What’s the backup plan at each position?

2010 Season Preview: The Front Office
AL East Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

No team goes into the season without planning for the worst at each position. Players get hurt, and teams need to have an idea of what they’ll do if that becomes a reality. A well-crafted backup plan can help stanch the bleeding a bit. Of course, if the team ends up like the 2009 Mets then no amount of gauze will stop the hemorrhaging. Players also slump, and while many players, including basically the entire Yankees’ infield, will stay in the lineup, others will find themselves on the bench. So what are the Yankees’ backup plans for the 2010 season?

Designated Hitter

Nick Johnson presents the greatest concern for injury on the team. He has an injury history that matches Bart Simpon’s permanent record in volume. He did remain mostly healthy in 2009, missing about two weeks with a hamstring issue, so there is hope that he’ll stay in the lineup. His move to the DH spot should also help him avoid the wear and tear that comes with playing the field every day.

As Mike discussed this morning, Jesus Montero could be among the backup plans, though the Yankees will probably turn elsewhere before moving their defensively challenged catching prospect into a DH role. Maybe if the injury happens later in the season it will be a possibility, but if anything happens in the first half chances are that Juan Miranda will get the call. Jorge Vazquez could also provide an alternative, though a lot of that will depend on how he’s hitting in the minors.

As an outside chance, perhaps the Yankees would favor Jorge in the DH role. That would necessitate finding another catcher, though. If Cervelli is hitting then perhaps they can do with just a backup. Otherwise they’d need someone else, and I’m not sure the Yanks are prepared to go trade for a catcher this season.

First Base

We got a glimpse of a potential Mark Teixeira injury last night when Jeremy Guthrie hit him on the elbow with a fastball. It appears to be just a bruise, so Tex will likely rub some dirt on it, take a day or two off, and continue preparing for Opening Night. Since his debut in 2003 he has been on the DL just twice, though he did require minor knee surgery following the 2007 season. What happens if Tex is physically unable to play at some point this season?

Nick Johnson will likely move to first base with Juan Miranda also taking reps at first and DH. There’s a chance Nick Swisher could eat some innings at first, especially if Randy Winn starts hitting. It won’t equal Mark Teixeira, of course, but only a top first base prospect could even have a prayer. Losing a superstar player is detrimental to any team.

Second Base

Since his prolonged trip to the DL in June of 2006 with a hamstring strain, Robinson Cano has stayed almost completely healthy. His only issue since then cropped up in camp last year, a bit of pain in his shoulder after he returned from the World Baseball Classic. It didn’t affect his season, though, as he played in 161 games. He has played in at least 159 games in every season since 2006.

If Cano’s luck changes this year then Ramiro Pena could fill in. That would necessitate the Yankees recalling another utility infielder to replace Pena, which at this point figures to be Kevin Russo. If they’re forced to do that, though, might Russo get regular reps at second? His bat projects better than Pena’s, and the Yankees seem to like his defense enough. I think he’d get a shot to play at least a few times a week in this case.

Third Base

After appearing a bastion of health for most of his career, Alex Rodriguez spent time on the DL in each of the past two seasons. His hip surgery last year is certainly cause for concern. In fact, I think every Yankees fan held his or her breath last season every time he grabbed for the hip. He survived, though, and all reports have been positive since. Yet we can’t ignore the possibility that A-Rod misses time this season.

If it’s just a 15-day DL stint, then Pena could slide into the role. But we’re again crossing into Russo territory here. The Yanks certainly could hand the job to Pena temporarily and call up one of the other utility infielders on the 40-man roster. Russo appears superior to those options, and again, if they recall him I think they’d give him a chance to play multiple times per week, at least at second and third.

Shortstop

Derek Jeter and the disabled list do not get along. In fact, since he dislocated his shoulder sliding into third on Opening Day 2003 and missed over a month, he hasn’t spent a single day on the DL. He has weathered nagging injuries, a few of which have kept him out of action for days at a time, but none have necessitated a DL trip. But what happens if his luck changes this year?

Pena would likely be the guy here. I’m not sure how they’d deal with the utility position, but they have been giving Russo reps at short, so perhaps he’d come up and play once in a while. Or maybe they’d go with someone a bit more adept at short. In any case, I think Pena, with his slick glove work, would be the go-to guy to fill in at short, for either a short- or long-term injury.

