Feb
21

Yankees roster flexibility going forward

By

In the mid-00s the Yankees frequently fielded inflexible teams. Led by expensive veterans, they typically had set players in each of the nine lineup spots, with little room for platooning or pinch-hitting. That made it tough to sign bench players, leaving the Yankees without much depth. Those times have clearly changed.

With some veterans needing extra days off, and with platoon-able players at some positions, the Yankees of late have taken advantage of those bench spots. They’ve filled them with guys who can hit, and guys who can run. That comes in handy not only when handling the eight players in the field, but also the DH spot. Best of all, the Yankees still have some room to maneuver with the final bench spot.

Raul Ibanez will likely get most of his playing time as the DH against right-handed pitching. Since the Yankees faced a righty starter roughly twice as often as they did a lefty starter, this could constitute a significant number of plate appearances. In fact, against righties the Yankees are pretty well set one through nine. When a lefty comes in, they still have Jones to pinch hit.

Andruw Jones will play a hybrid role. He signed with the Yankees for less money than other teams offered, so it stands to reason that he expects more playing time. Chances are he’ll start every game against left-handed pitching, whether in the DH spot or in left field, giving Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson a day off.

Eduardo Nunez‘s role will involve subbing for all three infielders when they need time off. The Yankees have talked about using Nunez more often, though, perhaps spelling Alex Rodriguez on some days, while A-Rod DHs. That could come against left-handed pitchers, perhaps on days that Jones subs for Gardner in left field. That would certainly help fill the remaining DH at-bats against left-handed pitching.

With these three shuffling playing time, the Yankees will have filled a lot of at-bats — and innings in the field. After counting Francisco Cervelli as the backup catcher, the Yankees still have one bench spot left. That could go to either:

Eric Chavez, with whom the Yankees have been speaking, could return to his role from last year. That would involve him spelling A-Rod at third from time to time, and perhaps taking reps at first when Mark Teixeira takes a rare day off. Chances are the Yankees would want to use Chavez primarily against right-handed pitching, in order to maximize his value at the plate. Those reps at third would come best when A-Rod needs a full day off, rather than a half day (since Ibanez figures to be DHing against RHP).

Bill Hall, whom the Yankees signed to a minor league deal, is a bit more flexible than Chavez, since he can play the outfield in addition to third base. He’s probably not playable at shortstop or second base at this point, but he does at least have experience there. He’s right-handed, so he could more cleanly spell A-Rod, even when A-Rod is taking a half day off to DH.

The crazy thing is that the Yankees could conceivably take both Chavez and Hall, if they were so inclined. We always work on the assumption that they will carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players, but the pitching staff really only needs 11 pitchers — especially if Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia is there to absorb innings as a multi-inning reliever. They probably won’t do this, though; they could use that final roster spot on Clay Rapada or Cesar Cabral, giving them a second lefty in the pen. There is also the issue of finding enough at-bats for a fifth bench player. Chances are, they’ll be able to find bullpen innings a bit more easily.

Still, the Yankees clearly have options this spring. The baseball ops department has done a good job of identifying the team’s strengths and augmenting them. The Yankees now have flexibility on the roster. They can give guys rest without missing too much. That’s in stark contrast to the teams of the mid-00s, which featured veterans and superstars in the lineup, but nary a substitute on the bench. They Yankees might not have a superstar at every position, but they’re pretty well set up to hand out at-bats to capable hitters.

Categories : Bench
  • Patrick

    With the signing of Ibanez, is Russell Branyan just wasting his time?

    • DSFC

      I’d wait and see what Ibanez shows before deeming Branyan a no-hope case. Ibanez looked 100% cooked last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show nothing. Even against righties he put up no better than .256/.307/.440.

      • fin

        It seems hes pretty close to as cooked as you can be as far as the Yankees go. However, he will be trying out for the rest of the league during ST. I cant see the Yankees cutting Ibanez out of spring training and eating yet another million dollars of contract. It seems Ibanez will have until the trade deadline to prove himself.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Disagree, although I wouldn’t blame Branyan for trying his luck elsewhere if he doesn’t make the team. If Ibanez begins to resemble say, Randy Winn’s cup of coffee in pinstripes, I don’t see what would stop the team from cutting ties earlier than mid-season. Maybe its worth it for Branyan to hang around AAA until June if he really wants to wear the pinstripes that badly.

