The Forgotten DH Opening


Taters. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

As of right now, the Yankees are lacking an obvious solution for the catcher, right field, and third base positions. They are also sans DH, which is less of a problem but still something that needs to be addressed prior to Spring Training. New York has used that DH spot as a bit of a revolving door in recent years, something that figures to continue out of necessity (lots of old players) rather than preference. David Ortiz and Billy Butler are the only true full-time DHs these days (though Victor Martinez will join them when he returns next spring), so the revolving door thing has been catching on around the league.

Once those third base and right field positions are addressed — I’m becoming increasingly convinced the Yankees will not bring in another catcher, at least not a legitimate starting-caliber guy — the Yankees will sort through the scraps and find someone to plug in at DH next year. It’s what they did last offseason following the Jesus Montero trade. Given the rest of the lineup, the Yankees should seek out some specific traits in their next DH rather than grab the last box on the shelf as they run out of the offseason supermarket in February.

This sounds silly when talking about a DH, but the Yankees will definitely need someone who can step in and play a real position in case of injury. We all laughed when they said Raul Ibanez‘s defense was part of the reason why they signed him over Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui last winter, but sure enough Ibanez wound up starting over 70 games in the outfield due to Brett Gardner‘s injury. The Yankees are going to need a similar player this season, someone they can stick in the outfield or even just at first base (since there is no obvious backup to Mark Teixeira at the moment) at a moment’s notice.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Lineup Balance
Let’s assume for a second that the Yankees will re-sign Ichiro Suzuki while adding Kevin Youkilis, plus Derek Jeter‘s fractured ankle will be just fine and dandy come opening day. In that scenario, the Yankees will have four left-handed batters (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Ichiro), three right-handed batters (Jeter, Youkilis, whoever the catcher is), and one switch-hitter (Mark Teixeira) in the order. That’s a lefty-leaning lineup when you consider that the Cap’n isn’t a power guy and the catcher is all but guaranteed to stink.

The AL East and even the AL in general is chock full of tough left-handers, so the Yankees should look for someone who can hang in against southpaws given their utter lack of right-handed production. Finding a generic left-handed platoon masher who will pop 20 dingers thanks to the short porch is the simplest solution, but adding some diversity to the lineup and finding a right-handed batter who can hit both righties and lefties would be the ideal choice. Those guys are very hard to dig up, however.

This is often overlooked, but it’s not easy to be a DH. I’ve seen research suggesting the penalty for a DH is similar to the penalty for pinch-hitting, indicating that a player’s production will decrease roughly 10% from their expected line when shifted to the DH spot full-time. It’s not easy to sit on the bench all night and be productive in your four or five at-bats. The last thing a team wants to do is sign a regular position player and stick him at DH full-time only to find out he’s not the same hitter when he can’t figure out how to stay sharp between at-bats. Finding someone who has some experience at the position isn’t absolutely imperative, but it’s something that should at least be on the punch list.

* * *

Looking at the free agent list, the ideal candidate based on the criteria above is former Yankee Lance Berkman. He can play right field as well as first base, is a switch-hitter (though he’s not much of a threat against southpaws, just an 87 wRC+ vs. LHP since 2010), and has a little DH experience from his time in New York. Berkman’s knees (both of ‘em) are a major question mark though — he’s had something like seven surgeries between the two of them and managed just 97 plate appearances this year because of a problem with the right one. The idea that he can play right field and first base is just a theory based on his history and hardly a given based on his current physical state.

The free agent options are limited beyond Puma, with Ibanez standing out from the crowd of Travis Hafners and Aubrey Huffs and Jim Thomes and Hideki Matsuis. Carlos Lee could make sense as a part-time DH/backup first baseman/corner outfielder faker because he’s a contact-oriented right-handed batter who can still hit lefties (113 wRC+ last three years), but he invoked his no-trade clause this summer to block a deal to the Yankees because it was too far from home. Hard to believe he’d change his mind a few months later as a free agent, but it wouldn’t be the strangest thing to happen.

In all likelihood the Yankees will wait until January or February to sort out the DH situation. They’ll have a better idea of Jeter’s return date and also a little info about A-Rod‘s hip and expected recovery time by then, painting a clearer picture of their needs (long-term solution or a stopgap?). They didn’t ink Ibanez until the middle of February this season, after pitchers and catchers had reported, and something similar figures to happen this year. The DH spot is typically a low priority, but it’s nothing the Yankees should brush aside given the production hits they’re expected to take in right, at third, and behind the plate.

Categories : Musings


  1. endlessjose says:

    Getting someone like Damon and MAtsui would be good for awhile because both can hit in this ballpark and will come cheap.A-Rod is the future DH of this team and there’s no way Arod plays third this year on two bad knees.

  2. Get Phelps Up says:

    I wouldn’t be against bringing Berkman back. It seems like we could see A-Rod when he gets healthy, Jeter, Youkilis (if we sign him of course), and even Nunez as the DH against LHP.

  3. Gonzo says:

    Plenty of Hooters restaurants in NY, Chipper.

  4. Beamish says:

    Given that it is likely ARods position for the rest of his career I don’t see why they would waste any money on someone with no other talent for the first half of the season.

  5. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    Just as long as they don’t sign a big hairy left handed monster. They scare me.

    • Get Phelps Up says:

      I haven’t seen Eddard around here in a while.

      • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

        There have been so many variations on that handle, I never know who it is anymore.

        I thought I saw a post by “the real Eddard” the other day, not sure if that’s the same person as Eddard though.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          There was a strange blowup by an “Eddard” a few days ago in which he all of a sudden got serious and called a couple of us a bunch of douchebags, etc. I didn’t think that was actually “Eddard,” but you never know.

          I know that Eduardo Nunez is quite sad, for one.

          • MannyGeee (celery cap manager) says:

            I am not sure Eddard actually ever existed… I think he was an enigma, kinda like the legend of Zorro or “Anonymous”.

        • Get Phelps Up says:

          I thought the Real Eddard showed up when people started impersonating him. Of course it could have just been him impersonating himself though. #EddardWorld is a strange place.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

      So I come down to the comments hoping to find a bracing discussion about replacements for DH, and I find an entire thread about #Eddardworld that doesn’t include the legend at all.

  6. craff says:

    Getting away from the main point of this article but since you talk about behind the plate being an issue, why isn’t anyone mentioning Miguel Olivo as an option for a cheap catcher? He has a little pop and from looking at his Baseball Reference page, is much more adept defensively then AJ Pierzynski. He probably wouldn’t be any worse then Stewart or Cervelli, no?

    • Get Phelps Up says:

      He had a sub .240 ON BASE PERCENTAGE last season.

    • forensic says:

      When you were at his BR page, did you happen to skip the column labeled ‘OBP’?

      I will give him credit though for tricking teams into employing him for 11+ seasons despite a career .275 OBP.

      • craff says:

        Stweart’s was .290 last year and cervelli is horrible defensively? I’d rather have a guy who can possibly hit 20 homeruns.

        • MannyGeee (celery cap manager) says:

          would you then trade for a guy who is WORSE than Stewart?

          And what makes you think that Miguel Olivo is going to show up one day and start hitting 20+ home runs a season in the AL East? As a RHB in Yankee Stadium? When he won’t see pitches as the 8 hitter who wont take a walk?

  7. Robinson Tilapia says:

    You’re right, Mike. Completely overlooked by me as well when thinking about the team.

  8. Rich in NJ says:

    I only want Ibanez back as a pinch hitter.

  9. mitch says:

    When was the last time the yankees started a season with a lineup that was significantly worse than the prior year?

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      We don’t know what the 2013 lineup is going to look like yet.

      • mitch says:

        I made no specific reference to the 2013 lineup.

        Regardless, i’m sure you think each lineup is greater than the last, so the question wasn’t really directed toward you.

        • jjyank says:

          Well the season hasn’t started yet. So it’s kind of a silly question anyway.

          • mitch says:

            Fair enough. Hypothetically, let’s say Stewart, Youkilis, and Ichiro replace Martin, Arod, and Swisher. When was the last time the offense saw that sort of drop?

