As the Yankees enter their final 48 hours to negotiate a deal with Hiroyuki Nakajima, it’s looking less and less likely that an agreement will be reached. For the Yankees, this deal is all about depth. For Nakajima, it’s about a chance to play. It’s easy to see how the two sides might not be on quite the same page.
Without Nakajima, what does the Yankees depth look like right now? Here’s a team of second-string Yankees, a group made entirely of non-regulars.
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli
Assuming Jesus Montero isn’t eligible because he’s the regular designated hitter, this spot comes down to Cervelli or Austin Romine. I’ll give Cervelli the nod because I think he’s more likely to break camp with the big league club. It would be interesting to see how the Yankees would react to losing Russell Martin for an extended period of time. Would Montero step in regularly behind the plate? Could Romine show enough progress to get the job? Would Joe Girardi stick with the guy he knows and let Cervelli play everyday?
First base: Jorge Vazquez
In reality, Nick Swisher is probably the second stringer at first base, but he doesn’t count on a list of non-regulars. Instead, the spot has to go to Vazquez, who never get a real shot in the big leagues no matter how many home runs he hits in Mexico and the minors. If Mark Teixeira were hurt, would the Yankees really give first base to Vazquez? Could he put up numbers good enough that they’d have no choice but to give it a shot?
Second base: Ramiro Pena
If we’re saving Eduardo Nunez for shortstop, then the second string at second base comes down to either Pena, Corban Joseph, Kevin Russo or — if he’s healthy — David Adams. Give Pena the nod right now because he’s been there, but it really doesn’t matter. If Robinson Cano were hurt, this spot would obviously belong to Nunez.
Third base: Brandon Laird
Another backup spot that, for now, probably belongs to Nunez, but it would be interesting to see how the Yankees would react to a bounce-back season from Laird. You only have to go back to 2010 to see Laird putting up a .291/.355/.523 slash line in Double-A. Carry that kind of production into Triple-A this season, and Laird could hit his way into some sort of four-corners backup role in the Bronx.
Shortstop: Eduardo Nunez
No doubt about it, Nunez is Derek Jeter’s backup, and he’ll likely remain Derek Jeter’s backup regardless of whether Nakajima is signed. Yes, last year’s errors were a problem, but Nunez showed a strong bunch of tools at the big league level last season. Experience might bring comfort, and comfort might bring consistency.
Left field: Andruw Jones
Pick a corner, either corner, and Jones is the Yankees true backup. Even if something were to happen to Curtis Granderson, Jones would almost certainly slide into the everyday lineup while Brett Gardner shifted to center field. Jones is the Yankees true fourth outfielder.
Center field: Chris Dickerson
But if two outfielders went down, my guess is Dickerson would be next in line. He can play all three outfield positions, and in his career he’s done a nice job against right-handed pitchers. He has some speed and some defensive ability, and he’d be a nice platoon player if he played for any team that didn’t have an outfield full of lefties.
Right field: Justin Maxwell
Something of a wild card on the Yankees roster, Maxwell has always been touted as an athletic, toolsy outfielder, and last year he was hitting for power and getting on base in Triple-A before an injury cost him much of the season. Not sure the Yankees will have room to carry a fifth outfielder on the roster, but if they do, Maxwell could show enough in spring training to have a shot.
Associated Press photos