium. As I mentioned yesterday, Youkilis’ health concerns me and he’s been in steep decline. Plus, what’s his role when (if) A-Rod returns healthy? Keppinger is a better fit. While a one-year deal is attractive, I still think he’s best as a last resort.

On to right field: the Yankees have requested medical information on Cody Ross. Ross annihilated left-handed pitching last season to a tune of a 164 wRC+. His career mark stands at 141 vs. southpaws. Because he’s below average against righties, perhaps he’s best fit in a platoon with Ichiro. Ross, 32 this month, also would be a nice solution to the Yanks’ lack of right handed bats. The big drawback here, however, is that having multiple platoons on a roster may suck away from the versatility of filling out the bench.

After losing Russell Martin last week, Brian Cashman acknowledged talks with AJ Pierzynski. He would be a big downgrade defensively compared to Martin, but probably a slight plus offensively. Despite a career best 27 home runs and 118 wRC+, AJ is closer to his career 94 wRC+. Martin is a better hitter for his career, .333 vs. .325 wOBA. Maybe the short porch could help the lefty Pierzynski, but he’d still be a downgrade overall. I certainly wouldn’t count on anything near an offensive repeat of 2012.

One other interesting note that came out today: the Yanks may entertain offers for Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson. However, the odds are slim given the fact that they want to compete in 2013, of course. Both are free agents next season, and as of now it seems highly likely that Granderson will be gone. There’s a good shot that Hughes will go, too. Simply put, though, it really doesn’t make sense to deal these guys as it won’t be easy to replace their production. At the worst, they’d get a draft pick in compensation for Granderson walking in 2013. Perhaps the same for Hughes, although I’m not sure if the Yanks would want to take a chance with a qualifying offer.

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