Improving the bench with a new utility infielder

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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

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  • Old Ranger

    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?

    • steve

      considering we have the infield we have the back up won’t be getting significant playing time … so why stunt a rookies development by sitting him on the bench

      • Bo

        You do realize those guys are in A ball right?

        Makes a lot of sense to have them play the UTL role. Wow.

        • Tom Zig

          One Eric Duncan was enough.

        • pat

          Russo will be starting the year in Scranton. Thats not exactly A ball chief.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Advantage, pat.

  • Brooklyn Ed

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

  • John

    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?

  • Peter Lacock

    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.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


      • Jay CT

        So what do you all think about Joe Torre’s book?

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Han Solo: If you like, I can show you around since no one’s trying to stop the ship or blast us.
          Stormtrooper #1: Stop that ship!
          Stormtrooper #2: Blast them!

          • Matt

            The Joe Torre book is the worst idea since Greedo shooting first.

      • barry

        nice pic link, fag

        • pat

          hahah awesome.

          • pat

            And by awesome I mean thats the stupidest fu*king thing I’ve ever seen written here as it is offensive to black people and gay people. It’s also slighty off topic. Kudos to you for your ignorance.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              That was easily the most bizarre response I’ve ever seen around here. I don’t know if he was going for comedy and failed, or going for ignorance/bigotry and didn’t quite know what he wanted to be ignorant/bigoted about.

              Either way, I’m utterly puzzled.

              I don’t even want it banned/censored. I’ve got a morbid curiosity to find out just what he hell Barry was going for.

              Barry, what the hell are you talking about, seriously?

              • steve (different one)

                what was he even referring to? what link? what did this have to do with black people?

                seriously, i got nothing.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Since I’m about the only commenter with a picture link under my handle, I assume he was referring to my picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos crossing te finish line of the 200m finals at the ’68 Games.


  • Adam

    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.

    • Rob in CT

      I’m not against Nomar, but I think Grudz is far more likely to be healthy. Either would be better than Angel “the fluke” Berroa.

    • Tom Zig

      Why? so we can have 3 Shortstops playing at positions they don’t belong?
      Grudzie it is.

  • tripp


  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    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

      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.

  • Bo

    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.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      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

        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.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          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

            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.

              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.

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

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              No, I don’t think that they would consider that.

              I think they’d still leave ARod at third and go sign/trade for a replacement at SS.

              ARod is not moving back, I don’t see it.

              • Mike A.

                Agreed, I think that ship has sailed. He could almost definitely play it for a few innings in a pinch, but not every day for two or three weeks. That’s just my opinion though.

    • Joseph P.

      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.

      • A.D.

        I missed that one yesterday….priceless

  • MattG

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

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


      Grudzielanek = Mientkiewicz

      • Nickel

        The 2006 Royals’ 1st-base side of the infield led the majors in letters.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I kept waiting for them to trade for A.J. Pierzynski.

  • jsbrendog

    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,.

  • MattG

    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.

  • pat

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

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Maybe we can sign the other Alberto Gonzales. He’s free.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    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…)

    • steve (different one)

      i think i’d go with Easley out of that list.

      O-Cab is interesting, but even though it’s only a 4th rounder, i’m not sure i’d want to give it up for a bench player.

      i can’t see Hudson as a legitimate possibility as a backup. someone will give him a job. i have nothing to back that up, but it’s just a hunch.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Yeah, that’s why my Hudson thing is just a fantasy. I know he’ll cost too much and somebody else will offer him a better situation.

    • Mike A.

      Gomez signed a minor league deal somewhere recently, I think Baltimore.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Oh, yeah, that’s right… He’s a Baltimore NRI.

  • MattG


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

    I’m just sayin…

    • pat

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

      • MattG

        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!

        • keith


    • A.D.

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

  • Jake H

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

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      But would he also bring scrappiness and hustle? We need those things too. Grit is good, but it’s nothing without scrappiness and hustle.

      • Mike A.

        And we also need guys who play the game the right way and do the little things to help the team win. If he’s an igniter, it’s even more of a plus.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Too bad he’s not a gamer. Or heady. Or a grinder.

  • Jay CT

    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.

    • jsbrendog

      dude, i still cannot believe we won the world series with mariano duncan and tony fernandez

  • steve (different one)

    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.

      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.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      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)

        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.

  • Bruno

    Alex Gonzalez?

  • pat

    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.

    • steve (different one)


    • NYYanksCaptain23

      Too bad the Mets have to accept that offer for it to happen.

      Video game GMs=OVERRATED.

  • rossdfarian

    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.

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