Yesterday afternoon the Yankees claimed outfielder Darnell McDonald off waivers, and he’ll be added to the roster before tomorrow’s series opener in Boston. It’s a relatively minor bench move — McDonald is essentially a right-handed version of Dewayne Wise — but it does create some interesting roster questions.
The Yankees are scheduled to face three left-handed starters during this weekend series against the Red Sox, so McDonald might be a better short-term fit than Wise. But the Yankees don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other right away. Manager Joe Girardi said it’s safe to assume the team won’t carry six outfielders for an extended period of time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it for these next four games.
So who’s place does McDonald take on the roster?
Go right instead of left
The most natural swap is straight-up, using McDonald to replace Wise as the fifth outfielder. Wise has been terrific the past week and a half, but he’s still a career .222 hitter. He’s earned the chance to stay, but things don’t always work that way. If the Yankees prefer McDonald — or simply prefer a right-handed hitter instead of a lefty — they could dump Wise and keep McDonald. If McDonald is going to stick around long-term, it makes little sense to have him and Wise on the same roster.
Carry an extra hitter
This weekend provides an interesting opportunity to carry an extra bench player. The Yankees could option David Phelps back to the minor leagues and use that roster spot to carry McDonald. D.J. Mitchell would still be in place as a long reliever. Phelps shouldn’t be available to pitch this weekend anyway. The Yankees could wait until CC Sabathia comes off the disabled list to trim their bench and make a choice between Wise and McDonald. Long-term there seems to be room for only one of the two, but this weekend, there might be room for both.
Bigger picture impact
Don’t try to make this move bigger than it is. It’s a bench addition off the waiver wire, nothing more. Two names that might come into this conversation but probably shouldn’t are Brett Gardner and Andruw Jones. The addition of McDonald doesn’t really indicate anything about Gardner. When Gardner comes off the disabled list, he’ll replace the fifth outfielder, no matter who that happens to be. As for Jones, it’s true that he’s a right-handed outfielder who’s struggling this season, but there’s really no reason to think McDonald is a better alternative. Jones has clearly had a far superior career, and even this season’s numbers are better than McDonald’s. There’s a chance that there’s no bigger picture impact. The Yankees might have claimed McDonald for this weekend’s series and nothing more. Depends on whether they prefer him or Wise.
Associated Press photo