Where does Brendan Ryan fit in?

Yankees activate Brendan Ryan, place Michael Pineda on 15-day DL
2014 Draft: Alex Blandino
Leave the bat, bring the glove. (Presswire)
Leave the bat, bring the glove. (Presswire)

Earlier this afternoon the Yankees officially activated Brendan Ryan off the 15-day DL, just as we all expected. He had been working his way back from a back injury in the minors — seven rehab games plus who knows how many more in Extended Spring Training — and he takes Michael Pineda‘s spot on the roster. Pineda’s suspension expired, so he was placed on the 15-day DL with his back/shoulder injury. The Yankees got their 25th roster spot back and no other moves were required to accommodate Ryan.

The Yankees were forced to play with a three-man bench these last ten games due to Pineda’s suspension, so getting back to a normal four-man bench and 25-man roster will be nice only because it gives Joe Girardi some more flexibility. How he uses Ryan remains to be seen because, frankly, he’s a pretty limited player whose true value is very much up for debate given the sketchy nature of defense stats. He is a no-hit, all-glove shortstop, after all. I think we can all agree Ryan has zero value if he isn’t playing in the field and that’s something of a problem because the Yankees have shown no indication are willing to cut back on Derek Jeter‘s playing time just yet.

As I mentioned this morning, Jeter has not played a single game at DH this season. He’s been the starting shortstop exclusively. Given his age and shaky defense, that’s probably not something that should continue all season. He’s going to wear down if his recent slump isn’t an indication he has started to already. Using Ryan to give Jeter a day off his feet, either as the DH or a full day on the bench, is the most obvious way to use him. How often will that happen? Once a week feels like the bare minimum. Twice a week wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The Yankees could use Ryan at second and third base once in a while — he hasn’t played a position other than short since 2009, for what it’s worth — but beyond that, he’s not very useful. That’s pretty much exactly how the Yankees used Dean Anna for the first few weeks of the season, but Anna was a career minor leaguer who could be buried on the bench for days on end and no one would care. Ryan’s making decent money ($2M) and his defense is an asset. Finding that balance between using him enough that he has an impact but not enough that he gets exposes will be tough.

Will Girardi and the Yankees be willing to use Ryan as a defensive replacement for Jeter in the late innings? I’m tempted to say no way, but I think there’s a chance it will happen. Girardi did pull Jeter for pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki earlier this season, something that never would have happened in the past. Maybe we’ll see Ichiro pinch-run for Jeter, then stay in the game to play right with Ryan coming off the bench to play short. That could be one way to make the substitution without being so abrupt. Pulling Jeter for Ryan in a straight “your defense sucks” move seems a bit harsh. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Getting Ryan back tonight will help just because he’s another warm body and the Yankees will finally have a full roster. He won’t fix the team’s main problem right now — get a damn runner in from scoring position already! — but he’s going to help somewhat. The needle will move a little bit. It’s a weird situation because Ryan has a very specific skillset and they don’t line up well with the iconic Jeter, not unless the Yankees commit to reducing Derek’s time in the field. Right now Ryan is just a relatively expensive infield caddy.

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Yankees activate Brendan Ryan, place Michael Pineda on 15-day DL
2014 Draft: Alex Blandino
  • Salmon says

    Pulling Jeter for Ryan in a straight “your defense sucks” move seems a bit harsh. I don’t know. We’ll see.

    Irrespective of harsh – Jeter’s defense while always below average and average at best, has fallen off a cliff this year. He has no mobility and every ball hit further then 2 frets to either side of him is a hit.

    • mitch

      Is it really that harsh anyway? Ichiro has been a defensive replacement for Beltran multiple times. He’s not Jeter, but he’s a pretty damn accomplished player.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Yeah…..we’re somehow teetering in the other direction from the usual here. I don’t see what’s harsh about resting Jeter a couple of innings a couple of times a week, plus giving him a whole day off. We just had a 150-comment thread on the State of the Derek this morning.

      • qwerty

        Beltran is not the face of the franchise.

  • http://twitter.com/rational_sports Rational Sports

    DHing Jeter and forcing Soriano or Beltran to the bench for the day seems like quite an inefficient use of resources.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Unless you’re actively looking to get one of them a day off.

      Ryan’s not playing every day either. That scenario may come up exactly enough times for it to work just fine.

    • JGYank

      Agree, Jeter is just not as good of a hitter as the other two. When Jeter has a day off, keeping those two in the lineup while keeping Jeter available to pinch hit for Ryan in a big spot sounds good to me.

      • I’m One

        Well, Beltran isn’t exactly lighting it up right now. Granted, he is certainly more of a power threat than Jeter at any point in time, but who knows who’ll break out of their slump first? Maybe Jeter (after his 2 for 4 last night) will break out first.

        • JGYank

          I’m talking about in general. I would start Jeter at SS against any LHP, and DHing him vs a RHP makes no sense. If he really needs a day off, you can DH him against a LHP but you would be replacing either Soriano’s or Beltran’s bat with Ryan’s in the lineup and I want Ryan to come up to the plate as little as possible. That would be a big downgrade offensively.

          If Beltran continues to struggle and they DH Jeter, Ryan would have to play unless they use Solarte at SS. I would take even a struggling Beltran over Ryan offensively, plus Beltran could break out at any moment and adds a switch hitter to the lineup.

        • JGYank

          To sum it up better, Jeter DHing (against a LHP, we’ll assume) would give Ryan ABs while taking them away from Sori/Beltran, so the real question is that is Ryan’s defensive upgrade over Jeter worth the trade off of giving Ryan some of Sori/Beltran’s ABs?

