Jan
17

Plenty of low-risk options available for DH

By

The free agent market brims with left-handed hitters who could play the role of part-time DH for the Yankees. The list comprises many household names, and each could provide the Yankees with quality at-bats in a part-time role. Each is also flawed, which is pretty standard for any remaining free agent (Prince Fielder excepting). Yet that could work in the Yankees’ favor. It means the players are likely open to a part-time role, which fits the Yankees’ needs well enough. It also means that they’ll likely fit into the $1 to $2 million budget the Yankees have reportedly set for the DH spot.

Even better: Most, if not all, of these candidates could sign minor league deals. That means all the upside for virtually no risk. Here they are, in the reverse order of preference.

Nick Johnson: Many, if not most, Yankees fans will retch upon seeing this. The last go-round with Johnson ended horribly. He came to the plate just 98 times and hit for extra bases just six times. He did walk a lot, as can be expected, but that’s about all he did. Last year Johnson rehabbed in the Indians system, though he didn’t even crack a .320 OBP at AAA. He also experienced wrist issues, again, earlier in the season. If the Yankees do want to give Johnson another look, it simply has to be in addition to someone else.

Dan Johnson: We all remember the other Johnson from his bottom of the ninth heroics in Game 162 last season. Johnson apparently has a penchant for this type of hit. They do call him The Great Pumpkin, after all, because he comes around once a year and hits a big homer, usually to the Red Sox peril. Problem is, he hasn’t really hit in the majors since 2007. He does clobber AAA, having produced a .445 wOBA in 2010 and a .374 wOBA in 2011. But that apparently doesn’t help his major league performance much. Again, he’s a fine option if there’s someone else ahead of him.

Hideki Matsui: We know that the Yankees have been in contact with Matsui, but they’ve likely been in contact with many other similar players as well. As Mike noted in that brief post, Matsui’s 2011 stunk pretty badly. He was stuck in Oakland, and his slow start did not help his case. At age 38, he could be all but finished in the bigs. But on a minor league deal he could be an interesting option. After all, he did have a decent 2010 season, particularly in the second half. Return him to the familiar confines of Yankee Stadium and limit his at-bats to right-handed pitchers, and he might have one more year left in him.

J.D. Drew: There is no doubt that Drew, now age 36, is in stark decline. After putting up two phenomenal years for the Red Sox in 2008 and 2009 he’s seen his numbers drop in the last two years, and last year particularly. Drew also spent considerable time on the DL last year. A platoon DH role could help mitigate some of that injury risk, but the declining numbers, particularly in terms of power, are a bit disconcerting. He gets bumped to the mid-tier because of his name value, his batting eye, and his ability to play the outfield if necessary. The Yanks would really have to believe that they can get a quality 400 PA out of him if they were to even sign him to a minor league deal.

Casey Kotchman: Last season the Rays signed Kotchman to a minor league deal, and that worked out exceedingly well for them. In 563 PA he produced a 125 wRC+, mainly on the strength of his .378 OBP. At the same time, much of that value came from his .306 batting average, which was almost 40 points higher than his career average. As expected of a left-handed hitter, he did handle righties quite a deal better than lefties, producing a 136 wRC+ against them. But unless Kotchman turned something around for real in 2011, it’s tough to get past his career 102 wRC+ against righties.

Raul Ibanez: There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Ibanez, whose 2012 will be his age-40 season. His numbers took a big dip in 2011, particularly his walk rate. He managed to walk in just 5.7 percent of his PA, his lowest rate since 1998 (when he came to the plate just 103 times). The good news is that he’s one year removed from a pretty decent season, and even in his poor season he hit righties well enough. In 2010 he was even better, with a 116 wRC+ against righties. He’s a risk, for sure, but if the Yankees can keep Ibanez fresh he could whale quite a few homers at Yankee Stadium.

Russell Branyan: This is my official endorsement for Branyan, who is the ideal candidate for a platoon DH role. His career 120 wRC+ against righties looks attractive enough, but it’s his .259 career ISO against righties that looks the most attractive. He’ll strike out his share, but he’ll also launch quite a few bombs — we’ve already seen two mammoth homers of his at Yankee Stadium. While last year was a down year, in 2010 Branyan produced a 137 wRC+ against righties, including 19 homers and 17 doubles in 322 PA. A return to that level, minus all PA against left-handed pitching, makes for an ideal fit. He and Andruw Jones would make a powerful and cost-effective DH platoon.

Again, every player on this list is flawed, some greatly so. Clearly they’d be better off with a more sure things, such as Carlos Pena. But if they really do have a budget of $1 to $2 million for a DH, one or more of these guys might be the way to go. They all have the potential to produce decent to very good numbers against right-handed pitching, which is just what the Yankees seek. That they’d all come on minor league deals makes them even more attractive, since that eliminates almost all of the risk. If the Yankees do not find a true righty-mashing DH, they’d do well enough with a Branyan or an Ibanez.

Categories : Hot Stove League

124 Comments»

  1. Steve H says:

    I’d add Jack Cust to the list of potentials.

  2. CJ says:

    Punt the dh position? Not happening.
    Carlos Pena, prince fielder, Johnny Damon or trade. JoVa nick Johnson discussion is a waste of time.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      There is no “punting” the position. Having some flexibility at that spot is something the team is going to need moving forward. There’s no reason for that not to begin in 2012. “Doing nothing” in this case does not mean “punting.”

      That being said, out of those options, Branyan and Ibanez intrigue me as well, and the nostalgic softie who is often not rational wouldn’t say no to the fairytale Matsui goodbye. I know.

    • gc says:

      About as much of a waste of time as including Prince Fielder on your list. IT’S NOT HAPPENING.

    • MannyGeee says:

      How is Johnny Damon not a punt again?

  3. Jon G says:

    I’m more excited to see Jorge Vasquez finally get a shot than any of these. Hoping he mashes in Spring Training…

    • CJ says:

      Brian cashman traded montero to dh Dan Johnson? He will plug a solid contributor in the hole. Pineda+new dh> montero + noesi or Freddy or Hughes

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I thought Cashman traded Montero to acquire Michael Pineda.

        That equation makes zero sense as well.

        Repeated for the gazillionth time: The Yankees do not have to put an everyday DH out there to get value out of the position. That does not, and perhapsmaybe should not, preclude them from signing someone who would get significant at-bats at the position but, if the team doesn’t win the world championship next year, it won’t be because Alex/Jeter/Tex/Jones/Martin getting a rotating half day-off didn’t produce enough.

        • biggregg says:

          i disagree. we need a DH because we can’t rely on chavez (if he’s back/healthy) or, especially, nunez and his errors. we need our best defense on the field all year. arod/jet/robbie/tex thats the best all around infield in baseball.

          we’ll eventually get a DH and i’d like to see matsui come back, but i am also intrigued by russell branyan/andrew jones at DH. if russ is healthy, thats a nice rotation of bats at DH, including our infield.

  4. Mike Axisa says:

    Dan Johnson. Do it.

  5. Rod says:

    Branyan would be awesome.

  6. Mike o says:

    Mike, why does no one bring up Vladdy Guerrero? Two years ago he had a great season in a hitters ballpark at Texas. He showed regression in Baltimore but he still hi .290 with 16 bombs. In a hitters ballpark like Yankee stadium he could potentially do even better than last season. I’d take his last year line absolutely I don’t think the guy would be too expensive either..

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Correction, he had a great first half with Texas. Plus another right-handed bat and if he doesn’t get a hit, he doesn’t get on base.

      • MarkDeezNuts says:

        True, but he’s solid against righties & lefties. I’d take his .290 with no walks and leave jones as just a fourth OF. He’s the best one year option out there.

  7. Dave says:

    Not sure why it’s a given that Jones is part of DH platoon. He was already going to get those AB from Gardner and occasionally Granderson. If you make him the righty DH, those guys are going to have to face the tough lefties.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s not a given, just a nice option.

      Granderson mashed lefties last season, so we’ll have to see if he can do it again.

      Gardner still provides a lot of value with his defense and baserunning even with lesser offensive numbers against lefties.

      If the Yankees Jones in LF and DH X against LHP is of more value than Jones at DH and Gardner in LF… sure the Yankees will do it. If they’re only spending $2 million, though, the Yankees might be better off going for a platoon guy with obvious strength against RHP but a weakness against LHP that keeps his value down. Even with a Damon or Pena that would be the case…

      Outside of Prince Fielder or a major trade acquisition, what DH are the Yankees going to get who crushed LHP and RHP?

    • AJavierkei Pavagawnett says:

      Correction: Gardner sucks against righties and lefties

  8. Scott says:

    jd drew had two phenomenal seasons in boston?? We obviously have different opinions on what phenomenal means in terms of baseball ability.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Yes, one side looks at his batting average and says he sucks. Another side looks at his on abse ability, his power and defense conbiend to show that he was a really good player for two years. I assume you’re the former.

  9. JohnC says:

    Branyan was the one I endorsed thsi morning. Would love it. He’d sign for 1 mill probably. Does strike out alot but he would hit some absolute bombs, especially in the Stadium

  10. Damix says:

    Willy Mo Pena. Full circle.

  11. John says:

    I would bring back Posada over everyone you have discussed

  12. Mike says:

    I’d rather have the pitcher bat than those above options

  13. Lazy Bones Andruw Jones says:

    Swing a trade for Giambi or sign Russell Branyan.

    Pena would be great but I’d be shocked if he took a 1 year deal at the Yankees price as a part time player.

  14. Rey22 says:

    I’m on board with Russel the real muscle.

  15. Brooklyn Ed says:

    I would like a Cody Ross. A #9 hitter that could gives you 25 bombs, and also played for Girardi back in 2006. Too bad, he’s a righty! :[

  16. Plank says:

    http://www.rlyw.net/index.php/.....tero_at_dh

    This makes a pretty intriguing case for Wilson Betemit, Russell Branyan, or Raul Ibanez.

  17. Scott says:

    I’d be most interested in Raul Ibanez out of all the players mentioned. They are all very meh but that is to be expected. I’m going to hope for Johnny Damon on the cheap.

  18. I can’t remember but didn’t Branyan turn down a $30M deal a few years ago? Either way, against righties sound perfect.

  19. Bruce says:

    While he is not a left-handed bat, what about taking a flyer on Manny Ramirez? I gather that others have suggested him before but I have never seen a compelling argument against signing him for the league minimum prorated for his 50 game suspension. I think he will be motivated to stick it to the Red Sox and, if he is problematic, he can just be cut. Low risk, high upside, yes?

    • gc says:

      What makes you think he would be motivated to stick it to the Red Sox? I doubt Manny even remembers he PLAYED for the Red Sox. I certainly never thought he was as emotionally invested in the so-called rivalry like some of the other players were (schilling, pedro, posada, etc). I just think that would play zero role in any decision he makes about his playing future.

      • Rainbow Connection says:

        Such a severe and equally speculative response.

        • MannyGeee says:

          then let me recant.

          The only thing of relevence that Manny Ramirez has done since re-signing with the Dodgers for waaaaaaaaay too much money was get busted twice for PEDs.

          He’s little more than a name at this point. for that you get Branyon or Damon and at least its the devil you know.

  20. oldmanalex says:

    MANNY EFFN RAMIREZ??? lol i said it

  21. steve s says:

    Too late now but the perfect guy would have been Beltran (would have cost a little more but could have DH’d mostly and played some field to keep the DH merry-go-round sort of viable).

    • roadrider says:

      A little more? he signed for 2/$26 million. I agree he would be great but if the Baby Bosses are pinching pennies (well $1000 bills) then he wouldn’t have fit.

  22. BK2ATL says:

    Why would RAB include Nick Johnson on that list, knowing damn well that Cashman probably wouldn’t even allow his agent to even mention Johnson’s name in a conversation?

    • Scott says:

      ^^This^^

      With that said, I never want to see him wearing a yankees uniform ever again as a player!

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Why wouldn’t Cashman bring in Johnson on a minor league deal?

      • Tomm says:

        What are you serious? The guy can’t even hit at AAA. The guy is fat, slow, has no bat speed. He tries to walk because he cannot hit. The gig is up: pitchers know that you just throw it over the plate and he will pop out.

  23. Tom Zig says:

    Was Branyan hurt last year? Or did he just suck? Or was it both?

  24. Ted Nelson says:

    I’m with the people who feel Wilson Betemit should be on the list. He seems like as good an option as any of those guys.

    -Made $1 million last season.
    -At least as good a righty masher, and in most cases much better.
    -30 next season so not as much a risk of physical decline as almost all of those guys.
    -Better off as a DH… but his ability to fake 3B has some value if used very sparingly and in emergencies. If A-Rod gets hurt and Nunez implodes… or A-Rod and Jeter both get hurt simultaneously… you can turn to Betemit should a better internal option not exist.

    I think I’d take Betemit over all those guys if he’ll sign up as a DH/UTL with the Yankees.

  25. Bruce says:

    I do not think Manny would be motivated by the rivalry with the Sox. My uninformed guess is that it would be personal for him given how he exited from Boston. Even if I am wrong, I do not see the risk and I see a substantial upside.

  26. Evan3457 says:

    Not Branyan or Pena. Too many K/BB/HR guys in the lineup is bad.

    Damon, please. But he wants to play full time for 3000 hits, and he wants more than they want to pay. Too bad, really.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Too many K/BB/HR guys in the lineup is bad.

      Yeah, those guys who have a good eye and can also mash can really hurt a team.

      ::facepalm::

      • jsbrendog says:

        allow me

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  27. Donny says:

    I completely agree with the Russell endorsement. I have been saying for two years now that, despite getting a world series out of Mark (cannot understate this enough), it would have been more fiscally responsible of the Yankees to save that money and spend it elsewhere. When someone would ask me who I would replace Mark with (and I agree that question has validity because of Mark’s defense), I would alway respond with Russell Branyan.

    One could argue that after the A-Rod and Burnett contracts, Mark’s may be the next worst and could even be considered as bad as AJ’s by the time it expires. I think the lesson that Cashman has taken away from this is to not splurge on FA’s and do the type of things he has done last year and this year (i.e sign Colon/Garcia, trade for Pineda).

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      *Looking for other guy named “Mark” on the Yankees since the suggestion that Texeira be replaced with RUSSELL BRANYAN is ridiculous*

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Branyan was pretty awful last season. Could be a nice buy low candidate to see if he can turn it around on a minor league deal, but coming off a .300 wOBA season I don’t see arguing that he should be handed a starting spot… especially over one of the better 1B in baseball. And even the past two seasons Teixiera has been the 6th most valuable 1B in MLB according to fWAR.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/leade.....;players=0

      The Yankees would save a lot of money with Branyan… but they’d probably also be a much worse team. I’d rather just see them spend the money they have to get better production.

  28. Dicka24 says:

    *Rumor Alert*

    With respect to DH options, I read a rumor on the net that the Yanks were discussing a potential Phil Hughes for Billy Butler deal with the Royals. Just an internet rumor, so apply lots of salt please.

    • 100% totally made up. Please do not spread rumors of this ilk.

    • GardnergoesYardner says:

      I heard that too, but I don’t think Cashman has motivation to deal Hughes right now. He’d be selling very low on him and besides, the production Butler could provide is probably worth more than just Hughes. We’re better off keeping Hughes for the pen or fifth spot, and signing a low cost DH.

    • pat says:

      Sign me up for this imaginary trade scenario, plz.

    • JJ says:

      I saw this as well. I think it would be a great trade for us. People need to really stop expecting anything of substance from Hughes going forward. While I’d love to be pleasantly surprised, he’s only really had 2 great months as a starter. The rest have all been either average, below average, or well below average.

      Butler is a great all around hitter, and would fit perfect in our lineup.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      If he’ll sign with the Yankees as a DH on a one or two year deal I’d just sign Pena instead of trading for Butler and then paying him $8 mill/$8 mill/$12 mill.

      • JJ says:

        I’d like Pena too but I’m very skeptical about him signing with us. I think he’ll receiver better offers than what Cashman will ultimately offer him.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Yeah, we’ll have to see.

