The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Looking for upgrades: Position players

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jun 27, 2011 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

The Yankees most obvious holes are in the pitching staff, but there are places that could be upgraded in the lineup. Whether those upgrades are necessary probably depends on whether you believe certain players will bounce back, fall apart, stay healthy or stay injured.

Brian Cashman’s made it clear he’s not in the market for a shortstop, and clearly the Yankees are not in the market for a starting first baseman, second baseman, third baseman or center fielder. That leaves just a few places to potentially upgrade.

Catcher

Russell Martin might very well start the all-star game, but his offensive production has slipped. Francisco Cervelli has been productive in spurts, but his defense remains surprisingly spotty while his bat has regressed since those unsustainable first few months last season.

Trade market: Thin.
Martin’s offensive production isn’t what it was in April, but he remains a more viable offensive player than a lot of everyday catchers. Hard to justify making a move when the Yankees have considerable catching depth in-house and a productive everyday option in position. Backup catchers are easy to find — the Yankees found Jose Molina at minimal cost a few years ago —  but most backups come with their own Cervelli-type flaws. It might be possible to find an affordable option on the trade market, but the catcher position is always tricky to fill.

In-house: The Prospect.
Perhaps the Yankees biggest trade chip, Jesus Montero is also their most advanced hitting prospect and most obvious in-house alternative behind the plate. Assuming the Yankees believe that his offensive ups and downs will go away when he’s challenged at the big league level, he could become an option sooner rather than later, but right now his Triple-A slugging percentage is lower than Ramiro Pena’s. He’s not quite knocking down the door with numbers that demand a call-up. A second half like he had last season, though, could force the Yankees hand. Either this year or next year, the Yankees will have to take a chance on him.

Corner outfield

The need here depends largely on your perception of Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher. Gardner’s first three weeks were so bad that they’re still masking his productive past two months. Swisher didn’t get off to quite so bad of a start, but he also took a little longer to become especially productive. Andruw Jones and Chris Dickerson have played part-time roles from the right and left side.

Trade market: Expensive.
The Yankees would have to give up an elite package of prospects in order to trade for a corner outfielder clearly capable of outplaying Gardner or Swisher. Their better bet might be to simply trust those two to continue their recent production. Fourth outfielders will be readily available, but Jones has hit for power against left-handers and Dickerson has been productive when given at-bats against right-handers. The fan base seems to be especially down on Jones, but as a platoon player who’s primary responsibility is to hit for power against lefties, he’s been pretty good. He’s been as good as any affordable alternative, anyway.

In-house: Role players.
Justin Maxwell and Colin Curtis are on the disabled list eliminating one right-handed and one left-handed option. Greg Golson is still in the system, and he gave the Yankees a late-season boost last year. He’s a faster, better-defensive option than Jones, and right now he’s arguably the best hitter in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a .291/.348/.440 slash line. He hasn’t hit like that since Double-A three years ago. The Yankees know him and would certainly trust him as a role player, but his splits have been unusual. He’s hitting just .184 with one extra-base hit against lefties. Jordan Parraz is also hitting pretty well in the Triple-A outfield, Kevin Russo has been productive for two months now and Brandon Laird is also starting to hit.

Designated hitter

The Yankees showed remarkable patience with Jorge Posada – sometimes maddening patience, if we’re being honest – but right now, it might be paying off. Posada has been productive for a few weeks now, and although he dug himself in a hole, he might have time to salvage his final contract year.

Trade market: Plentiful.
We’re talking about designated hitter here. The trade market includes pretty much anyone who can hit, and there will be plenty of bats available. On the high end, Prince Fielder will be a popular trade rumor if the Brewers start to slip, but he’s going to cost a ton. On the low end, the A’s would have no reason to keep Hideki Matsui if someone made a legitimate offer, but he’s been brutal. Rather than specifically trade for a designated hitter — like the Yankees did last year with Lance Berkman — it might make more sense to trade for a corner outfielder/infielder who could sub off the bench and occasionally spell Posada at DH.

In house: Out with a broken foot.
The best alternative at designated hitter might be Eric Chavez, who was an incredibly valuable bench player before that bizarre foot injury. He’s rehabbing, but the progress seems slow. If Chavez can make it back in July, he could ease any concerns about depth behind Posada at DH (while also easing some concerns about Alex Rodriguez’s nagging injuries). The Yankees could also dig into Triple-A and give a young guy like Montero a chance to get his feet wet in this role, but their other big bat in Triple-A — Jorge Vazquez — is on the disabled list. It’s worth noting that the Yankees just signed power-hitting veterans Mike Lamb and Terry Tiffee to minor league deals.

Associated Press photos

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