So Hiroyuki Nakajima is not going to be with the Yankees next season. The two sides were never really looking for the same thing, a deal was never reached and everyone moves on. What have the Yankees lost in not signing Nakajima?
Truthfully, not much.
• Because they didn’t agree on a contract, the Yankees will no pay the posting fee. Why make a bid in the first place? Because the Yankees bid wasn’t especially high, and it gave them exclusive rights to a potentially solid bench player. Why not make a bid? The posting system is clearly flawed, but the Yankees used it properly, to give themselves a chance to sign Nakajima, while eliminating every other big league team from the conversation.
• Nakajima was never a necessity for the Yankees, more of an interesting possibility. He seems to have a solid bat for a utility man, and he’s often praised for his leadership, but he was never more than infield depth for the Yankees, and they can get that elsewhere.
• Eric Chavez is still out there. In so many ways, he’s a perfect fit for the Yankees corner infield needs. He’s used to not playing every day, but still has enough experience to feel comfortable in big moments. He has obvious injury concerns, but the Yankees don’t need him to play often, and those injury problems should keep his asking price relatively low. Plus, he’s familiar, and he’s been productive. Not a bad fallback option.
• Eduardo Nunez was probably going to be the Yankees primary utility man anyway. He’s an occasionally dynamic, occasionally erratic young player who showed an interesting combination of power and speed for a reserve middle infielder last year. The Yankees were never especially desperate to sign Nakajima, at least partially because they have Nunez already in place.
• There is still a bit of a middle infield depth issue to contend with, and Nakajima would have helped with that. After Nunez — and Derek Jeter, obviously — the only big league ready shortstop in the Yankees system is Ramiro Pena. That said, the Yankees could get additional help at second and third base if Corban Joseph has a strong Triple-A debut, Brandon Laird bounces back or David Adams gets healthy. The Yankees upper-level infielders aren’t considered overwhelming, can’t-miss prospects, but the organization has a handful of guys who could legitimately play a utility role in the not-so-distant future.
Associated Press photo