Left Field

With uncertainty surrounding left field heading into the season, an injury wouldn’t greatly affect matters. If Gardner gets hurt then Randy Winn would take the bulk of the at-bats. If Winn gets hurt then it’s Gardner. In either case Marcus Thames could get some more at bats against lefties while playing left. Yet this leaves the Yankees vulnerable to the other half of the statement posed in the first paragraph. What happens if Winn doesn’t recover from his poor 2009 and Thames doesn’t hit?

This is a situation where I can envision a trade. I’m not sure who they’d target, or what they’d have to surrender. Considering the state of the farm, it might be a difficult proposition. But with few options on the farm, the Yanks would have to do something. Maybe the Rockies would be willing to part with one of their many outfielders. Other than that, I’m having a difficult time seeing where they could turn.

Center Field

Over his entire career Curtis Grandrson has missed just one month on the DL, the result of a fractured middle finger in 2008. Even then it came at the end of camp, so he didn’t miss much actual time. Even if he does get hurt, Gardner slides into center field and Winn takes over in left, with Thames getting more at bats against lefties. Yet the same problem arises. What happens if Gardner, Winn, or both aren’t effective? I don’t think Colin Curtis is the answer.

Right Field

Losing Swisher would be a big blow to the Yankees’ offense. His presence at the bottom of the order makes the lineup that much longer, and to downgrade from him to Winn would lessen that effect. All considered this would be on par with losing Granderson, replacements and all. Clearly, the outfield is one area where the Yankees could face some issues if players miss time. Maybe Winn steps in adequately, but there’s no guarantee of that.

Catcher

Jorge Posada has become a bit more fragile with age. He hadn’t hit the DL in his entire career until 2008, when he was ineffective in the first half and missed the entire second half with a shoulder injury. Thankfully the shoulder held up last season, but Jorge missed a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury. While he could stay healthy for most of 2010, the Yanks can’t bank on that. So what’s the plan?

The team weathered injuries to both Posada and Jose Molina last season, using Francisco Cervelli to fill in temporarily. His backup, if you’ll remember, was Kevin Cash, so it’s not all that different this year, with Mike Rivera filling the interchangeable role of emergency catcher. A longer term injury, as in 2008, could cause more problems. It’s doubtful that the Yankees would turn to Montero here, but you never know. Perhaps they would use him in a split-time situation with Cervelli, inserting him at DH to give Johnson a break here and there. Still, I don’t think it likely.

Starting Rotation

A.J. Burnett has an injury history, though he has avoided the DL in the past two seasons. Andy Pettitte has battled through nagging issues in the last two years. Phil Hughes has yet to pitch as a starter in the majors and not get hurt. If one of these pitchers has to spend time on the DL, the Yankees will have to turn to Sergio Mitre at this point. Maybe, if it happens early in the season, they’d insert Chamberlain into the rotation, but given the comments by Dave Eiland and Billy Eppler, I’m not so certain. Al Aceves seems more likely at this point.

If Aceves and Mitre don’t find success in the rotation the Yankees could look to their AAA roster for help. Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister, and Jason Hirsh would likely be the top choices. The hope, of course, is that it never gets to that point. Even so, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see one of those three make a few starts for the Yanks this season.

Bullpen

Thankfully, the Yankees are pretty deep in relief pitching. Mark Melancon remains a top bullpen prospect despite shaky performances in 2009. Joe Girardi‘s love of lefties means that Boone Logan will likely be an early bullpen replacement, perhaps breaking camp with the team due to Aceves’s sore back. Royce Ring also made a case this spring. Beyond them the Yankees have a number of options, including Romulo Sanchez. The bullpen is the one area where I’m not worried about injuries or ineffectiveness. There are plenty of replacement options.

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2010 Season Preview: The Front Office
AL East Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
  • Spaceman.Spiff

    If Teix goes down, we could always shop Mitre around the league for a Smoak-type bat.

    /Gammons’d

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Depth: ridiculous.

  • Ted Nelson

    Great piece. Love the premise. Important to consider.

  • jim p

    Bullpen. Left the (and it hurts to type this) “Mo goes down” option off the list.

    • Ted Nelson

      If most other teams had an arm like Joba in their pen, I think he’d already be their closer. No idea how Joba would do in the 9th, but he’s got to be one of the top young closer prospects in baseball. Would hate to see Mo get hurt, but getting a couple weeks this season to test-drive Joba as a closer wouldn’t be the worst thing.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        If most other teams had an arm like Joba in their pen, I think he’d already be their closer they’d move him out of the pen and put him in their rotation.

        Fixed.

        • Jackson

          B-Jobbers has this right all along, it is hard to accept I see. Joba = Future Closer.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

            Mmmmmm… I just burned my tongue.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    I can Mitre and/or Ace getting a shot if a guy misses a few weeks. If a starter goes down for the year in April/May/June, do you think they try Nova or Z-Mac as a longer term solution?

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    No team goes into the season without planning for the worst at each position.

    Bullshit!

    Sincerely,
    Omar Minaya

    • J.R.

      It’s funny because it’s true.

  • Bo

    They’ll be on the market for a bat to play Lf come summer.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Due to injury?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        (I know where you’re going with this… well played.)

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      they’ll be on the market for a starting pitcher to play starting pitcher come summer

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

        and honestly, how well could a bat play LF? They’re fast but I doubt they can catch very well, they can’t throw, and they can’t hit. Really not worth it, no matter how marginal the risk is, IMO. Plus they’d be useless in day games.

        • Thomas

          IETC

        • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

          Wasn’t someone saying earlier this off-season that we could place a glove in left field and it would have more range than Damon?

          :-)

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            damn! i have to refresh before i make comments :(

            • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

              Have a refreshing Pinstripe DFA IPA, on me!

              (slides a bottle down the bartop to the King)

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          who else couldnt catch very well and wouldnt throw for crap?

          Johnny Damon.

          Also, i have a bird on my head, your argument is invalid.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    If Aceves and Mitre don’t find success in the rotation the Yankees could look to their AAA roster for help. Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister, and Jason Hirsh would likely be the top choices.

    So we have any statements from the braintrust that would shed light on what the order would be? My hunch is it’s

    6. Aceves
    7. Mitre
    8. Nova (since he’s on the 40-man already)
    9. Hirsh
    10. Z-Mac

    Any confirmation or disagreement?

    • Rick in Boston

      I’d flip-flop Mitre and Ace, largely because Girardi seems to view Aceves as Ramiro Mendoza, Jr.

      If something happens and Pettitte, for example, misses 15 days, I think it’ll be easier to move Mitre in for three starts than Ace and then bring Sanchez up from Scranton to play long-man.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Yeah, but doesn’t Girardi viewing Ace as Mendoza Jr. (a characterization I agree with and have been pimping for a while) mean he stays in front of Mitre in the pecking order?

        I mean, that’s the heart of his value (and what made Mendoza valuable). He’s got a rubber arm and can make a short relief high-leverage appearance and then throw a spot start a few days later. I’d imagine that while Joe’s high on both of them, he’d turn to Aceves first (since he’s, you know, better).

        JMHO.

        (Of course, if Ace’s recurring back issue is a persistent problem and they think it’s workload related, maybe they make him a short-reliever on a semi-permanent basis… whatevs.)

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Garcia. BBOOOOOMMMMM! That just blew your min……wait. What? That boom was his ulnar ligament? Nevermind. Nothing to see here.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        I’d lock (and I mean L-O-C-K) Garcia into a routine this year at one level to see if he can make it through the season injury free. I bet he gets a cup of coffee with the big league club in September and that’s it.

        • Rick in Boston

          I’m not sure if they’ll allow Garcia to pitch from inside a plastic bubble.

    • Thomas

      That sounds logical to me. The only possible changes I’d think of would be:

      1. Flipping Aceves and Mitre – this depend on how stretched out each one is.

      2. Flipping Hirsch and Nova – depends on if the Yankees have an empty 40 man space at the time of the injury (presently they do) and if they would rather let Nova get more AAA experience than bringing him up to the majors. Hirsch is probably is developed as he will be.

      Of course the other key thing for pitching is how long the injured player is out. Is it a spot start or two? Or is it a season ending/multiple month injury?

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Short term or long term though? We know Mitre won’t be great over 20 starts. We don’t know what Nova/Z-Mac/Hirsh would do given 20 starts ( and I agree on the Ace/Mendoza comp). If it’s long term, do they take a chance at the upside of a younger guy or just run Mitre out there? I’m fine with Mitre to fill in for 3-4 starts, but if a long term injury, give me the unknown with more upside.

  • Greg G.

    I just wanted to comment that the photo chosen for this post caused my blood pressure to go up a few ticks.

    I’m fine now, thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      If your erection lasts more than 4 hours, please contact your physician.

      • http://deleted Greg G.

        Priapism. Look it up.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          No need to, way ahead of you.

          • http://deleted Greg G.