          • fin

            I just think its too hard to tell whos done in spring training for them to cut Ibanez. IF hes so bad that, he shows hes done during ST, without a shadow of a doubt and Branyon shows hes got something left, well then ya, I guess they go with Branyone, I just dont see that being very likely at all. I think it would be more likely for Branyon to make the team off of an injury than Ibanez ST performance.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I think Ibanez would need to show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he cannot play on an MLB team in any capacity, in order to be cut before the season starts, and that something like that would likely signal retirement for a player.

              I wasn’t referring to before the season starts, though. Randy Winn was released in mid-May, if my memory serves correctly. If Ibanez looks as terribly as Winn did at that time, I’m not seeing what stops the team from cutting its ties.

              • fin

                I dont think anything would stop them from cutting ties at that pt. My point was only that they wouldnt do it in ST. Not to mention Branyon probably wouldnt be an option at the point either as he would be in some one elses system.

              • Ted Nelson

                “I think Ibanez would need to show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he cannot play on an MLB team in any capacity”

                Didn’t he already do that last year? Kidding… obviously Branyan is in the same boat there.

      • Needed Pitching

        which is still about league average, and was much better than Branyan

        I think Branyan still might have a shot, but he would have to be great and have Ibanez look awful in spring training (or get hurt) to make the team

        • Monterowasdinero

          Ibanez is on the team even if he looks awful. It is the veteran 1.1M advantage. Only injury will prevent him playing for us in Tampa on opening weekend.

          • Needed Pitching

            If he was horrible and Branyan looked great, I really don’t think 1.1M will get in the way of fielding the best possible team

            The spread between Branyan’s performance and Ibanez’ performance would likely have to be huge though

            • Robinson Tilapia

              As Monteroisdineroinspaceneedle said, though, that’s likely to not make a difference on Opening Day. He’d have to look like complete toast to lose the job to a guy on an MiLB contract.

              • Monterowasdinero

                I like it! The Mariners went out to sea and landed a big Tilapia this off season!

              • Needed Pitching

                “He’d have to look like complete toast to lose the job to a guy on an MiLB contract.”

                like I said, the performance difference would have to be huge, especially since Branyan doesn’t really give the Yankees the positional flexibility they seem to want

                I would think Branyan’s chances of makeing the team without being an injury replacement are probably less than 10%, but I think the chance is there (especially since I think there is definitely a chance Ibanez looks like complete toast)

      • DM

        His hope is a major injury coupled with a great ST. And when/if Chavez signs his slimmest of chances gets even slimmer.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    The Yankees as Joe has indicated have done a good job identifying needs for this team. Also the players signed will play according to their strengths which should provide for a better result from the platoon player. The Yanks have identified players who will accept their roles on the team. This improves chemistry that magic word which many believe is evident when winning occurs. I’m not going there.

    As far as Chavez, he might be overkill. Loading up with another lefty for those moments during the season for a pinch hitter or resting Arod or Teix. I would like to see Hall or Laird get the spot. Laird because he’s young and can catch and put the bat on the ball. Hall has the flexibility at third, OF and running ability. Also, he’s shown in the past he can play for a extended period without being to exposed. But all in all the Yanks are in a good spot.

  • Raza

    In other random and off-topic news, A-Rod is dating Torrie Wilson.

  • Jake

    I get that roster flexibility is important, and has been often neglected by the Yankees. But I’m not sure guys like Ibanez, Nunez, Hall, etc. are really illustrative of roster flexibility. These are all players on the margins, some of whom are useful, some of whom might not be. I think true flexibility means a relative lack of long-term, expensive, cumbersome contracts, especially to players past their peak. And this is clearly a weakness, not a strength, for the Yankees right now.

    You could easily argue that a lack of roster flexibility just forced the Yankees to trade their best hitting prospect in a generation, as they need to keep the DH spot open for aging players like Arod and Jeter. In an ideal world, they would have had the flexibility to make room for Montero’s bat, even if he couldn’t catch.

    • Monterowasdinero

      +1

      Darvish/Montero would have been nice but we must move on with our 42M left side infield.

      • fin

        If we want to stick with blaming current players for causing Montero to be traded away. Wouldnt Hughes, Joba and Burnett be the places to look? If those guys were top of the rotation starters like they were suppose to be, I’m sure the Yankees would have had no issues finding Montero ab’s. I know everyone hates the a-rod and jeter contracts, it just seems kinda short sighted to blame those failures for the need to trade Montero. If anything those contracts would make the need for Montero more important, and they might need a DH to hit in the near future to make up for the lack of production those guys have while playing the field or getting more full days off. While A-rod may one day be a full time DH that seems to be a few years away and something that the Yankees could have takled when the time comes.

