It’s not quite Jerry Hairston’s time of winter yet. Teams seem to make their bigger moves in December, viewing January with an eye to secondary players. The Yankees, with a solid rotation, bullpen, and lineup already assembled, could start looking at possible bench options over the next few weeks. A versatile, familiar player like Hairston could be in their plans.
With a 12-man pitching staff and a set DH, the Yankees have room for four bench players. One of them goes to Francisco Cervelli, leaving two spots for utility infielders and outfielders. With this scheme it makes sense to carry a player who can handle both the infield and outfield. Jerry Hairston is not only one such player, but he’s one who plays good defense at most positions.
In an article on ESPN Insider Tom Tango looks at a trio of unheralded players from this decade. Their bats keep them from the starting lineup, but their defense makes them valuable assets off the bench. Says Tango of Hairston:
He started between 40 and 98 games at five positions (SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF) in addition to his 515 starts at 2B. Since 2002, his UZR is +34 runs overall and his WOWY is +46 plays in the infield and +32 plays in the outfield.
Having a player like Hairston on the bench makes the team more flexible. Because he can spell players at multiple positions, it allows the Yankees to keep a power bat — like, say, Eric Hinske — on the bench. Also, if they do intend to start Brett Gardner in left, they could also carry Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffman. That’s not a bad bench heading into the season, and we know that if something like the bench or bullpen isn’t working, the Yankees can fix it on the fly.
The question, as with all free agents, is of whether Hairston wants to sign on, and whether he’ll sign for the Yankees’ price. Perhaps Hairston would prefer a team that offers him more playing time, or possibly more money. But if his demands are in line, I can’t see a good reason why the Yankees wouldn’t pursue him. He’s a useful player, especially on defense, where he can play multiple positions, both infield and outfield. That sounds like a valuable asset off the bench.