            ICWUDT

      • JohnC

        If it takes you more than 4 hours to get an erection, please contact your physician.

        • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

          If it takes you more than 4 hours to get an erection, please contact your physician might as well kill yourself.

          FTFY!

      • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

        My favorite is “Ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough for sex”.

        And if he answers “No”?

        “Ask your doctor what the least painful method of suicide is.”

        • J.R.

          Having sex until you die. That’s clearly the only answer.

          • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

            Agreed! ;-)

            “Spawn ’til you Die!”

    • thurdonpaul

      LOL, I felt that way too. My first reaction was, oh noooo, who got carted away by ambulance. Very good post, Joe.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    If we have a long-term injury to Swisher or Gardner/Winn/Thames, I wonder at what point we’d consider the two big corner OF bats left on the market (Dye and Dukes), even though we’ve basically publicly disavowed any interest in them.

    (Provided they’re still on the market, of course.)

    • Rick in Boston

      It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than paying a premium on the trade market.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Yezzur.

    • bexarama

      have there been any rumors about any teams interested in Dukes?

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        california state penal league

        • Rick in Boston

          Hmm…he won’t have to wear a hat or sleeves.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        If you like your rumors comically vague, then Sucka Got No Juice is your man:

        http://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenth.....1045222291

        • bexarama

          thanks.

          It probably is good for those teams to be relatively quiet. Dukes ain’t a bad player, but he’s bad publicity.

      • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

        Dukes, anyone?

        Hello?

        http://www.instantcrickets.com

    • Bo

      It’s funny to think that some Yankee fans still think this FO would ever in a million yrs touch a player like Dukes.

      Have you not watched Cashman n Co operate???

      Almost ridiculous

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

        what makes you say that? I think they currently view Dukes as entirely unnecessary, so they aren’t going to bother taking on the PR risk, but if they need a bat for LF this summer, as you seem to be completely convinced they will (despite having what is clearly baseball’s best offense already), then his could very well be the best one out there.

        • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

          Not supporting Bo here, but last week Jack Curry said on YES that he had spoken to the brass and they were dead set against Dukes.
          Curry then stated it was because of Dukes’ personal issues, though he didn’t say whether the brass said that, or whether it was his own assessment, reading between the lines..

          • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

            H/T: Bexy

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

            I completely agree with that assessment. But that’s because I don’t think the yankees have any significant needs offensively. Bo does. I know that if I felt the yankees needed a better bat in LF, I’d look very hard at Dukes, and I’d bet that the yankees would, too. Perhaps they wouldn’t sign him, but they’d certainly consider him. But of course, the yankees don’t think they have any significant offensive needs either, so they’re not looking at him. That’s all I was saying.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

              And furthermore, I know that Curry quoted the braintrust said they have no interest in Dukes and won’t pursue him due to makeup concerns. I get that and get their position.

              But that position is the position of today, when they still have Granderson/Swisher/Gardner/Winn/Thames all healthy and productive. My only question was, would that position of disinterest in Dukes (or Dye) change if one or more of those players got hurt or struggled and the prospective in-house OF production waned?

              That seems like a fair question that reasonable, intelligent, evenhanded, thoughtful adults (i.e. not SBGL) could discuss.

              • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

                OK, that’s a differnet question, then. The distinction wasn’t made in the original post.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                  (goes back and looks at original post)

                  Yeah… it kinda was, though.

                • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

                  (shrugs)
                  OK, re-reading it, maybe it was…

                  It’s kinda moot, though; we have no way of knowing whether Curry’s impression was “NO WAY the Yanks are EVER overlooking Dukes’ transgressions”, or “the Yanks see no need to make an uncomfortable decision now, but would consider it down the road if the need is there”.

                  Having seen the original transmission, which IIRC you didn’t…and having gone back and watched it again via DVR when Bexy pointed out that I missed something, though, I got the strong impression that it was the former, rather than the latter.

                  I’m not going to insist on the point, though.

                • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

                  And I agree it’s worthy of discussion. I was just trying to get the information out, really. I should’ve realized pete would know already.

  • H.W. Plainview

    Yankees are better off than a lot of teams in terms of plugging holes in the short term if needed.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      TWSS

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

    solid. too solid.

    /bringing it back’d

  • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

    Nick Swisher is the backup at each position.

    Even his own.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Nick Swisher plays by his own rules, nobody else’s, not even his own.

    • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

      Nick Swisher is more awesome than me (if barely).

      http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....ent-809124