Can’t find a Betemit

Winter Meetings Day One Chat
Jones still the best bet for Yanks
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty)

With the full 2011 starting nine returning in 2012, the Yankees have few holes to fill on the offensive side of the ledger. While many of us expect them to still add at least one pitcher via free agency or trade, the only jobs on the team that are actually open are the ones the Yankees generally spend the least amount of time on: the reserves.

However, the bench picture finally changed last offseason. After years of heading into a given season with whatever on the bench and waiting until the trade deadline to fill their needs, the Yankees went into 2011 having made what turned out to be two savvy veteran bench signings in Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez. As previously noted in this space, Jones had one of the best part-time seasons of any Yankee of the last 10 years, and we’ve heard all winter that the team is interested in another go-round. The Yankees have also expressed interest in bringing Chavez back as well, and while Chavez was an inspired pick-up, hitting .303/.410/.424 through May 5, his bat pretty much died after returning from his foot injury, with a .254/.295/.354 line over his final 139 PAs.

I’d be fine with giving Chavez another go of it, primarily due to how stellar his glovework has remained, but between his post-injury ineffectiveness and extreme brittleness, it could behoove the Yankees to pursue more of a sure thing (at least, offensively) for the backup infielder/Alex Rodriguez caddy role. Enter Wilson Betemit.

Now, for the record, I’m just as surprised as you are that I’m even considering a Betemit reunion with the Yankees. To put it gently, I was not exactly Betemit’s biggest fan during his brief pinstripe tenure, which saw him hit .226/.278/.417 (78 wRC+) in 92 PAs in half of the 2007 season, and .265/.289/.429 (84 wRC+) in 198 PAs in 2008, before Brian Cashman pulled off one of the more memorable swindles of all time in dumping the then-execrable Betemit for Nick Swisher prior to the 2009 season.

However, something bizarre happened after that deal. Despite being so bad as a White Sock (52 wRC+ in 50 April PAs) that he got demoted to AAA for the remainder of the 2009 season, he then hooked on with the Royals in 2010 and absolutely raked, putting up a .385 wOBA over 315 PAs. Betemit somehow completely defied his career-long ineffectiveness against lefties ( .299 wOBA, 79 wRC+) that season and put up a .402 wOBA against southpaws, against a .378 mark against righties.

In 2011, Betemit fell somewhat back down to earth, though still recording a respectable campaign as he split time with both the Royals and Yankee-beating Tigers in a season that saw him hit to a .340 wOBA (112 wRC+) in 359 PAs. Betemit also returned to his righty-hitting/useless-against-lefties ways, hitting northpaws to the tune of a 128 wRC+ and vanishing against lefties (64 wRC+).

Given his righty-mashing abilities (an area in which the Yankees could use a slight upgrade in), Betemit would seem to fit in seamlessly as the 2012 version of Eric Chavez, assuming that he’d be willing to sign as a reserve. For what it’s worth, Bill James forecasts more regression for Betemit in the form of a still-plenty-acceptable-for-a-reserve .331 wOBA, while SG’s CAIRO — typically far more pessimistic than James — actually likes him quite a bit more, at a .345 wOBA.

Of course, coming off two above-average campaigns likely means that some team out there may be willing to give Betemit a shot as their starting third baseman. However, it’s not entirely clear how any teams are viewing Betemit let alone what his status is, as there inexplicably doesn’t appear to be any information on the Internet regarding whether Detroit offered the Type B free agent arbitration and if so, whether Betemit planned to accept.

Any team considering Betemit no doubt knows that he’s a butcher with the glove, and so that could limit his starting opportunities and thusly perhaps make him a viable pursuit for the Yankees. I’ve been scouring the free agent ranks in hopes of finding potential diamonds-in-the-rough, but there really aren’t a ton of appealing options out there. As noted in that above-linked Jones post, I’ve endorsed the idea of pursuing free agent Reed Johnson or trading for the O’s Nolan Reimold should the Yankees not be able to come to an agreement with Andruw Jones, and other potential outfield options could include Johnny Gomes or maybe a trade for a different Oriole in Luke Scott, although the chances of dealing with Baltimore are quite slim.

As far as reserve infielders go, when you see names like Orlando Cabrera, Jerry Hairston Jr. (who actually would be a worthwhile pursuit, though it sounds like he may go back to Milwaukee), Edgar Renteria and Mark DeRosa, the idea of a reunion with Wilson Betemit becomes that much more appealing, so long as he’s forbidden from hitting from the right side. And the combination of the righty-bashing Betemit and lefty-smashing Jones would likely give the Yankees one of the more formidable benches in baseball.

Winter Meetings Day One Chat
Jones still the best bet for Yanks
  • BaltimoreYankee

    That title is a reference to the Pearl Jam song, right?

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Yep. It was also Betemit’s at-bat music while he was with the Yanks.

    • Plank

      I was at my parents’ for Thanksgiving and I listened to my old copy of Ten on CD all the way through for the first time in probably 10 years. That thing is amazing. Other than the scratches.

