In the last two days, both Hiroki Kuroda (linke) and Casey Blake (link) have been connected to the Yankees. The connections are tenuous at best, but both players could have roles on the 2012 Yankees and are worth examining.
Starting with Blake, who could play a backup infield role, we see a guy whose 2011 season was ended by neck surgery. He was limited to just 63 games and 239 plate appearances this season. In those 239 PAs, Blake was essentially average, hitting to a .314 wOBA and a 99 wRC+. His Iso was an unimpressive .119, which marked the continuation of a downward power trend (.189 Iso in ’09, .159 in ’10, .119 this year). However, he managed to post a 10.9 walk rate, leading to a productive .342 OBP. In terms of fielding at third base, Defensive Runs Saved, Total Zone, and UZR have all liked Blake for years now. Looking at the whole picture–a good defender who isn’t an automatic out–I think we could have a solid backup infielder on our hands. But, of course, health is an issue and so is Blake’s willingness to take a backup role. On the one hand, it might be an attractive option to him so he can prove that he’s healthy and parlay that into a starting job in 2013. But, on the other hand, I’m sure there will be a team willing to give Blake a starting job right away.
Kuroda could be a good pick up for the back-end of the rotation, but I’d say it’s a long shot at best. He’d most likely want to stay on the West Coast, but if he didn’t, he’d be worth a good look. He’s not going to strike a ton of guys out (6.73 K/9 career, though he’s been over 7 the last two seasons), but he has good control (career 2.10 BB/0) and has been durable–in his four MLB seasons, he’s pitched at least 183 innings three times, 2009 being the only exception. He’s played in a pitcher friendly park, but he’s had xFIP- marks of 90, 85, 86, and 92. He’s aided in that department by a solid ground ball percentage (48.3 career) and the aforementioned solid control. Kuroda is definitely a long shot and he wouldn’t be at the top of my free agent starting pitcher wish list, but if he’s interested in coming east to the Yankees, he’d be worth a look.
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