      • Havok9120

        Yes, because ARod and Jeter should have prevented an entire generation of pitching prospects from imploding.

        I get what you’re saying about he not having a clear role on the team going forward since we’ll almost certainly need the DH spot for the Old Dudes, but the dearth of high-end MLB-ready pitching had at least as much and probably far more to do with the equation than the clogged lineup did.

    • DM

      I don’t know if it literally forced them since there were issues about Montero’s attitude that might have contributed to the decision as well. But you’re right if you’re saying he didn’t fit with this current club due to their veterans as well as Montero’s inability to play defense (and him being a right-handed hitter didn’t help either). I don’t see how Montero would’ve gotten the full-time ABs everyone was expecting unless they bit the bullet and made him their starting catcher. No fit for a full-time DH with this team going forward, esp a right-handed one.

      • Monterowasdinero

        Montero hits righties just fine-at least when he isn’t bored. His YS right field power would have been as good as Ibanez’s.

        • DM

          I’m sure he does. But where would he play when A-Rod, Jeter, Jones get ABs at DH? He could’ve been on the roster, but how would you get him full-time ABs with Martin,Cervelli — and the plan to use so many others at DH as well?

          • Needed Pitching

            for this season, likely Jones would have gotten most of his AB’s in LF
            Montero could have DH’d 100-120 games and caught 30-50 games, giving him about 150 starts, with Cervelli rightfully losing considerable playing time in the process

            • DM

              Your scheme would be fine if they really decided that Cervelli would be taking a roster spot as an emergency only 3rd catcher (which I couldn’t see) — and that A-Rod, Jeter and the others would rarely DH at all (which I also can’t see). Let’s take your 150 starts — 110 at DH, 40 at catcher. Martin starts 110 games at catcher? 12 left for Cervelli the whole season? 50 games left at DH divided among A-Rod, Jeter, Jones, Swish, Tex, Cano (who Girardi wants to rest more at DH)? Seems a bit tight to me — esp when A-Rod’s hip/knee starts barking. He might need 30-40 by himself. Only 10-20 left for all those other guys? I can’t see it.

              • DM

                And you’d also be hoping that Montero shows something that indicates he can play acceptable defense in those 40 games. He could easily scare you off that number — esp when you consider how little they were willing to catch him in garbage time last year.

                • Needed Pitching

                  that would be the biggest impediment to Montero getting 140-150 starts, if they wouldn’t allow him to catch at least once a week, it would be unlikely for them to find that much playing time for him

              • Needed Pitching

                I think it would probably be closer to an even split in catching time between Cervelli and Montero, so probably closer to 110 Martin, 30 Montero, 22 Cervelli
                That would leave 120 DH games for Montero to get to 150 games (I think 150 would actually be the high end, 140-145 for this season would probably be more likely)
                I’ll go with 145 (115 at DH) to split the difference, leaving 38 DH games for everyone else – Jones in this scenario would get virtually all of his starts in the OF (Jones/Montero vs. LHP is better than Gardner/Jones) most of the other guys should really just get days off if they needed it rather than DH days. ARod would be the only real issue if he was injured, but if he was hurt enough to need to DH more than 40+ games, he’d likely be hurt enough to not be in the lineup either

                • DM

                  Fair enough. I just think Girardi is much more in favor of the DH/half day scenario for regulars than you and most people here believe. As he’s said, he doesn’t put fixed numbers of games on this stuff like we just did. It’s about wanting flexibility — and I think they have more of it now than with Montero (and obviously they valued Pineda more). Also, I can’t imagine Girardi was fan of Montero behind the plate.

                  • Needed Pitching

                    I agree with all of that, except I think using DH for half days on a regular basis depends on who the DH is. If the player needing rest is a better hitter than the dH, then the half day rest makes sense. If Montero as DH, I would think that would be less of a concern. The older guys that really need regular rest would likely benefit more from a full days rest, and there would still be 35+ games to allow occasional half days.

