The bench is perhaps the easiest thing to upgrade at the trade deadline. Solid role players, who can fill a specific hole, are generally prevalent and inexpensive. The Yankees made deadline bench moves each of the past five years.
2006: Sal Fasano and Craig Wilson
2007: Jose Molina and Wilson Betemit
2008: Ivan Rodriguez and Xavier Nady
2009: Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr.
2010: Austin Kearns and Lance Berkman
With the exception of Nady — who was more of a regular than a reserve — none of the moves cost much in terms of prospects, and all were made because a need had presented itself in the course of the season.
That’s why, on February 5, it’s hard to sweat that last spot on the bench. It’s almost certainly going to change during the season. Actually, it’s probably going to change several times, and right now, no team is in a position to know what it will most need out of that final spot.
As it stands, the Yankees have three bench spots set (or at least, they know exactly what kind of players are going to fill those spot).
Francisco Cervelli is probably the front-runner. Jesus Montero or Austin Romine might do enough to win the spot, if they prove productive enough to deserve regular at-bats.
This spot belongs to Andruw Jones. There are other outfielders coming to camp looking for jobs, but Jones is the only one with a definite role.
Specifically, someone who can play shortstop. That pretty much means either Eduardo Nunez or Ramiro Pena.
The fourth and final spot on the bench could go to any one of at least nine candidates: Nunez, Pena, Eric Chavez, Ron Belliard, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Kevin Russo or Brandon Laird. That’s not accounting for the possibility of someone like Jorge Vazquez, Melky Mesa, Dan Brewer or David Adams making an unexpected impression in camp.
Chavez and Belliard are the new guys, the veterans signed to minor league deals and brought to camp to compete. Both have third base experience, and obviously the Yankees would like to have someone who could give Alex Rodriguez a DH day fairly regularly. But they’ll both have to prove they have something left.
If they don’t, no harm done. If they show something in spring training and fall apart during the season, they’ll be easily replaceable. If the Yankees decide they’d rather give that spot to a fifth outfielder, it’s no loss for the team.
This is the last spot on the bench, and the Yankees might as well give everyone a look and a chance. Right now there’s no way of knowing what kind of player they’ll need in that spot, and there’s certainly no way of knowing who will be filling it on August 1.
Associated Press photos of Hairston and Chavez