  • Paul from Boston

    I don’t get the love for Chavez at all. He hit well in April, sure, then was hurt for three months, and was putrid when he returned. As for that “stellar” glove work, he’s average at best. No thanks. I’d rather they give Laird that playing time than give away $1.5 million for exactly zero fWAR.

    There aren’t a ton of decent options out there. But when the Mike Aviles of the world are floating around out there, they can find something, especially with Warren and Phelps available.

    • Ted Nelson

      You want to trade Warren and Phelps for a UTL?

    • Steve (different one)

      Chavez is “average at best” on defense simply because you said so?

      • Paul from Boston

        dWAR = 0 which equal three straight years of the same.

        UZR = 2.0 after the three seasons prior being negative.

        FRAA = 0.1 after two straight negatives.

        Shall I continue?

        • Ted Nelson

          UZR is a counting stat and Chavez only appeared in 58 games.

          However, you’re looking at insignificant samples. In 2009 he literally appeared in 8 games. 23 in 2008 and 33 in 2010. 58 in 2011.

  • Mark L

    I’ve always been a fan of Betemit’s offensive skill set, but his glove work is a cause for concern. I remember attending a Yankees spring training game against the Pirates in 2008. Betemit got fooled on a roller to third and I was close enough to actually hear Jason Giambi mutter “I can’t stand him” when he came back to the dugout.

    • T.O. Chris

      Giambi criticizing someones D is certainly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Paul from Boston

    They also need a guy to spell Jeter, not just A-Rod. I’d rather they pay Jack Wilson to be a nothing with the bat, than a guy like Betemit to be a nothing with glove. They don’t need another DH option.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Nunez will spell Jeter (and cover Chavez, if he’s back, when he gets injured).

    • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

      They have a guy to spell Jeter: Eduardo Nunez, who can also play 3rd.

      • Yazman

        Agree — why not use Nunez to back up all 3 IF slots?

  • Genghis

    They will only carry 3-4 bench players, and they can’t count on their starters playing even 140 games at short or third. They really need bench players who fill a number of needs.

  • http://none Favrest

    Rees Johnson is a great idea. He can catch the ball too. Luke Scott is crazy. He’ll never be a Yankee. Arizona is a good fit for him.

  • Ted Nelson

    Would certainly like to see them pursue him, but I have to imagine he can get more $ and PT elsewhere.

  • candyforstalin

    nick punto would be my choice for that spot.

    • Ted Nelson

      Solid option

  • IBelieveInAJ

    Why no love for Edgar Renteria. Yes, he’s old as crap, hes he’s also very inconsistent, but I honestly like him over Chavez because at least he can stay healthy.

    • Steve (different one)

      Renteria has never played an out at 3b in his 20 year professional career. Doesn’t mean he couldn’t learn it, but I’m not seeing the upside of taking that bet.

      • Ted Nelson

        Even if he can field the position, it should be possible to find a better offensive option at 3B than Renteria. Without Nunez (or for someone who has no faith in Nunez), I can see Renteria as a good option. With Nunez I don’t think Renteria is much worse than a lot of other options, but I’m not sure he’s the best and I believe he can get a better offer from a team with a real need at SS/back-up SS.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Apparently, some teams see Rentaria as an option at 3B. From MLB Trade Rumors:

        “•Teams are looking at Edgar Renteria as a multi-position utility guy, including third base, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Renteria wants to play for a contender.”

        • Steve (different one)

          Thanks for this, sounds like he’s willing to try it. That said, I think he’s a better fit for a team looking to back up the middle IFers first, whereas the Yankees see Nunez in that role.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Jorge Vasquez! I beat the Chato lover to the punch. Give him a chance.

  • Cuso

    Betemit looked God-Awful when he was waving and missing at AJ’s hook. He can’t hit anything but a meaty fastball on the inner 3rd. His defense is sub-par at best.

    Pass, thank you.

    • Ted Nelson

      Not sure how much more than that you can say for other UTL options… and even a lot of starting IF around the league.

      And for what it’s worth your one game sample size scouting report doesn’t jive with his actual results:
      Above average against the curve both of the last two seasons.
      Pretty common for hitters to thrive most against the FB. Even guys like Pujols and Bautista are far better against the FB.

    • Plank

      Don’t be a jibe talker.

  • pat

    Olive Loaf is a Betemit than this dude. And Olive Loaf is disgusting.

  • Matt DiBari

    I’ll never forget defensive replacement Wilson Betemit.

    Or pinch runner Wilson Betemit.

    Keep this man as far away from Joe Girardi as possible.

  • Larry Koestler

    For those wondering, Alexandra of Cats With Bats confirmed that the Tigers did not offer Betemit arbitration, so he is in fact a free agent.

  • Soriano Is A Liar

    It it strange if I always feel like a single player on the White/Red Sox should be referred to as a “Sok”, the same way a member of the Yankees is a Yankee? Sock just seems too correct for a team that spells their name “Sox”.