Offseason action has picked back up the day after Christmas, with the Yankees acquiring a right-handed bat who should battle for a reserve outfield spot and the Red Sox continuing to make moves.
• Just moments ago, Mark Feinsand of The Daily News reported that the Yankees have agreed to a minor-league contract with outfielder Matt Diaz. He will earn $1.2 million if he makes the big league club, plus incentives. The 34-year-old right-handed hitter has bounced around over the years, most recently playing for the Atlanta Braves. Diaz saw limited playing time with the Braves, as his season was cut short due to surgery on his right thumb. He hit .222 with two homers and 13 RBI in 108 at-bats with a .280 OBP and a .613 OPS. For his career, Diaz is a .291 hitter, but he hasn’t been able to stick as an everyday starter. The real reason that the Yankees are bringing him in is because he is known as a guy who hits lefties, which was an issue for the team in 2012. He hit .269 against southpaws last season in 78 at-bats, while hitting just .100 in 30 at-bats against righties. Diaz will be invited to major league camp, and I’d expect the Yanks to make a handful of moves like this for cheap veterans. It’s a very low risk contract, and it gives them another guy who will compete for a roster spot. The hope is that if you bring in enough of these journeymen, you’ll eventually catch lightning in a bottle.
• While the Yankees’ signing of Diaz is a relatively minor move, the Boston Red Sox made a big splash today. They acquired closer Joel Hanrahan and infield prospect Brock Holt from the Pittsburgh Pirates for former Yankee Mark Melancon and three minor-leaguers — pitcher Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan De Jesus and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands. Hanrahan is expected to immediately take over as Boston’s closer after making the NL All-Star team in each of the past two seasons. The move gives the Red Sox one of the top closers in the game in recent years and lengthens their bullpen by allowing them to make Andrew Bailey their set-up man. Of the prospects involved in the deal, it sounds like Boston ended up with the most major-league ready one in Holt. He combined to hit .344 with an .859 OPS with the Pirates’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season. He was called up in September and hit .292 in 65 at-bats.
• The Red Sox also made their signing of shortstop Stephen Drew official today. The 29-year-old signed a one-year deal for $9.5 million with another possible $500,000 in performance bonuses. Boston is making plenty of moves, but you have to wonder how many of these guys are going to have big impacts.
• A bit more sobering news has surfaced about former Yankee Andruw Jones. He is being accused of battery after an incident with his wife early Christmas morning. Jones signed a one-year contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League earlier this month.
• As I wrote about earlier today, the Yankees have left some voids unfilled so far this offseason after an alarming offensive slump in October. One of the guys who could very well end up getting a shot to play everyday is catcher Austin Romine. With only Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli as the other somewhat viable options to replace Russell Martin on the current roster — both of whom leave plenty to be desired offensively — Romine should have a legitimate chance to win the job out of spring training. Bernie Pleskoff detailed how Romine has gotten to this point and why the Yankees would benefit from naming him as their starter. Assuming that the team doesn’t bring in a veteran, I tend to agree with Pleskoff. I’d rather give a young prospect who has a bit of upside a look instead of going with guys who you already know have serious limitations.
• David Schoenfield of ESPN recently released offseason power rankings, and he had the Yankees at No. 3 — higher than any other AL team. He points to the Yankees pitching as the main reason for being so high on them, while also noting that this team has power bats remaining.