Three of the four spots on the Yankees bench are filled. Andruw Jones has been (unofficially) re-signed to be the fourth outfielder. Eduardo Nunez will return to his a utility role. One of the in-house candidates will fill the backup catcher role.
Now that we know Hiroyuki Nakajima is not going to sign, the final backup role is up for grabs. The consensus seems to be that Eric Chavez is a natural fit as a veteran corner infielder to primarily backup at third base, but there a few ways the Yankees could go.
Power at the corners
This seems like the most likely approach for this final bench spot, a typical corner infielder who has some pop. Chavez can be that type of hitter (maybe more doubles power than home run power at this point). Wilson Betemit has some power and is pretty much strictly a corner guy at this point. The Yankees don’t have to get much versatility out of this roster spot, they just need someone who can spell Alex Rodriguez at third and hit a little bit.
A second utility man
This is what Nakajima would have been, an alternative to Eduardo Nunez at every infield position. Signing someone like Ryan Theriot or Jeff Keppinger would give the Yankees significant flexibility, and free Nunez himself to potentially spend some more time in the outfield. Versatility is good — especially with three catchers on the roster — but it’s hardly a necessity in this situation. Every position is already covered with a backup.
With Nunez available to play every infield position, the Yankees don’t absolutely have to carry another infielder. If they can’t find a deal they like and stumble into an outfielder who makes sense, they could opt for a fifth outfielder who brings speed or maybe a good left-handed bat (to pair with Andruw Jones). The fact Nunez can play the outfield diminishes the need for a fifth outfielder, but Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell aren’t bad in-house options if the Yankees don’t find the corner infield market to their liking (or if a corner infielder doesn’t do enough to make the team out of camp).
An eighth reliever
This one is highly unlikely, but I suppose there’s always a chance the Yankees could decide they’re covered with a backup catcher, backup infielder and backup outfielder and choose to carry an extra pitcher out of spring training. It would probably be a temporary situation — for example, a pitcher is going to be unavailable for a few games and the Yankees don’t want to be short-handed — but it’s a possibility.
Associated Press photo