For pretty much the entirety of this past offseason, the Yankees were dormant. They re-signed all of their pitchers before the end of the November, but otherwise their only notable move was signing Kevin Youkilis in the wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip surgery. Had A-Rod been healthy and able to start the season on-time, there’s a pretty good chance Youkilis would be wearing a different uniform right now. They re-signed Ichiro Suzuki a few days later and waiting until February to sign Travis Hafner. That’s pretty much it.
Once the injuries began to mount in Spring Training, the Yankees jumped into action. They acquired three players — Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch, and Vernon Wells — in March who wound up making the Opening Day roster, and as Brian Cashman told Andy Martino, they made those moves because they were “desperate.” A rash of injuries in camp has a way of doing that, certainly no team plans on building a good chunk of their roster with scrap heap pickups in March. No contending team, anyway.
As the Yankees were being dominated by another left-handed starter last night — they’re now hitting .195/.266/.303 (54 wRC+) against southpaws in the early going — their two biggest offseason failures (for lack of a better word, really) were on full display. They didn’t acquire a capable right-handed outfield platoon bat and they didn’t bring in a solid utility infielder, two things we knew they needed back in October. These needs didn’t sneak up anyone.
That need for a right-handed outfield bat should be mitigated by Vernon Wells once Curtis Granderson returns, though that depends entirely on how Joe Girardi & Co. sort out the playing time. Considering how productive he’s been, it’s hard to think they’ll just relegate Wells to part-time duty once Granderson returns just because that was the original plan. Sure, it’s possible he’ll revert back to the guy he was with the Angels at some point, but right now he’s done more than enough to earn regular outfield playing time.
Still, Francisco (-13 wRC+) is drawing regular at-bats against lefties and he isn’t delivering. Not even close to delivering, really. That said, the more egregious mistake in my opinion was not finding a capable backup infielder. Just consider all of the circumstances…
- Derek Jeter, 38, had surgery for a major ankle injury in late-October and was questionable for Opening Day.
- The Yankees announced 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez needed surgery for a major hip injury in early-December and was expected to be out until for several months.
- Youkilis, 34, was signed to play third base in mid-December, soon after the announcement of A-Rod’s injury. He’s become injury prone over the years and actually played fewer games than A-Rod from 2010-2012 (344 vs. 358).
- Eduardo Nunez, 25, had well-documented defensive issues that made him a question mark at the big league level. The team also insisted he was a full-time shortstop and not a utility guy who would move around to different positions.
All that of that should have made adding a good reserve infielder — someone who could play on an everyday basis for a stretch of time if need be — a rather big priority before the season. The Yankees did indicate they wanted to find an upgrade over Jayson Nix back in November, but they never did get around to acquiring one. It really hurts right now because Youkilis is expected to miss a few days with a back issue while neither Nix (35 wRC+) nor Nunez ( also 35 wRC+) are hitting.
The season is barely more than three weeks old, but the Yankees have some very obvious needs at the big league level right now, stuff that goes beyond getting some injured players back in the lineup. The need for a competent infielder isn’t going away anytime soon and Francisco’s lack of production means they still need another righty bat in the lineup. These were items that should have been treated with greater urgency over the winter. Instead, the Yankees took a passive approach and are left without a gaping hole in the lineup against lefties and no suitable replacement for their various injured infielders.