Another day, another option off the table for the Yankees. Seems to be the story of the offseason, whether it be Mike Morse yesterday, or others like Russell Martin and Jeff Keppinger a little while back.
Where does this leave the Yankees? The closer we get to spring training, the more it looks like Russ Canzler or Matt Diaz will see the bulk of DH at-bats, at least until Alex Rodriguez returns. But can the Yankees really trust a guy with just 102 big league plate appearances (Canzler), or a guy who has had three thumb surgeries (Diaz) in the past four seasons? There are still viable options on the market.
The waiting game: Scott Hairston is expected to make a decision this week, although reportedly the Yankees aren’t involved. That’s probably more of a negotiation strategy for the Yankees, if anything. Now with Morse off the table, I’d expect some dialogue with Hairston soon. I wrote about Hairston all the way back in November as a possible target.
El Caballo: It’s a little farfetched, but Carlos Lee could be a cheap free agent addition. Neither Chris or I profiled him this offseason because he just simply didn’t seem like a fit. Now, however, with dwindling options, he could come into play. He lives up to his nickname (The Horse), considering he’s played at least 147 games every year since 2009. With the Yankees, he’d probably be a strict DH with ocassional time at first base. He didn’t play the outfield at all last year, after just about splitting time evenly between first and left field in 2011. Prior to that, he primarily manned left. Surprisingly, Lee struggled vs. southpaws in 2012 (52 wRC+), but had hit them proficiently through 2011 (124 wRC+). He’d certainly fit as a DH, and perhaps he could fake it in left field.
Reunion: The Yankees are familiar with Juan Rivera, who came up through the organization and was eventually dealt to Montreal in a package for Javier Vazquez. He can play the corner outfield spots, albeit poorly, and hits lefties fairly well (.270/.329/.434, 109 wRC+ previous three years).
Slim Chance: It won’t happen considering his track record off the field, most recently his anti-semetic tirade while in New York, but he would make sense if he wasn’t, well, Delmon Young. Once a superstar prospect with Tampa Bay, Young has never lived up to the billing. Like Rivera, he’s a bad defender in the outfield but can hit lefties (125 wRC+ in 2012, 117 career). In all likelihood, he’d probably be signed at this point if he wasn’t the person he is. He’s still just 27 and certainly has some level of ability considering his former prospect status. Personally, I wouldn’t take a flyer on this guy considering the risk that comes with him. But hey, maybe the Yankees could get desperate.
Francisc-no: Somehow, Ben Francisco has gotten a reputation of being a good platoon outfielder against lefties because of his 2010 performance, when he posted a wRC+ of 139 against southpaws. Truthfully, it was just a small sample size: 96 PAs. In 228 PAs since then, he’s put up an 80 wRC+. He’s bad defensively, and I’m just simply not a fan of him. He’d essentially be a last resort, but before Young.
The sad thing about all of this is that the four players I’ve mentioned are essentially scrubs at this point of their careers. Hairston did accumulate 2 fWAR in 2012, but netted just .4 in the two years prior. Lee was good for .3 fWAR last season, while both Young and Francisco were below replacement.
At this point, maybe Cashman should just hoard as many right-hand bats on minor league deals from the scrap heap as possible. Bring them to spring training, let them duke it out with Canzler and Diaz. Hairston is sure to get a major league deal from somebody, but it’s plausible that the rest of the names I threw out there could get minor league offers the deeper into January we go.
Photo by SBoyd (Carlos Lee 1) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons