Aside from the bullpen, the most frequently maligned aspect of nearly every Yankee team of the aughts was the bench. The excuse was often that the Yankees couldn’t get quality bench players because said players might have a chance to be starters on other teams, but that’s pure folly — not that you should overpay for your bench, but it shouldn’t that difficult to staff a bench that won’t out-and-out kill you every time one of its members steps to the plate.
Brian Cashman finally seemed to get the bench right last year, and though the team’s substitutes didn’t see all that much playing time in the 2009 postseason, I’m not so sure it was mere coincidence that the Yankees were finally able to break their World Series drought with the deepest 1-25 they’d had in some time. The two primary components of that bench — Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston — weren’t acquired until midseason, but both provided decent bats, as Hinske wOBAed .350 and Hairston .325 in limited duty.
The 2010 bench is, quite simply, not getting it done for the Yankees this season. Francisco Cervelli leads the subs with a .305 wOBA, which, were he actually only playing once a week, would be semi-acceptable for a back-up catcher, but is terrible in semi-regular duty. Randy Winn was at .277 when he got cut, Colin Curtis is at .259, Chad Huffman .230, Kevin Russo .229 and Ramiro Pena an abhorrent .216 wOBA.
Now obviously the Yankees aren’t relying on any of these players to make significant contributions, and some of them have fortunately come through with a timely hit here and there, but they are all clearly very limited and will only continue to be exposed with more playing time. While Cervelli clearly isn’t going anywhere, it’s shameful that the Yankees’ four primary reserves are averaging a .234 wOBA.
If we set our minimum threshold for reasonable performance out of a backup player at a .300 wOBA, a handful of potentially intriguing names on non-contending teams turn up, including Alberto Callaspo (.315) Jhonny Peralta (.311), Michael Bourn (.306), Miguel Tejada (.304), Kevin Kouzmanoff (.303) and Ian Desmond (.303). If we move the bar up to around a .330 wOBA, which is considered average, we see names like Ryan Doumit (.331), Cliff Pennington (.329), Adam Jones (.324) and Chris Coghlan (.323).
I have no idea if any of these players are even available, although you’d have to figure their GMs would at least be willing to talk. Given the Yankees’ propensity to do business with Pittsburgh perhaps a deal could be worked out for Doumit, who has some pop and can play the corners in the outfield. Not entirely sure how the Pirates would replace their starting catcher, but he’s not exactly setting the world on fire with his defense, so this would probably end up being a positive move for the Buccos, at least on the defensive end of the spectrum.
Unlike the bullpen, this is one area of the team the Yankees have been completely unable to address internally, and it’ll be interesting to see which pieces Cashman ultimately picks up before the trade deadline.
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