Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, and now Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees haven’t had much luck when it comes to injuries this season. Luckily, they’ll be getting Joba back relatively soon, and Pettitte in September, but Mo and Gardner are gone for the season. Rodriguez’ timetable is a question mark, however. Eric Chavez, who will be helping to fill the void, had the same injury in 2004 and returned after five weeks, but some reports indicate that A-Rod could be gone for 6-8 weeks.
Let’s take a look at some internal and external options for the team, starting with internal:
Eric Chavez: Chavez has put together a very nice season spelling A-Rod on occasion and coming off the bench. The main question with him, as always, is if he can stay healthy. There has to be a great concern playing Chavez everyday and keeping him healthy. He’s better off in a platoon, with some extra off days added in against some right-handers.
Jayson Nix: Nix has been serviceable as a utility man for the Yankees, but would probably get exposed pretty quickly with increased playing time. He’s struck out nearly 26% of the time this season, and 24% of the time in his career.
Eduardo Nunez: Always a hot topic amongst the Yankees fan base. Has shown flashes of having a decent bat (20% line drive rate last year), but his poor fielding (putting it kindly) is well documented. He’s been banged up and has just returned, so he may need some at bats to get reacclimated before getting thrust into a big league spot.
Ramiro Pena: Pena has already been called up to take Rodriguez’ roster spot. He’s a switch hitter, but not much of a hitter in general. He’s likely just a stopgap utility while Chavez and Nix get the reps.
Corban Joseph: The lefty Corban Joseph has really thrived in 220 AAA at bats with the nomadic Empire State Yankees: .279/.379/.503 with 6 dingers and 25 RBIs. He’s nearly walking as much as striking out (14.1% BB vs 15.5% K), and has a .388 wOBA. Joseph is primarily a second baseman, but has some minor league experience at the hot corner.
Brandon Laird: A right handed bat, Laird has been stuck in AAA since 2010, with a short call up to the Bronx in 2011. He has some power, but hasn’t flashed it like he did in the lower levels. In AAA this year, he has 10 home runs in 415 ABs, and had 16 in 489 last season. He peaked at 23 long balls in 454 ABs in AA Trenton in 2010 before a promotion.
Ronnie Mustelier: Mustelier is a right hand hitter who can not only play third, but also second and the corner outfield spots. He’s an older but intriguing prospect who turns 28 this August, he signed last summer after defecting from Cuba. The catch with Mustelier is that he’s not on the 40-man. They do have two open spots right now, but those are reserved for the returns of Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain when they come off the 60-Day DL. If the unlikely event that they give Mustelier a chance, I would bet they would remove Ryota Igarashi from the 40 man, given that they do have Cory Wade in AAA and Joba, both right handed relievers. Mustelier has hit well in the minors this season split between AA and AAA, hitting .353 with 5 home runs and 20 RBIs in 25 games for Trenton before a promotion to AAA, where he’s hitting .297 with 8 home runs and 38 RBIs in 63 games. His wOBAs are solid as well: .412 in AA, .353 in AAA. Plus, Joe Giradi is well aware of him. Scroll down in the linked article to see Girardi’s brief thoughts. A knock on Mustelier could be his age- it may be giving him an advantage over younger, less experienced minor league hurlers.
Brian Cashman has already said that a trade is unlikely given the fact that it’ll be hard to get an upgrade over Chavez at the right price. This likely is just some posturing by Cash. He must have some concerns over Chavez staying healthy down the stretch. Here are some potential trade candidates (it’s pretty Phillie themed):
Chase Headley: The best player available, and also the least likely to be acquired. The Padres are asking for a huge haul for Headley, and it would just cause too many issues with A-Rod under contract through 2017. Headley has a pretty big home/road split this year and over his career (129 wRC+ away, 91 wRC+ home for his career), which is attributable to playing at the cavernous Petco Park that saps his power numbers. wRC+ basically quantifies a hitter’s value based on runs created compared to the rest of the league (detailed explanation here). Since 100 is the baseline, he is a below average hitter at home and 29% above average on the road. He’ll be a very solid pickup for another team, but he’s not worth the cost in prospects for the Yankees.
Placido Polanco: Polanco is a very interesting candidate. He has a $1M buyout for next season if he and the Phillies (or traded to club) don’t excercise his $5.5M mutual option. He should be pretty affordable in the trade market given his age and performance. The fact that the Phillies are 10 games under .500 also makes him likely to be available. He offers a solid glove and can play multiple positions, perhaps taking Nix’ utility role when Rodriguez returns. He is a career .299 hitter, but does not walk much or have any power. Strangely he’s only hitting .211 vs. lefties this year (and .255 overall), but he is a career .305 hitter against southpaws, so he could be a solid platoon fit with Eric Chavez.
Ty Wigginton: Another Phillie, he would also be a pretty good option as a right handed platoon player. He’s been slightly above average vs. lefties this season (102 wRC+, 112 career), and has good power with 5 home runs in 77 at bats vs. southpaws. Although he’s not great defensively at third, his bat certainly could carry him in a platoon with Chavez. If acquired, he can be bought out at the end of the year for $500K.
Scott Rolen: The first place Reds have had Todd Frazier emerge as a strong third baseman as Rolen (an ex-Phillie) has fizzled out. Rolen has struggled offensively the last two seasons (wRC+ of 68 and 80 in 2012 and 2011), but is a former gold glove winner and could be a decent option solely based on his reputation. Additionally, he is a free agent at the end of the season. Like Chavez though, he also has had problems with injuries in the past. A roadblock to a potential deal could be his full no trade clause.
There are some other guys out there like the Twins’ Jamey Carroll or Rockies’ Marco Scutaro who could be fits, but I’m not sure how much of an upgrade they’d be over a guy like Jason Nix.
In reality, I think Cashman is going to try and make a move outside of the organization. He knows that Chavez’ health is a concern, and Nix isn’t a reliable hitter, despite having his moments during his stint as a Yankee (especially today). Wigginton seems to be a likely candidate (Reports already indicate the Yankees have inquired). If nothing makes sense on the trade front, Cashman will ride it out until August, where he could still probably make a waiver wire move. I’d bet Rolen would clear, given his performance and the fact that the claiming team could be on the hook for a couple million.
Internally, I’m curious to see Mustelier get a chance although it’s unlikely given he’s not on the 40 man. I doubt Joseph gets the call since he is also a lefty and couldn’t platoon with Chavez. If Cashman decides to go internally, I would assume Nunez would get one last shot. Ultimately, if I had my choice, I’d try to get Wigginton. Him and Chavez would make a very nice 3B combo, and Wigginton could eventually slide into a utility role when Rodriguez returns.
By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons