Improving the bench with a new utility infielder


For the bulk of last month and all of this month, much of the talk in Yankeeland has revolved around the bench. The conversation tends to tip this way in the winter months, after the big signings have been made and the team is in what Brian Cashman calls “nonroster invitee mode.” This is actually good news for the bench, since teams can find undervalued players who can take on a utility role. These are no-risk moves that can bring decent rewards if the player pans out and can handle a part-time role. Yet there’s one name I can’t help but notice on the free agent list, who likely wouldn’t take a non-roster invite deal, but could immensely improve the Yankees bench.

Not only has Mark Grudzielanek not signed yet, but I can’t remember hearing his name mentioned this winter, at least since he rejected the Royals offer of arbitration. This is actually a bit strange, since he’d probably sign at a reasonable salary, and provides good defense and a decent bat for a middle infielder. Plus, he doesn’t cost the signing team a draft pick. If there are any teams actually interested in Orlando Hudson, I don’t know why they wouldn’t look to Grudz first.

The downsides of Grudz seem to wash with the upsides. He will be 39 in June, meaning he’s susceptible to decline. He also missed the last two months of the season with a torn deltoid ligament in his right ankle. Yet in the later stages of his career he’s put up fine numbers for a second baseman, and according to his UZR, he’s been at least a decent defender since they started tracking the stat. Not sure how he’d do at shortstop at this stage, but he can probably play it in a pinch. He might even be able to play it as well as Angel Berroa.

Why would Grudzielanek, a starter his entire career, want to back up the Yankees infield? He wants to win. The Yankees present him an excellent chance to do just that. It would come at the sacrifice of playing time, so it’s a matter of whether that’s worth it to Grudz or not.

At this point he’s probably still waiting around for an offer to start comes around, but as we get closer to Spring Training he might change his tune. If he was willing to play for a mediocre team he could have just accepted arbitration from the Royals and took home at least $4.5 million. Maybe Philly makes him an offer and he goes there because of their uncertainty with Chase Utley early on and Pedro Feliz all the time. But if he ends up signing as someone’s utility infielder, I’d prefer it be with the Yankees.

Photo: Getty Images

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Old Ranger says:

    Grudz wouldn’t be a bad pick-up, of course he would have to prove that he can still play the middle infield.
    I wonder how close Luis Nunez, Russo and Sublett are to coming alive? Yes, I understand, a team wants a vet to be the bench guy. I always go against the grain, so why not have a rookie be on the bench?

  2. Brooklyn Ed says:

    since next week is spring training, this coming week will be a wild one. interesting to see who will be a non-roster invitee.

  3. John says:

    Signing a minor league deal this year (and assuming you have a good chance to play a little) comes with a WS ring this year so I dont know why he won’t sign with us?

  4. Peter Lacock says:

    You guys, Ben K., Joseph P. and Mike A. are doing a great! job! by not talking about Torre and his book. Some blogs are dominated by it or at least make daily mention of it. Not here. I’m (almost) as impressed with you guys as I am with the terrific work of Brian Cashman.
    Adding to the competition between Cody Ransom, Justin Leone, Doug Bernier and Angel Berroa is not a bad idea. This is the year to load up when so many players have so few choices.
    In additon to Grudzielanek, I’m thinking CMoney should at least talk to Ramon Martinez, Rich Aurilia and Damion Easley too. At least see where they’re at on this. Maybe one of them feels like finding a home and is OK with a utility role.

  5. Adam says:

    Why not Nomar? Bettter hitter than Grudz, and was a 2.3 UZR/150 at SS as recently as last year (in 31 games). Plus, my dream of a Alex/Derek/Nomar could finally be realized.

  6. tripp says:


  7. The real question is, can he actually play not only 2B but also SS and 3B? That’s what we need; a utility infielder who can actually play all three infield positions well. I have no doubts that he can outhit Handsome Cody Ransom and thus, I’d DFA Ransom today to sign Grudz, but I do know that Ransom can at least passably play both SS and 3B. Not sure if 39 year old Grudz can do that.

    Of course, if we did my “Trade Melky for Cameron and send Gardner back to AAA” idea from yesterday, we could open up one more space on the 25 man and keep both Grudz AND Ransom on there, and that would solve all our problems…

    • Jay CT says:

      Yeah this is what I was going to write. A backup utility guy needs to be able to play the left side of the infield, and if he can’t, its a waste of a spot as far as I am concerned. I think that he would make for a great signing for some team, especially like the Mets who could really use a solid 2B without giving up a pick (and a hell of a lot more money) for Hudson.

  8. Bo says:

    Grudz is a 2b. Not a SS. You want a UTL infielder to be able to play both up the middle spots and 3b if needed. Versatility. And Grudz has always wanted to be a starter. He doesn’t consider himself to be a UTL bench player.

    • That is a good point.

      In your opinion, what 2B/SS/3B utility infielder should we pursue instead, since you’re not a fan of Grudzielanek?

      • MattG says:

        Before answering this question, I would like to know if Rodriguez would be an option at SS for a month. If he would, there are so many more alternatives.

        I would guess the Yankees would like to avoid Rodriguez at short, even if he is the best option (I mean, they’ve been doing it already for 5 years, right?), so probably not.

        • I’d say no, that’s not an option. ARod is probably an option at SS for a game or two, not for a month. He’s a third baseman now.

          • Jay CT says:

            I don’t even know that he would play for a game there. I really think the massive can of worms that could open is not worth the couple games.

            • A.D. says:

              Really isn’t a massive can of worms, the only benefit A-Rod could provide over Jeter is being a better defensive SS, over a couple games there would be no way to indicate that. Sure he was better ins 02 & 03. He was also a very good 3B in 04 and that has since declined.

              The main issue is A-Rod at SS for a game doesn’t solve anything its still the same back-up playing 3B that would be playing SS.

              A-Rod at SS makes sense if Jeter is out for the season, or several months, and the Yankees can acquire a 3B that is better than their back-up SS.

          • A.D. says:

            Or if Jeter went down for the year… if that happened they’d have to consider A-Rod at SS

    • Joseph P. says:

      1) He was a SS for the first part of his career before moving to second. I’m not sure if he moved because he couldn’t cut it, but considering his D at second base I think he could handle limited innings at short. It’s not like Jeter’s one to take a lot of days off.

      2) “And Grudz has always wanted to be a starter. He doesn’t consider himself to be a UTL bench player.”

      IF Grudz has always wanted to be a starter, he’s had his wish granted his entire career. He might not consider himself to be a UTL player, though to say that is to basically say you know the guy, but he also wants to win. What takes precedence there? Starter for a fringe team, or UTIL for a top-notch team?

      But it wouldn’t be a Bo comment if it was in any way positive.


  9. MattG says:

    If I were Mark, I would be concerned that Hank would not be able to spell my name right on the checks.

  10. jsbrendog says:

    at least since he rejected the Royals offer of arbitration

    Plus, he doesn’t cost the signing team a draft pick

    so i assume this means he has no type anything status. if you can convince him to do it i say do it. but what do i know, im just a loud mouth fan,.

  11. MattG says:

    It just hit me–this is not an issue for the Yankees. What utility have they been linked to this off-season? If Cashman cared, how could Alex Cora sign with the Mets without even a rumor?

    Cashman must not be motivated at all to do something here.

    Maybe he is going with a catastrophe plan. I see Polanco, Guillen, and Inge all on his buddy Dombrowski’s roster, and they’re all too old and make too much money for a team that’ll be an also-ran.

  12. pat says:

    I kinda want the attorney general back, I liked him coming off the bench.

  13. Some other names to throw out there:
    Nomar (as previously mentioned)
    Ray Durham (as previously mentioned)
    Chris Gomez (decent at 3B and SS but oddly inefficient at 2B)
    Pablo Ozuna (Gomez clone)
    Damion Easley
    Mark Bellhorn

    And, the big money wildcards (as in, we should sniff and see just how bargain basement their prices really are:)
    Orlando Hudson
    Orlando Cabrera (if Adam Dunn’s price is really 5-8M, what’s Cabrera’s? 3-5M? Would you sign OCab to a 4M AAV deal? I might…)

  14. MattG says:


    Mark Grudzielanek: .332/.395/.727 6942 at bats
    Cody Ransom: .338/.432/.780 183 at bats

    I’m just sayin…

    • pat says:

      I really hope you’re not comparing almost 7000 at bats with about 200. Crosses fingers

      • MattG says:

        It’s like a two line post. What else could I be doing?

        My apathetic point is that this player will get 150 at bats this year. Grudzielanek will put up his .727 OPS in those 150 at bats. Ransom will put up anywhere from .600-.780. Net result = who cares?

        My “its not my money” point would be trade Bruney & Miranda to Detroit for Carlos Guillen (and his bloated contract) and sign Juan Cruz!

    • A.D. says:

      I love that BA has now been removed from the stat line

  15. Jake H says:

    I saw the guy play a lot here in KC. He’s a good player and would bring some needed grit to the team.

  16. Jay CT says:

    It seems Hudson wants to play in New York. What do you think is the lowest contract he would accept? He reminds me of a backup circa 1996, without the power but with all the aspects of a great teammate who wants to win. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be a backup, but I was just curious others opinions.

  17. steve (different one) says:

    speaking of NRI’s (you see what i did there?), the Yankees have checked in on Andruw Jones according to Boras, i mean Heyman:

    Jones, who hit .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in a disastrous season with the Dodgers after 11 productive seasons with the Braves, also received an inquiry from the Yankees, who have several center field candidates but no set starter. However, the Rangers may make more sense for him. Another plus for Texas is that it has one of baseball’s most respected hitting coaches in Rudy Jaramillo.

    • A.D. says:

      What would make sense for Texas is the one year flyer deal, if they can get him straightened out they can trade him at the deadline for a team desperate for a CF. Basically the same model as what they did for Kenny Lofton.

    • Another plus for Texas is that it turns poor hitters into average hitters, average hitters into good hitters, and good hitters into quasi-MVP candidates.

      If I was Andruw Jones, yeah, I’d be interested in going to Texas too.

      • steve (different one) says:

        agreed, that’s what i would do if i were him.

        just like if i were Mark Prior last year, i would have gone to San Diego.

  18. Bruno says:

    Alex Gonzalez?

  19. pat says:

    Cashman should trade ipk, melky, anthony claggett and juan miranda for jose reyes. The mets get a starter and a reliever a backup OF and some power in miranda. Reyes could easily play all the infield positions, he’s a switch hitter and would be a pretty good pinch runner. Too bad cashman is too much of an as*hole to think of stuff like this. CASH=OVERRATED.

  20. rossdfarian says:

    Interesting article but I am more than satisfied with Cody Ransom’s potential. Although I don’t want Berroa to weigh us down, I would prefer him to Grudz.

  21. [...] are essentially anomalies. RAB has thrown out two very solid ideas for utility players, noting that Mark Grudzielanek, who is an undervalued commodity, as well as Ray Durham, who was one of the better offensive 2B [...]

  22. [...] anomalies. RAB has thrown out two very solid ideas for utility players, noting the presence of Mark Grudzielanek, who is an undervalued commodity, as well as Ray Durham, who was one of the better offensive 2B [...]

  23. [...] getting a lot of play mostly because he’s the only free-agent left on the market and River Avenue Blues and John Heyman have mentioned him. He’d be a very cheap option and a perfect [...]

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