                    Dead issue at this point though anyways, so we’ll never know, unless they get a big bat at the deadline (fingers crossed)

    • fin

      Outside of being a catcher, even if the Yakees had room for Monteros bat, I still think they trade him for Pineda. The Yankees overall team need was for a dominate pitcher, more than a dominate DH. I dont think the lack of room for Montero’s bat at DH that got him traded, it was his lack of a position.

      • gc

        +63

      • Monterowasdinero

        I like Pineda and expect him to be great but how many games will Martin catch? Montero could have DH’ed in all those games and caught most of the rest. Also, getting rid of AJ makes all our catchers instantly better, more rested and less injury prone.

        • Needed Pitching

          “getting rid of AJ makes all our catchers instantly better, more rested and less injury prone.”

          I laughed

          • Monterowasdinero

            There is unspoken value in getting rid of the wp king as well as all those curves in the dirt catchers have to block that don’t make their mark in the boxscore.

        • fin

          Only time will tell whether or not Montero can catch in the majors, even at a back up level. What matters is what the Yankees think, and by not catching him during meaningless September games and trading him,its obvious they did not think he was going to catch in major league games, at least for them. So, while we may say he can be a backup catcher/DH it doesnt seem thats what the Yankees thought. Not to mention a backup catcher/Dh is still quite a bit less valuable than a top of the rotation pitcher. There is just no way without a position that the yankees werent going to trade him, they tried at least a couple times to trade him for pitching before and finally found a deal, before they had to expose him at the MLB level behind the plate.

          • Needed Pitching

            I really don’t think it was a situation where they felt they had to trade Montero (or were expressly looking to trade him), I think it was a situation where they were looking for high end pitching and Montero was the price they had to pay to get that done

            • DM

              I don’t think fin’s scenario and yours are mutually exclusive. Montero was offered for Lee and Halladay as rentals. So, it wasn’t a new idea that they were offering Montero to get pitching. I think he brought his value up with this hitting in Sept. And the Yankees didn’t expose him behind the plate (as fin mentioned). Cashman struck while the iron was hot. I might adjust your comment from “they were looking for high end pitching and Montero was the price” to “they were looking to trade Montero for young high-end pitching”.

              • Needed Pitching

                possibly, except I would think if they could have gotten Pineda without giving up Montero, they would have jumped on that

            • fin

              I think all the evidnece in the world is there, pointing to the fact the Yankees were expressly looking to trade Montero for high end pitching. He was pretty much traded for Lee, then the M’s backed out, the Yankees discussed him with the Royals for both Grienke and Soria, again with Jimez and finally traded for Pineda.

              • Needed Pitching

                I would think that would be mostly because the Yankees likely couldn’t acquire high end pitching without parting with Montero

                I think they realized Montero was a chip that could bring a high end arm in return, and decided (correctly IMO) that a high end starter was worth more to them than what they though Montero could bring to the team

                I would think if they could have acquired Pineda (or Lee or Halladay) without giving up Montero, they would have been happy to keep Montero (even if it was in a slightly limited role)

            • Havok9120

              We’re arguing semantics here. We had more hitting than we need and less pitching than we needed. We also have an overabundance of catchers and DH/1B candidates. Would they have traded for Pineda if they’d had to sell out pitching depth or what little we’ve got for OF’ers in the system? No. Those positions are what we need right now, whereas offense-first catchers are rife through our system.

              Would we have preferred to keep Montero? Of course. But it made far more sense to trade him than it did some of the AAA arms. Yay consensus!

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Somewhere Chris Dickerson sheds a single tear………and wipes it away with an eco-friendly hankerchief.

    • Havok9120

      Is there such a thing as a NON-eco friendly hankie?

  • Bronx Byte

    The Yankees have as much flexibility as any team in the game. Girardi likes to rest players of give some a 1/2 day off as a DH.
    Jones can player either OF corner. Swisher can play 1st base. Nunez can play 3rd, SS, or 2nd base. Hall can play 3rd or 2nd base.
    Gardner can play CF if needed.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I agree. I also think Jake was defining “flexibility” in a different manner and had a valid point himself.

    • DM

      Yep. Lots of coverage and options on a daily basis. No DH-only clog.

  • Landino

    does anyone know when the individual tickets for games go onsale on ticketmaster for this year??

  • David Ortizs Dealer

    If Ibanez gets hurt in camp Branyan is around, he can be dealt if need be.

    Nunez better learn how to catch and throw, it seems like he will play 2-4 times a week. It would be nice to give Cano a day here and there to.