Jan
20

Yanks bench not a worry heading into 2010

By

As the off-season winds down and we eagerly approach the first glimpses of Spring Training, we have little left to discuss in terms of the Yankees’ roster. The primary players are already in place. Eight for-sure position players, four for-sure pitchers plus two youngsters for the final rotation spot, and a solid core of relievers. With Brett Gardner currently slated to start the season in left and Francisco Cervelli tapped as the backup catcher, the Yanks have just three spots to play with.

As we’ve learned over the past few years, and especially last year, the bench means very little to start the season. Last season the Yankees opened with a bench of Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, Ramiro Pena, and Jose Molina. While that would have sufficed all season, even with the Melky-Gardner swap, things quickly changed. The Yankees will not possess this kind of depth in 2010, but 2009 was an aberration in that regard. Few teams, if any, have a player like Nick Swisher on the bench.

With Jerry Hairston in San Diego playing alongside his brother and with Eric Hinske gunning for playing time in Atlanta, the bench will not resemble the one that closed the 2009 season. Which is fine, because the bench that closed the season — Hairston, Gardner, Hinske, and Molina — shared only one common player with the Opening Day bench. Like Molina last year, Cervelli could go wire to wire on the bench. Considering the options the Yankees have right now, that might not be true of any other player.

How will the Yankees construct their bench to start the season? To answer we must first see how the left field situation plays out. The team says they’re eyeing a right-handed outfielder to caddy for Brett Gardner, and we’ve spent plenty of time analyzing those options. They could still add Johnny Damon, which would move Gardner to fourth outfielder, but adding one of the many right-handed outfielders would produce the same effect. Whether Damon or otherwise, that’s one of three bench spots.

The infield won’t be such a big concern. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano don’t take many days off. Last season Cano missed just one game and Jeter missed nine. A-Rod‘s preseason injury limited him to 124 games, but when healthy he’s in there nearly every day. Since the utility infielder will play a game a week or less, the position isn’t that important, and is probably the reason the Yankees did not even attempt to retain Jerry Hairston. Ramiro Pena appears the favorite, but Kevin Russo could get a shot — though his lack of experience at shortstop might hurt his case.

The final bench spot could go one of two ways. The most likely is Rule 5 selection Jamie Hoffman getting a shot. Since they can easily return him to Los Angeles if he doesn’t work out, the Yanks will likely give him a shot unless someone else makes an overly compelling case during the spring. The alternative is Juan Miranda for some lefty power off the bench, but since he has an option the Yankees can afford to try out Hoffman. They can always bring up Miranda later.

Unlike the 2009 version, the 2010 bench will not feature any players who can adequately substitute in case of injury. When Nady went down last year they had Swisher to step in, but that is not the case this season. That’s fine, though. Any team that has a starter-quality player sitting on the bench is lucky and then some. Hell, there are teams that can’t even field nine adequate starters, nevermind hiding someone on the bench. The 2009 Opening Day bench was a luxury that we should not get used to.

Still, we know the Yankees have the tools to reconfigure the bench on the fly. Their bevy of mid-level prospect can help them obtain the right players from teams no longer in the hunt. It’s exactly how they acquired Hairston and Hinske last year. But, before they go do that, they can afford to see how the in-house options work. Who knows, maybe they won’t even need to swing a trade this year. If they do, they’ll certainly have options come mid-season.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Categories : Hot Stove League

30 Comments»

  1. A.D. says:

    Miranda is presumably a capable back-up in the system albeit won’t be on the bench

    • Why not? If they don’t like Hoffman in ST, I would think Miranda’s next on the list for a bench spot.

      • NDR says:

        I don’t think the competition will come down to Miranda vs. Hoffman. If the Yankees roll with 12 pitchers to start the season they will likely want to carry 2 OFers on the bench. This would mean that the competition with Hoffman will be another outfielder the Yankees bring into ST. I think Miranda’s only shot of making the team out of ST barring an injury is if the Yankees go with 11 pitchers. Otherwise just stash Miranda in AAA as NJ and Tex insurance.

  2. slick says:

    If Hoffman doesn’t make the team did Cashman give Bruney away for nothing?

    Word was that the Yankees were shopping the first pick in the rule 5 draft, and evidently did not get much interest. I wonder if Cashman misjudged interest in that pick when he moved Bruney.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      I think they might have non-tendered Bruney if they hadn’t traded him. Bruney is really nothing special considering his inconsistencies. The Yanks probably thought they couldn’t trust him enough to be a middle relief guy. Instead of completely cutting him lose, Cash turned him into a potential contributor in Hoffmann so I don’t see why someone would complain about the move.

