The Yankees greatest bench need is a right-handed-hitting outfielder, which sounds like the most abundant type of baseball player on the planet. The Yankees don’t need this guy to play center field, don’t need him to play particularly often and don’t need him to do any one thing especially well. They just need a guy who can hit left-handed pitching and play the corners reasonably well. Even with those limited expectations, the list of free agent candidates is a short one.
Yesterday, when it was suggested the Yankees might be interested in Andruw Jones, a collective yawn seemed to rise from the fan base. Thing is, the free agent market doesn’t offer a slam dunk alternative. This is a bench role, and all of the potential fits come with some negatives.
Pros: Career .278/.331/.498 hitter against lefties… Showed solid power as recently as 2009… Limited infield experience, most of it long ago.
Cons: Awful last season, even against lefties… Has three career starts in right field, with most of his time coming in left and center… Even with the solid power, a career .303 on-base percentage isn’t especially inspiring.
Pros: Career .312/.373/.463 hitter against lefties, including .301/.324/.466 against them last season… At least 144 starts at all three outfield positions… Just two years removed from a .303/.358/.420 line with the Cubs.
Cons: A history of back problems, which landed him on the disabled list again last season… The past two years he’s been especially brutal against right-handed pitching… Seemed to fit the Yankees last winter but the team never seemed especially interested.
Pros: Slugged .558 against lefties last season… Also hit for good power against right-handers… No longer an elite defender, UZR still ranks him as a positive defensive player.
Cons: His slash line the past four years: .212/.312/.412 with 359 strikeouts. He’s pretty much an all-or-nothing hitter at this point… Didn’t even hit lefties especially well in 2008 or 2009.
Pros: Still just 25 years old… Career slash line of .289/.363/.435 against left-handed pitching, numbers boosted by a .320/.414/.512 line against lefties last year… At least 90 Major League starts at all three outfield spots… Has shown solid speed in the past.
Cons: Despite former top-prospect status, his career Major League slash-line remains .269/.328/.394… Doesn’t have the best clubhouse reputation (though I don’t know the guy, that reputation could be meaningless)… Might not want a bench job. Some non-contender could take a shot on him as an everyday player.
Pros: Even at 38 years old he hit .298/.409/.460 last season… He’s crushed lefties in his career — .335/.444/.618 — but has hit right-handers as well… Obviously familiar with the American League East.
Cons: It’s Manny Ramirez… Defense is questionable at best… Was injured through part of 2010… After a trade to Chicago, he still managed a .420 on-base percentage, but showed almost now power down the stretch… Has hit one home run since June 19.
Pros: Gave the Yankees a significant boost last season, including pretty good power numbers against right-handed pitchers… Career .264/.333/.505 hitter against lefties… Familiar with the American League, and familiar with a bench role with limited at-bats.
Cons: An adventure in the outfield… Although the Yankees got production out of him against right-handers, he’s hit just .231 with a .296 on-base percentage against them in his career (granted, with power)… Best fit at designated hitter, but most of those at-bats are accounted for.
Associated Press photo of Thames