Joel Sherman checked in this morning with a blurb about the Yankees’ final roster spot:
You have the 12-man staff. You have a set nine-man lineup (again assuming no injuries) comprised of Russell Martin, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada. That gets you to 21 of the 25 players. Andruw Jones will be the main backup outfielder. That is 22. There will be a backup catcher, which almost certainly comes down to Francisco Cervelli vs. Jesus Montero. That is 23. One utility player must be able to play shortstop, which means Ramiro Pena vs. Eduardo Nunez. That is 24.
So that would give the Yankees one spot to essentially pick a skill they want. Eric Chavez could offer lefty power. Brandon Laird could offer righty power. Greg Golson or Justin Maxwell could offer an athletic, righty-hitting outfielder. The loser of the Pena vs. Nunez battle could stick for a combination of speed and multi-positional ability.
If I were a betting man, I would go with Chavez. Of course, that is tenuous since Chavez has been hurt so often in his career. But if he can survive in this camp, Chavez gives the Yankees the chance to have that left power, plus a strong defender at third, which would more comfortably allow Joe Girardi to give Alex Rodriguez rest days as the DH without having an empty bat at the position, such as Pena.
Chavez seems to be emerging as the favorite for the last roster spot, and I heard Sweeny Murti state on WFAN last week that the Yankees want Chavez to win the spot. When looking at both offense and defense, you can see that Chavez is likely the most balanced of the various candidates for the final roster slot. As Sherman notes, Chavez should be able to provide the Yankees with solid defense at 3rd base when starting in place of A-Rod, while other options such as Ronnie Belliard and Brandon Laird are suspect defensively. At the plate, Chavez should be able to provide more offense than Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez, which makes him a better fit than them for a spot that should be getting a start at least once a week.
The problem with Chavez, of course, is his inability to stay healthy. He has played in 64 games over the last 3 seasons, and only played in 90 in 2007. While he claims to be healthy now and the Yankees seem fairly optimistic about his ability to stay on the field, I would be far from shocked if he went down with an injury and the Yankees had to select another player as A-Rod’s caddy. If that did happen, I would expect Laird or Belliard to win that job, as it seems like the Yankees want a bit more offense from that position than they got from the Pena/Nunez duo last season. Only a poor showing by Chavez, Laird, and Belliard would allow the loser of the Pena/Nunez battle to make the team. Of course, if by some minor miracle Chavez makes it through camp in one piece, expect all of this to become moot, as it seems to be his job to lose.
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