Scouting The Free Agent Market: Maicer Izturis

Michael Pineda has begun throwing off flat ground
Sherman: Yankees not in on Upton, wouldn't do two years for Hunter
(Dave Reginek/Getty)

More than anything else, I think the Yankees have learned the value of depth in the last seven or eight years. Back in the mid-aughts they were a star-laden but top-heavy club that lacked viable alternatives in Triple-A, which is why they wound up scrambling for guys like Tim Redding and Shawn Chacon and Mark Bellhorn and Matt Lawton. Now when someone gets hurt or loses their job, there’s a Jayson Nix or Chris Dickerson or David Phelps or Cody Eppley stashed in Triple-A. Those depth pieces are very important in today’s game.

The Yankees have built themselves some very solid benches these last two years, mostly by luring in veteran free agents looking at their last chance at a ring on one-year deals. Some work out better (Eric Chavez) than others (Randy Winn). This offseason the Yankees have to focus a little more on the infield backup plans since Derek Jeter is coming off a major ankle injury and Alex Rodriguez is perpetual break-down candidate. Nix and Eduardo Nunez are serviceable bench pieces, but former Angel and free agent Maicer Izturis fits the utility infielder mold a little more perfectly, making him a potential target for New York.

The Pros

  • The offensive standard for utility infielders is pretty low, and Izturis is actually a bit better than most with a .264/.327/.360 (93 wRC+) batting line over the last three years. He’s also a true switch-hitter, with a 93 wRC+ against righties and a 95 wRC+ against lefties since 2010.
  • Izturis is a contact machine who excels at putting the bat on the ball. He owns a 12.4% strikeout rate and an 89.0% contact rate over the last three years, the latter of which ranks 13th among the 230 hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances. Ichiro Suzuki has a 90.2% contact rate during that time, for some perspective.
  • Most contact guys are hackers because they can get the bat on almost anything, but Izturis does offer some patience. His walk rate (7.8% in 2012 and 7.5% from 2010-2012) is below the league average but still pretty good for a utility player, and his 3.92 pitches per plate appearances is actually very strong. That’s Mark Teixeira/Dustin Pedroia territory.
  • Izturis has stolen double-digit bases in three of the last five years (nine in another) and he’s taken the extra base 45% of the time these last three years. Hooray base-running.
  • Izturis is a true utility infielder with tons of experience at the three non-first base infield positions. The various defensive metrics rate his defense at each position anywhere from average to well-above for his career.

The Cons

  • Izturis had his worst offensive season since 2005 this year, hitting just .256/.320/.315 (82 wRC+). He also did nothing against left-handed pitchers, posting a .231/.259/.244 (41 wRC+) batting line against them.
  • You’re not getting any power here. He’s hit a grand total of 34 homers in over 2,900 career plate appearances, and only once has he gone deep more than five times in a single season. Doubles and triples aren’t all that common either, hence the career .108 ISO (.096 last three years).
  • The various defensive stats say Izturis’ glovework at shortstop and third base took a big step back this year, but insert the usual sample size/one year of data disclaimer here. It’s not insane to suggest he’s lost a step at age 32, however.

Unsurprisingly, the Angels did not make Izturis a qualifying offer and it won’t require forfeiting a draft pick to sign him. I do think it’ll take a multi-year contract however, especially with the general lack of quality middle infield options on the market. His ability to play shortstop, get the bat on the ball, and create a little havoc on the bases might be just enough for an infield-challenged team to consider him a starter. Izturis certainly wouldn’t be a starter for the Yankees, not without an injury.

Jeter will be coming off the ankle injury next season and it’s impossible to know how it will affect him at this point. He could come back as good as new, or he might come back with reduced range and the need to get off his feet twice a week. Nunez is the team’s only other viable shortstop option at the upper levels (in terms of someone who could play the position for weeks at a time), but his defense is a detriment to the club. Izturis would give the Yankees a true backup infielder, solidify the defense, and free things up for Nunez to be traded at some point. He’s a fit for a New York, but it is a question of price and his willingness to take a lesser role when starting jobs may be available.

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Michael Pineda has begun throwing off flat ground
Sherman: Yankees not in on Upton, wouldn't do two years for Hunter
  • MannyGeee

    I am on board with Maicer Izturis. My memory of him is as an absolute pest whenever the Yankees face him.

    If he can possibly play 1B (which one could argue would be an easier transition in a pinch than going from 1B to other infield positions) as Tex’s inevitable backup, then I would be OK with giving him a 2/8 or 2/10 contract. not sure that gets him there

    • gc

      My memory of Izturis is of him throwing the ball away in the 13th inning to give the Yankees a game 2 win in the ALCS against Anaheim in 2009. (Side note, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the talking heads on ESPN eat their words when the supposedly superior fundamentally sound Twins and Angels played so shoddily on defense in that post-season).

      • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        I was at that game. It rocked. J-Hair pie-faced.

  • jjyank

    If he wants to take a 1 year deal as a back up, sure. I’d imagine he could find something better though.

  • Rich in NJ

    If they trade Nunez in a package for an offense upgrade, it may make sense.

  • FLYER7

    Agree that signing Izturis makes sense especially if allows Noonie to be placed in a package…

    • gc

      Somewhere, Eddard’s pants shed a tear.

    • MannyGeee

      Honeymoon’s over already huh? 2 weeks ago heads needed to roll and someone needed to be traded in order to make Nunez a starter… Cooler heads have prevailed and now trade Nunez and sign Izturis instead…

      Just funny is all

  • Duh Innings

    The Yanks are losing Jayson Nix or something?

    Just re-sign Nix to a one-year deal and hope for the best with Jeter.

    ‘Problem with giving Izturis two years at $4-5M a year is what if Jeter makes say 140 starts a year at SS? The Yanks would basically be paying $8-10M for Izturis to make only 44 starts at SS.

    If not Nix, Nunez is the way to go otherwise trade the guy already.

    • MannyGeee

      Izturis would also backup 3B for A-Rod (who will undoubtedly need some DH time), Cano (who has not had a solid backup in his time in Pinstripes) and Jeter (who may or may not be the Jeter we are used to seeing for the past 2 decades)… Also, if he can fake 1B he would back up Tex.

      So yeah, you pay $4M a season for a better hitting (even if less powerful) Jayson Nix.

      • http://www.yankeenumbers.com Mr. Sparkle

        You fell into the trap there. The Yankees have to stop thinking in terms of which player has more power. That one-dimensional thinking is what got them into trouble last year. Sure, Nix has a little more power. He also strikes out a lot. Sounds like the entire Yankee lineup from last season.

        Izturis is a better player than Nix. That’s how they have to start thinking.

        • Ted Nelson

          I will bet you every penny I have that’s what the Yankees think about overall performance. it just so happens power is very productive. And what trap? Are people delusional? They led the AL in wins and made the ALCS… They had a great season. Not perfect, but damn good.

          They also have to actually pay these guys.

          Nix was a minor league deal pick-up. Izturis is probably an above average SS. I will be pretty surprised if he only gets the $4 mill per people are throwing around. Too many teams need SS. Preferring Izturis at equal money is not hard. The money is not at all equal, though.

        • Mister D

          I’d choose to stay in a trap that involves scoring the 2nd most runs per game, almost 2/3 of a run more per game than average.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Izturis may be a better player than Nix, but is the difference that big enough that the price and potential multi-year still make him worth it.

          Then again, if it take 2 years, 8 mil, that’s not exactly breaking the bank and gives you some stability for a second year from a guy with some track record.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      I don’t think it’s even a conversation if the price is 2 years for $8-$10M.

    • jjyank

      If Izturis is too expensive, I’m inclined to agree. However I don’t think Nix is capable of playing short on a regular basis, so Izturis has an advantage there.

      • Ted Nelson

        I would argue Nunez is, though. His throwing is an issue, but over a season I don’t expect a huge difference in overall performance between the two at SS. 1-2 fWAR.

        • jjyank

          I agree. I still think that in a vacuum, I would prefer Izturis to Nix, because it wouldn’t hurt to have the true UTIL guy able to play short if need be. But Nix is assuredly be cheaper, so I would take him in reality.

          I’m not sure what Nunez’s role will be. The team was pretty clear that they want to keep Nunez at short, but if Jeter comes back alright, Nunez will be a back up at only 1 position.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Frees him up to pose for a poster for above Eddard’s bet.

            FACT: I was the only kid with a Belinda Carlisle poster above my bed.

  • Francesa

    Jon Heyman is reporting that the Jays are close to a deal with Izturis. Oh well, next…

    • 0-Fur is Murder

      Yup, it’s a done deal. Damn…

    • Jag

      3 year deal worth 9 mill from the Jays.

  • Hardy

    If the Yankees are serious about 189m, Upton and his 8.5m AAA contract (through 2015) should be the Yankees No. 1 target this offseason.

    • Hardy

      Damn…

    • RetroRob

      Yup, one of many reasons to acquire him. As noted in prior threads, there is no doubt the Yankees would like Upton. It’s the price being asked, and do the Yankees have the right pieces. I think the latter is definately a problem.