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Oh, that’s right. You think I have nothing bad to say about the team because I don’t speak in hyperbole all the time and what third grader could really understand that.

          Without looking it up, I can imagine 2004 would be a year I’d consider not starting with a great lineup. Any year between 87 and 93 was likely no great shakes compared to the last. Maybe 2001 or 2002.

    • gc says:

      When was the last time the MLB season began on December 10th?

    • MannyGeee (celery cap manager) says:

      In theory, 2010. The squad in 2009 won the World Series, the 2010 did not.

      I guess it depends on your definition of “Significantly worse” is. So far as I can tell, a team who doesn’t meet or exceed their previous output is significantly worse, but again that is a definition thing.

      • Jacob says:

        2010 was also way worse in numbers for a lot of the players compared to ’09, Robbie, Swisher, Gardy, and CC were the only players I really can think of as umproving, Alex got hurt a lot, Jete dipped, Tex dipped, Jorge had trouble with health and dipped also, Grandy was new, AJ blew up, Hughes was good half the season and messed up the other half, Andy was good then got hurt, Vasquez sucked ass, Mo was just mo.

    • dalelama says:

      Easy 2010……

  10. Chuck says:

    Youk and ibanez.. Hope to see Adams a bit at third this year.

  11. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Reunite Carlos Pena with Kevin Long

  12. Kosmo says:

    Justin Morneau for DH.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

      Has anyone signed Travis Hafner? He could be intriguing though his inability to even fake a position could be a problem.

  13. MannyGeee (celery cap manager) says:

    Is the inevitable Kevin Youkilisabortion signing a situation where he/A Rod would be the de-facto DH in June?

    Are we just talking about a DH for the first 3 months? In which case, is it a moot point where we could just do the revolving door thing?

  14. Aly says:

    Young and inexpensive, Adams at third base and Nunez at DH til No-Rod shows up. Ichiro in RF and Pierzynski at C. I’d sign a right hand hitting fourth outfielder like Hairston. This should keep payroll down and be competitive. Let Romaine lettuce be back up C. Adjustments can always be made during the season.

  15. Rip van winkle says:

    2013 does not look good. Now back to sleep as is Cashman

  16. Preston says:

    Man I really wanted Mark Reynolds. He could have been the RH DH to balance the lineup and could play some 3B/1B occasionally and he’s even been thrown in the OF before. 1/6 for Reynolds seems a lot better than 1/12 for Youk.

    • MannyGeee (celery cap manager) says:

      in a perfect world where I A-Rod wasn’t out for 1/2 the season, then Reynolds was the guy. However, Youk has the “better” glove. And he fills the need better.

      hold on, I am about to throw up a little bit. OK Better…

      So as a gap filler, I have to say, give me Kevin Youkilis… Now excuse me while i punch myself in the nuts repeatedly.

  17. amanda says:

    Kevin Usedtokillus

  18. Reggie C. says:

    What is Manny Ramirez doing these days?

  19. Ted Nelson says:

    You hit the nail on the head in saying that they need to see what happens to A-Rod with the surgery. Youkilis could be the solution, as amanda says above.

  20. emac2 says:

    With Arod and Jeter I wouldn’t bother signing a DH at all. I would focus on starter quality back ups at short and 3rd with the DH slot being used to let all 4 play 130 or so games.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Starter-quality backups usually get multi-year contracts that allow them to actually start, at salaries to go along with that role.

    • dalelama says:

      I would run Arod out there everyday in the hopes the humiliation would be so great he retires. It may be the only way the Yankees get rid of the contractual anchor dragging the franchise down.

  21. j says:

    Jeter takes the DH role against lefties, with Nunez playing the field. (Coming off an injured leg, might want to rest him up).
    We sign a lefty DH to play against right-handers. It’ll probably be Ibanez again, which sucks, but thats life.

  22. George says:

    So, we need a guy who can play right, back-up at first, and can hit. I heard there is a guy like that available, named Swisher. Sign Nick, and maybe limit the amount of money we can overpay Cano next year. Or maybe Cano and Granderson both walk after the season. Think of the decrease in strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

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