This season, the Yankees benefited greatly from having a pretty well stocked bench. Eric Chavez played well in limited time and Andruw Jones, though he assumed a more regular role at some point, mashed. And despite the frustration that he tended to induce this year, Francisco Cervelli still managed to hit to a 97 wRC+. Eduardo Nunez also displayed flashes of competency off the bench and put up a 92 wRC+. Chris Dickerson didn’t hit a lick, but he was a solid defensive replacement, and that’s all he really needs to be.
Next year, there seems to be one spot open on the bench, and that’s for a right handed bat that can play outfield. Manager Joe Girardi showed he was willing to do a more or less straight platoon with Brett Gardner this year, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. What, then, are the options to fill that void? Before we get to what the bench will be, we should first establish what the regular lineup would be.
The only spot of contention, really, is going to be C/DH. My assumption–and I think many of you will join me on this–is that Jesus Montero will be the DH against right handed pitching while Russell Martin does the catching. When there’s a southpaw on the mound, I think we’ll see Jesus Montero catch to rest Martin while someone else DHs. That vs. LHP DH spot can be approached in two ways. If Girardi decides that Gardner can handle lefties, the RHB bench OF can just act as the DH. If not (more likely), I think we’ll see players in need of a day off play DH for the day.
So who could this mystery man be? Andruw Jones would be a nice choice. He was solid in the field and definitely crushed lefties (.400 wOBA, .254 Iso). However, he could parlay his productive season into a more full time role somewhere else. Looking elsewhere on the 40-man roster, there are minor league outfielders Justin Maxwell and Melky Mesa. Both have serious power, and hit right handed, but both have big holes in their swings. Maxwell ended up on the 60-day DL, though, and Mesa had a poor season. Both are probably DFA candidates, so I won’t count them as real options. We could include Brandon Laird if we’re being generous, but I don’t think he qualifies as an outfielder. That means the Yankees will probably have to look outward for my theoretical player.
Let’s look, as always, to Cot’s for the potential free agent list and see if there are any players who fit our mold of RHB/OF. The most attractive options–that is, the ones who would most likely take this role–seem to be Jonny Gomes, Conor Jackson, and Juan Rivera.
Neither had an exceptional season, but Gomes and Rivera hit left handed pitching well. Gomes didn’t hit for prolific power against them (.144 Iso), but he did walk 13.9% of the time against them (.407 OBP) and managed a .380/140 wOBA/wRC+ against them. Rivera hit for more power, .167 Iso, but had lower splits at .349/121, both still productive marks.
Jackson didn’t have a good year against lefties (.092 Iso, .297/86), but he did walk against them a lot (10.1%). This year is definitely the exception (.358/118 career split), but it’s worth noting that he’s still a few years removed from being solid against LHP (.328/96 split in 2010), and though he played in 114 games this year, Jackson’s never been a model of health.
Right now, this is just academic and I’m simply throwing names out there. This position isn’t of pressing need, but it’s not one we can simply throw aside, especially considering the manager’s desire to platoon Brett Gardner. Those three players are just three options, and luckily, a position like this isn’t a hard one to fill.
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