          I only really bring up Pena because it’s fairly similar money without having to give up Hughes or whatever it would take to land Butler. If the Yankees are just going to use Hughes in relief from now on… maybe this is the best use of him. If they feel pretty good about him competing for the 5th starter spot, though, or it takes more than Hughes to get Butler… I might also prefer a Wilson Betemit or Johnny Damon or whoever instead of Butler. He’s a solid player and I wouldn’t be upset at acquiring him, just not sure if it’s the best value of the available options.

    • MarkDeezNuts says:

      Do that in second. No way the royals do that. Butler is a great hitter

  29. Peter R says:

    I’ll ride the Bran-wagon with ya Joe.

  30. ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa says:

    Off the topic Jd Drew doesn’t smile.

    • Tom Zig says:

      JD Drew hates baseball more than Adam Dunn

      • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa says:

        But does he hate baseball more than AJ Piersysnki (probably butchered the spelling) hates people in general?

    • Rainbow Connection says:

      He sucks because he doesn’t fist pump after hitting a double.

      - Bill Simmons

      • Klemy says:

        Honestly, there really just needs to be a “fist pump scale” as a measure of all players rather than silly things, like WAR.

        “He had a 5 WAR season in 2011.”
        “Yeah? Well, he was only a -1 on the fist pump scale.”
        “Damn. That guy is useless.”

        • GardnergoesYardner says:

          On the flip side, Cervelli would be taking home MVP honors. The writers would be swayed by his underdog status (hated by Salty for being Latino)

  31. Mike HC says:

    It is nice to see the ease and choice there is when it comes to picking up DH’s. All of these guys are proven, professional hitters, and while they are all extremely limited, they all cost basically nothing. The Yanks have put themselves in great position.

    I would say, why not bring back Matsui or Damon if you can’t get Pena.

  32. Kiko Jones says:

    Damon or Peña…Nick Johnson? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

  33. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    JD Drew playing for the Yankees would cause Curt Schilling to have a brain aneurysm of hate, so therefor I full endorse a “JD for DH” campaign.

  34. JJ says:

    I realize Kotchman’s entire career has been rather underwhelming, but I think he should get more play (especially when considered in this above group). He isn’t going to provide much power, but he had a productive season and I think he would fit well in this lineup. We don’t really need another power hitter who swings for the fences, a solid, get on base guy would go a long way.

    Also JD Drew was absolutely horrid last year. If you think he could replicate his ’09 or even his ’10 season, then it would make sense, but I just don’t see that happening.

  35. Kevin says:

    Jack Cust. Huge OBP guy.

  36. I Live In My Mom's Basement says:

    Honestly, Posada as a left-handed platoon guy only would be one of the better choices. Jusy don’t let him hit righ-handed.

  37. Jim says:

    JD Drew phenomenal in 2008? Come on. He played in 109 games.

  38. Soriano Is A Liar says:

    Ugh, news just broke that V-mart is injured, Tigers will probably be in now on candidates like Pena

  39. sandy g says:

    no one has picked up on the montaro trade as it will have a good effect on the yankee roster.before the montero trade the yankees were going to carry 3 catchers now cashman said it will probably be only 2 which will free up a spot on the roster for a extra bench player.martin,cervelli,teixeira,cano,jeter,arod.nunez,jones,gardner,granderson,swisher.room for 2 players 1 inf and 1 of or 2 of.i believe the two extra players will be brandon laird and russell branyan unless the yankees make the billy butler trade,which i would prefer.

    • Klemy says:

      “the Billy Butler trade”? Which one? The one that someone made up, but doesn’t really exist as far as the teams go? :)

  40. mike_h says:

    what about Marcus Thames?

    • Tom Zig says:

      We have Andruw Jones for the same purpose that Marcus Thames would serve. Except that Thames is a statue in the field.

  41. J. Scott says:

    ESPN Radio reporting the Yankees have signed Joba and DRob to one-year contracts, thus avoiding arbitration.

