The Braves have signed Ramiro Pena to a Major League contract and will give him a chance to compete for their utility job this spring. The Braves already have Paul Janish and Tyler Pastornicky on their roster, but Mark Bowman notes that those two have options remaining while Pena does not. Because of that, Bowman speculates that Pena might be the favorite to win the job, backing up Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla.
After a somewhat surprising run at the Yankees utility job in 2009, Pena was eventually overshadowed by Eduardo Nunez. He was the Yankees regular utility man in 2010, spent most of 2011 in Triple-A and got just four big league at-bats last season. He’s a switch hitter with some speed, but his true value comes from his reliable glove.
Without Pena — who became a free agent this winter — the Yankees upper-level shortstop depth is limited. They still have Nunez, , and they have both Jayson Nix and Gil Velazquez coming to camp as non-roster invites. Beyond that, Jose Pirela has moved away from shortstop, Walter Ibbara is a free agent and Yadil Mujica has been treated more like an organizational guy than a legitimate prospect. Addison Maruszak had a nice year as Double-A Trenton’s shortstop this year, but it’s too early to know whether that was a true breakout or a blip on the radar.
Speaking of shortstops, the Red Sox have signed Stephen Drew to a one-year, $9.5-million deal. Earlier this winter there was some speculation that the Yankees might have some interest in Drew as a backup infielder, but that speculation never gained much traction, and it’s hard to imagine the Yankees giving that much money to a backup. Signing Drew would have meant opening an everyday job, and Drew’s only big league experience is at shortstop.