      • Salty Buggah says:

        *loose

      • andrew says:

        Well, my issue would be that they turned a known contributor (inconsistent, yea, but he provided something of value) in Bruney, into a “potential contributor.” Not sure if I agree with the move. I know it’s not going to make or break the season at all, but I thought Bruney was worth keeping around.

        • kimonizer says:

          I think that if there is actually a salary cap then it was a matter of economics as well. The difference in production between Bruney and another reliever from the minors (Nova, Albaladejo) or from Hoffman probably does not justify the extra expenditure Bruney would have required so his contributions were not worth what he had the potential to make.

          BTW how lucky are we as Yankee fans that the only thing we have to worry about is the quality of our ninth place hitter and the subtle adjustments of the bench. So many other teams are still flailing for both pitching and hitting in a relatively thin market and the Yanks are sitting pretty and ready to hit the ground running in 2010.

          Can’t wait for pitchers and catchers!!

        • Jamal G. says:

          In a six-year career that saw him throw over 200 innings out of a Major League bullpen, Brian Bruney has been worth a total of five-tenths of a win above replacement level. Essentially, his contribution to the Yankees is that of a replacement-level player, which means he is one of the most easily replaceable players in Major League Baseball.

          • Salty Buggah says:

            This.

            When you add on his cost of somewhere between $1.5 and $1.85 million (Bruney asked for $1.85 million and was offered $1.5 million from the Nationals this year for arbitration), Bruney really isn’t worth it. Hoffmann’s potential at league minimum is probably more valuable to the Yanks than Bruney’s kinda expensive mediocrity (especially considering he would’ve non-tendered anyway…at least IMO)

    • Bo says:

      They were lucky to get a bag o balls for Bruney.

  3. Manimal says:

    I personally think Miranda should convert to a left fielder. Problem solved.

  4. larryf says:

    Juan Miranda in LF would make us all yearn for Johnny D’s defense…

  5. Jake H says:

    I’m not worried about the bench. You can always make a trade for a guy or pick up a vet that is just sitting at home.

  6. Bo says:

    Why neglect the bench just because? Whats the downside of actually picking up a bat that can play? Competition isnt a bad thing you know. Depth isn’t either. there was plenty of talk here last yr about how everyone that isnt starting should be traded. Swisher especially. But thats why you have depth.

    • Zack says:

      I agree to a point. There’s no reason to go sign guys now, the market is still full of guys looking for full time jobs, they wont sign up ST when they know a bench role is their only option.

      • Zack says:

        Here are realistic options* for IF/OF bench guys:
        -Belliard, Hudson, Kennedy, Lopez, Tejada, Tracy, Garko
        -Tatis, R. Johnson, Gomes, Ankiel, Baldelli, Dye, Nady

        Not all of those guys will get full time jobs, most of them will have to sign to compete for the job, and maybe some of them will turn down the Yankees for a bigger check or more playing time as a bench player. Regardless, it is unnecessary to sign bench players on January 20th when there are many available and their price tags are only going to go down.

        *Notice how I said ‘bench guys’, so I dont need everyone to list why player X is flawed, it’s just an overall outlook at the options to show there is no rush to sign bench players.

    • “here was plenty of talk here last yr about how everyone that isnt starting should be traded. Swisher especially.”

      Now you’re just talking out your ass, Bo.

      There is no downside of picking up a bat. But what bat is going to sign at a reasonable rate to sit on the bench? This is the problem the Yankees have every year — typical bench players sign elsewhere because they get more playing time. So the Yankees need to take a different approach, which they have.

  7. Steve B. says:

    Regarding Juan Miranda, how about Jorge Vasquez as a 1B off the bench ??…He has great numbers in the Mexican League for nine years(AAA-level), and palyed very well in Trenton last year (AA-level).

  8. Mark says:

    I suspect the Yanks will bring in an interesting batch of ST invites and minor league free agents. I already like Winfree and Gorecki.

    The lineup is somewhat lefty heavy and there is no telling how Johnson and Posada will hold up given their injury histories. Having someone like Miranda as a backup DH could really reap some benefits but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see someone like Garko, Tatis, Belliard or Mora in Tampa.

    I would also see about bringing in a more offensive-minded 3rd catcher to push Cervelli and provide depth at AAA. If Posada goes down for a month or two, rushing Montero and/or relying on Cervelli/Mike Rivera would be less than ideal – especially considering Cervelli had never hit as well as he did during his ML cameo.

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