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            To me, the question is more “does creating a rotation that gives each guy some actual rest keep them more productive for longer this season, and does having Ryan here aid that?”

  • Mark from Chicago

    Hope he hits the cover off the ball the next few weeks so we can use him as a trade chip come June. Not like he’d fetch much, but I’d much rather see us play the younger, cheaper and more versatile Solarte over Ryan any day.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Other than eating Mike Trout whole, I don’t see much that can happen to raise Brendan Ryan’s trade value by June. He is who he is.

    • LK

      I doubt they’re really all that related. As mentioned in the article, Ryan hasn’t played anything other than SS in years. Since his only asset is defense, playing him anywhere else would be a waste. Solarte was only the backup SS because of the roster crunch; 2B and 3B are where he’ll be getting his playing time. Trading Ryan wouldn’t mean more Solarte, just probably more starts for Jeter and a few starts here and there for Anna.

    • Michahiro Pinaka

      Why do you think a short stint of hitting would raise his trade value? Do you think the other 29 GMs do not have access to a player’s past statistics?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        It also involves a name change to “Giancarlo Stanton Ryan.”

  • wallypip

    Ryan might suck with the bat, but he is an insanely good SS. He’s probably the best defender in the league. It’s not like Jeter is getting lifted for some AAAA callup if Girardi decides to use Ryan as often as he can on the defensive side of the game.

    • Joe

      Andrelton Simmons?

      • YogiBearsAll

        Simmons has had one outstanding defensive season. He isn’t posting anything close to those defensive metrics this season. Ryan has lead in every defensive metric over the last 5 years… UZR, DWAR, Defensive Runs Saved.
        Simmons is great but Ryan has been equally great but for a longer period of time.

  • JGYank

    Only one sentence is needed to sum up how he should be used: Maximize his innings in the field, while minimizing the amount of ABs he gets.

    I hope we do use him as a late inning defensive replacement, since that’s the one thing he’s good at and he we wouldn’t even have to see him step up to the plate. Jeter should start every game against LHP because he can still hit them well, so Ryan will hopefully only come in for defense and to start some games vs RHP when Jeter needs days off. The infield defense will be significantly improved when he’s out there, going from a negative defender to a positive one at the most important defensive position besides catcher.

    • Cheval Anonyme

      Maybe the Yankees should ask MLB to change the rules to allow a dF; right after they get that pine tar rule done.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Defensive replacement. Starts about once a week. Don’t see the big deal.

  • TWTR

    Last November, Hal reportedly told Jeter that the Yankees would be looking for a starting SS during the past offseason. If true, why is adjusting Jeter’s playing time according to how he produces such a big deal now?

  • LarryM Fl

    Jeter should be used similar to an older starting pitcher. If the game is going well then Jeter plays 6 to 7 innings. This is predicated on Jeter’s present hitting and fielding or overall health at the present time.

    Ryan should get a start on occasion and last third of an inning defensive replacement play. This may keep his weak bat in some shape for the surprise hit.

    Jeter should bat 7 or higher depending on pitcher. Obviously lefties he hits in the seven slot.

    Girardi maybe thinking along these lines. Giving Derek some time to get his act together at the plate.

  • Darren

    The problem with subbing in Ryan for defense late in the game is the same as with any defensive sub where the sub can’t hit. If it’s a close game and he comes up to bat, the move can easily end up looking really, really terrible. Same with pinch running for a slugger. I admittedly don’t know the stats – are there any studies that show whether defensive subs are overall good or bad? Obviously it’s a closer call if Jeter is hitting like he’s hitting now. If he’s hitting .290, I don’t think Joe subs him out of a close game.

    Of course Ryan should be playing final innings of any blowout good or bad.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Those blowout games will still offer Derek some relief…..or even games where the team is ahead by 2-3 runs.

  • nsalem

    The Yankee 2014 roster is poorly constructed. There is lots of duplication and players not in their proper roles. Biggest weakness I see so far is the non production (save for Tex) in the middle of the line-up. Hopefully McCann and Beltran will pick it up soon. Though there is a place for Soriano on this team I don’t think it’s one of playing everyday and batting 4th or 5th. On a strong offensive team he would be used as Jones, Chavez and Thames were in the recent past. Unfortunately right now we are not a strong offensive team. I don’t think the Yankees 2014 are a lost cause and I hope the necessary changes will be made prior to the trade deadline. The good news is almost everyone in the AL is in the same shoes with only 2 teams 2 games over .500. In his last year as commish it looks like Mr. Selig’s dreams of parity have come to fruition and we will get to see a few 83 or 84 win teams playing into October. How exciting.

  • Mike HC

    Ryan is 32 now, coming off a back injury. I would like to see him re prove his defensive wizard reputation before we start calling to bench Jeter for him.

    • TWTR

      I don’t think it’s a knock on Jeter to think that a diminished Ryan is much better defensively. And it’s not about benching, it’s about reducing his playing time until or unless he hits, and/or taking him out for defensive purposes in close and late situations.

      • Mike HC

        I was going to respond to leave me be and let me yell at the non existent fans calling to bench Jeter for Ryan. But then dalelama commented below.

  • dalelama

    Let’s cuts the worry about being harsh and bench Jeter’s arse if he doesn’t produce.

    • Mike HC

      You can’t possibly think Ryan is the answer though.

  • lou

    He fits in perfect with the rest of the sh!t. The Gardners, the Roberts, the bench. Just give him 500 to many abs.