    Since Betemit hit poorly during his previous stint in NY, I would be reluctant to give him a second bite at the Apple. I might (just might) be willing to reconsider IF there’s a weight clause involved and he actually comes back in shape.

    The problem (or “problem”) with spending significant resources, whether $ or talent, in going after Pena or Butler, is that you’re still left with “The Montero Cunumdrum”. There are still going to be roughly 40-50 games where they’re going to want to cycle various non-Pena/Butler options through the DH slot.

    • JFish says:

      I agree completely with this. As much as I’d love to see Billy Butler on the Yankees, he needs to play 150+ if they sign him. That certainly means no rotating DH thing. Butler just isn’t a great fit.

  42. Peter North says:

    Cashman will either do some ninja-stuff that none of us see coming or just end up signing Johnny Damon for peanuts 1 week before ST.

  43. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    Branyan because he can hit it out of the Grand Canyon which makes Yankee Stadium real small. Every time this guy plays against the Yankees I see one of the longest HRs. everrr.

  44. MattG says:

    Allow me to say it again here, as last time it got no attention. The Yankees do not need a platoon DH, they need a full-time DH. A platoon DH means Gardner plays vs lefties, which is not ideal.

    I understand the Yankees will not spend the money for a full-time DH. But Andruw should be thought of as Gardner’s platoon LF, not the platoon DH. If they can carry Maxwell and this platoon DH, maybe that can work.

  45. Cross777 says:

    Why not Posada?? Seeing, even the thought of Nick Johnson’s name makes me ill. Why sign an over the hill washup, when we already have one, who can handle NY and maybe have a bounce back year.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      If he wasn’t retired and were willing to take a tiny deal, I also might sign Posada before some of the names being thrown around. His baserunning is beyond awful, but at the stadium and against RHP he was solid last season.

      .373 wOBA at home vs. .233 wOBA road
      .353 wOBA RHP vs. .131 wOBA LHP

      There might be a better use of the roster spot, but there are almost certainly worse uses.

  46. Reggie C. says:

    With news breaking that Vmart may have suffered a torn ACL , the Tigers might pluck Pena from the availability board. There might be some movement now with DHs finding homes.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      They might just re-sign Betemit too. He’ll probably give them similar production a lot cheaper, and they’ve already got a $92 million payroll.

  47. emcee says:

    Now that Victor Martinez is out for most or all of the season, the DH market may heat up a little.

  48. Favrest says:

    I like Russell Branyon. I think overall he’s matured as a hitter. Move him to a hitter’s park, and he could be a steal.

  49. CJ says:

    DH will be someone better than Seth smith who was traded yesterday for peanuts. Perfect platoon hitter can play OF athletic and cheap. Cashman passed. Does that indicate he’s looking at the russel branyan Dan Johnson types?

  50. Charles says:

    I’d love to see either Matsui/Damon resign, we could limit their ABs to only right handers/occasional lefty if the numbers match up, this would allow Jones to continue to face lefties and continue to rotate DH for guys that need the day off.

    Plus imagine if Matsui makes the team along with Okajima/Kuroda, the PR would be pretty awesome :)

  51. Pasqua says:

    Teahen got released today, so the Jays are eating the $5.5 million. I know it’s been established that he’s pretty crappy, but if you go by the “Minor League Deals Are Always Okay” theory…why the hell not?

  52. Tomm says:

    Nick “no tools” Johnson? I remember that Brian Cashman said he would have been a 15 million dollar player if he was healthy. Well, he’s healthy. And he’s worth nothing, not 15 cents. Bat speed is important. Especially for a fat guy who has no real strength.

  53. nycsportzfan says:

    Casey Kotchmans the way to go obviously as the guy hit over 300last yr and he could spell Tex and let Tex DH a few additonal times without giving up anything defensively.. I think Kotchman could be a great bench bat as well.. I would take a shot on him

  54. Adolf Oliver Nipple says:

    i like branyan and drew

  55. Tyrone Sharpton says:

    I hope and pray that New York gives Walter o Dimitri Young an opportunity on this team. Those two have light powers. Black Babe Ruths

  56. Ken says:

    I’d be very surprised if Matsui was willing to sign a minor-league deal.

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