Jose Molina (C): Nice trade by Brian Cashman, getting Molina for AA pitcher Jeff Kennard. Molina is the best backup Jorge Posada had had since John Flaherty in 2003 and 2004. Molina is a good receiver and a solid enough hitter to replace Posada once or twice a week and not make you cringe.
Shelley Duncan (1B, RF): Baby Huey will start against left-handers and DH often. He’s a better right fielder than he is a first baseman but he’s getting better in the infield. Duncan will have to hit to keep his place on the roster but his power is tough to ignore.
Wilson Betemit (1B, 2B, 3B, SS): You’d like your utility infielder to be able to double as a pinch runner. That’s not the case with Betemit. But he has some pop and switch hits. He came up as a shortstop and has played mostly third in the majors. The Yankees worked him at first last season. Second base is his worst position but Robbie Cano rarely comes out of games.
Morgan Ensberg (3B, 1B): If Jason Giambi gets hurt, I suspect Ensberg would get every chance to play first base regularly. He’s right-handed, has power and gets on base. Joe Girardi said Enssberg can play second in a pinch. He’s here to provide some offense and the Yankees can easily eat his $1.75 millon if it doesn’t work out.
Strengths: The Yankees will have some dangerous hitters on their bench, which is great. But how many players in that lineup will get pinch hit for? Duncan and Ensberg will likely start against lefties, especially the better ones. Hideki Matsui is not a lineup automatic anymore and Bobby Abreu can stand to miss the Scott Kazmirs of the world. This is a bench designed for lineup flexibility more than changing the game in the seventh inning.
Weaknesses: There’s no speed on the bench and little in the way of defense. Who’s the late-inning first baseman with a lead? Um, Ensberg? If Cano twists an ankle, there’s no true backup for him. Can any of these guys put down a bunt? But the Yankees play in the American League. Bunting, base stealing and defense are National League issues. The Yankees want a bench to help the score runs in bunches.
Little of this matters right now anyway. The roster will change many times over the course of the season as needs arise.