Doing the DH shuffleBy
Since Nick Johnson hit the disabled list with a sore wrist last weekend in Boston, the Yankees have had the luxury of an open designated hitter spot. Never one to pass up an opportunity to mix-and-match, Joe Girardi has done just that, and the Yankees have used five different DHs in as many days. I’m beginning to think, however, that the team could use some stability at this offensive spot.
As we know, the Yankees are an old team. The left side of the infield features one guy who will turn 36 this year and another 35. Their catcher is a sprightly 38 and often runs as though he’s 83. Getting these guys some days off becomes an important consideration for Joe Girardi, and to that end, since Johnson left Friday’s game, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Marcus Thames, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have, in that order, held down the DH spot.
On the surface, it’s tough to bemoan these moves, but these lineup changes come at a price. With these guys DHing, we’ve seen both Ramiro Peña and Francisco Cervelli appear in three of the last five Yankee games, and while Cervelli is hitting well in the early going, neither player can caddy offensively for those he is tasked with replacing in the lineup. For what it’s worth, Ramiro Peña is hitting .138/.188/.172 in his 33 plate appearances with a WAR of -0.2 this year after hitting just .255/.315/.320 through parts of five years in the minors.
In the early going, at least, the Yankees had to deal with some nicks and bruises, and to that end, Girardi made good use of Nick Johnson’s absence. Robinson Cano took a fastball off the knee on Friday and played as the DH on Saturday. Jorge Posada sat out for four days nursing a sore calf before DHing on Sunday. But beyond that, Girardi needs to find a better solution.
Over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday afternoon, Christina Kahrl, in a subscriber-only piece, took the Yankees to task for getting sloppy with their roster and, in particular, the DH spot. She questions if “using the absence of a regular DH to feed additional playing time to Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli (and [Marcus] Thames too)” is “really a good idea.”
Is that really such a good idea? It’s a way to keep the benchies fresh, of course, and it gives lineup regulars partial days off. Those are nice things to do if you’re talking about a temporary fix and a temporary absence. That’s probably not the scenario the Yankees are in, however. Losing Johnson until the end of the month—at least, given his horrendous track record—on top of losing Curtis Granderson makes this a situation where courtesy starts for Ramiro Pena in a lineup already stuck with Randy Winn shouldn’t fly. And no, Greg Golson is not an answer, at least not to a question you need to ask.
Instead, sorting out who should be the Yankees’ DH really ought to involve someone like Miranda now, and perhaps Jesus Montero eventually. Montero’s future still seems to be someplace other than behind the plate, but he’s not hitting much in Scranton; it’s understandable to not want to advance his timetable any until his bat starts setting the clock. With Miranda, there is no such consideration: the 27ish-year-old Cuban defector’s already on the 40-man, and the poor serf’s now in his third spin in Scranton—I’m sure it’s a nice enough place, but it’s probably not the paradise you defect from Castroland to achieve. Given his (questionable) age, Miranda has no future outside if not one in the present, and he’s a nice enough patch in that he has lefty power and some patience.
As the Yankees are amidst a stretch of the schedule where they are forced to play 27 innings of baseball within 27 hours, the team has tried to get creative with its roster flexibility. Brian Cashman and Girardi had to face the reality of back-to-back starts by Sergio Mitre and Javier Vazquez a few days after losing Alfredo Aceves, the team’s swing man in the bullpen, and a few days after a rain delay pushed the pen into 4+ innings of service on Saturday.
Yet, with Cano back on the field and Jorge seemingly healthy, the team has kept Kevin Russo around for bench decoration and have let Ivan Nova idle in the pen with a “break glass in case of emergency” sign taped around his neck. Now that this stretch of games has passed, the team should call up Miranda and let him DH against right-handers until Johnson’s back. Unless the club wants to commit to using Cervelli as an everyday catcher and Posada as the DH, Miranda is the guy to use unless he absolutely can’t hit. Ramiro Peña, 23rd man, is a solid defensive backup who just shouldn’t be getting too many ABs with better options in the wings.