Archive for Chris Nelson
Thanks to all the injuries, the Yankees used a franchise record 56 players this season. Fifteen of those 56 players appeared in no more than ten games, which isn’t much of a surprise. The last spots on the bench and in the bullpen were revolving doors all summer. Most of those miscellaneous players were awful, enough to help push the Yankees out of the postseason picture. Here are the worst players to walk through those revolving doors.
The signs were there, we just didn’t want to see them. The Yankees released the 26-year-old Adams in Spring Training to clear a 40-man roster spot for Vernon Wells (!), but no team took a chance on him and New York re-signed him to a minor league contract a week later. When Kevin Youkilis went down with his inevitable back injury, Adams got a chance to play third base on a regular basis. Things went quite well at first — 13-for-44 (.295) with two homers in his first eleven games — but they crashed in a hurry. Adams fell into a 4-for-51 (.078) slump and wound up back in Triple-A before resurfacing later in the season. Overall, he hit .193/.252/.286 (45 wRC+) in 152 plate appearances, though he did play solid defense at second and third bases. Adams had a pretty great opportunity this summer, but he couldn’t capitalize.
Almonte, 24, got his chance when the Yankees finally got sick of Wells and benched him in mid-June. Zoilo’s big league career started out well — he had three hits (including a homer) in his first start (video), reached base three times the next day, then doubled twice the day after the that — before he cooled off and got hurt. Almonte put up a .236/.274/.302 (55 wRC+) line with the one homer and three steals in 113 plate appearances before an ankle sprain effectively ended his season in mid-July (he did return in late-September, but played sparingly). The fun was short-lived.
You may not agree, but I think Boesch was a pretty significant loss this past season. The 28-year-old managed a .275/.302/.529 (124 wRC+) batting line with three homers in 53 sporadic plate appearances and appeared to be a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch, but he was sent to Triple-A Scranton when Curtis Granderson came off the DL (the first time). He lasted a little more than a week in the minors before suffering what proved to be a season-ending shoulder injury. The Yankees released him in mid-July when they needed a 40-man spot. Had Boesch been healthy, there’s a good chance he would have been given the opportunity to play everyday following Granderson’s second injury considering how poorly Ichiro Suzuki hit for a good part of the summer. Boesch is a flawed player but his lefty pop would have been useful. For shame.
Bootcheck, 35, emerged as the ace for Triple-A Scranton this past season (3.69 ERA and 4.20 FIP in 136.2 innings) and he managed to appear in one game with the big league team. On June 14th, he allowed one run on two hits and two walks in 1.1 innings against the Angels. Bootcheck got his chance because Adam Warren threw six innings of relief (in the 18-inning game against the Athletics) earlier on the road trip and wasn’t going to be available for a few days, so the team needed a replacement long reliever. He was designated for assignment at the end of the trip when Warren was again available.
Is it possible to be a poor man’s Brendan Ryan? Do those exist? If they do, I nominate the 27-year-old Brignac. He was with the Yankees from mid-May through mid-June, during which time he showed off a slick glove and hit an unfathomable .114/.133/.136 (-38 wRC+) with 17 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. Brignac played 15 games in pinstripes and he reached base multiple times in only one of them. It was ugly.
For a few weeks, Claiborne looked like the next great homegrown Yankees reliever. He started his big league career with 14 straight walk-less outings and allowed just one run in his first 20 innings in pinstripes. Claiborne, 25, had settled into a seventh inning setup role, but he allowed 13 runs and 38 base-runners in his next 25.2 innings and earned a trip back to Triple-A. When he resurfaced in September, he allowed nine runs and four homers (!!!) in five innings. Fatigue was the oft-cited excuse for his fade, but Claiborne threw only 61.1 innings in 2013 after throwing 82 innings in 2012 and 81 innings in 2011. It’s possible, sure, but I have a hard time buying it. Claiborne finished the season with a 4.11 ERA and 4.14 FIP in 50.1 innings, but outside of those first 14 appearances, he was very untrustworthy.
Cruz, 29, was the team’s fifth different starting shortstop in their first 84 games, but he actually wound up playing more games at third (13) than short (five). An all-glove, no-hit type like Ryan and Brignac, Cruz hit .182/.224/.200 (13 wRC+) in 59 plate appearances while playing excellent defense after being picked up off the scrap heap. He was the best non-Ryan infield defender the team employed this past season, I thought. Cruz’s season came to an end in late-July thanks to a knee sprain, and the Yankees eventually designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Reynolds.
Remember Eppley? He was actually on the Opening Day roster, believe it or not. His terrible Spring Training (12 runs in eight innings) carried over to the regular season, where he allowed four runs in 1.2 innings before being sent to Triple-A Scranton when Phil Hughes was ready to come off the DL in early-April. Eppley, 28, continued to stink in Triple-A (18 runs in 19 innings) and was eventually released to clear a 40-man spot for Claiborne. He was a nice middle relief find for the Bombers last season, but things went so wrong this year that he was pitching in an independent league by August.
The Yankees took a “throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks” approach to filling their right-handed outfield bat spot, eventually settling on the 32-year-old Francisco. He was released by the Indians in Spring Training and managed to beat out guys like Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera. Francisco lasted 48 team games, hitting .114/.220/.182 (13 wRC+) in 50 plate appearances overall while going 3-for-34 (.088) against southpaws. On the bright side, he did hit the team’s shortest homerun of the season. I guess that’s something. The Yankees designated Francisco for assignment on May 26th, when they claimed David Huff off waivers from the Tribe.
Gonzalez, 30, had two stints with the Yankees this season. He appeared in three games in mid-May and ten more from late-June through mid-July. The Former Attorney General went 6-for-34 (.176) in his limited time, but he did go 2-for-4 with a double and three runs driven in during a game against the Twins on July 2nd (video). Gonzalez also offered a nice glove, though not as nice as Brignac’s or Ryan’s.
Yes, Ishikawa was a Yankee this season. They nabbed the 30-year-old off waivers in early-July, watched him go 0-for-2 with two strikeouts on seven total pitches in his only game in pinstripes, then designated him for assignment to clear a roster spot for Derek Jeter, all in the span of six days. When’s the Yankeeography?
Joseph, 25, had two stints with the big league team in 2013, going 1-for-6 with a double, a walk, and a strikeout while starting both ends of a doubleheader against the Indians in mid-May. His season ended later that month, when he needed surgery to repair his shoulder. The Yankees removed Joseph from the 40-man roster last week, though he remains in the organization.
Part of that left side of the infield circus, the 30-year-old Lillibridge spent a little more than three forgettable weeks in pinstripes in late-July and early-August. He went 6-for-37 (.171) with eight strikeouts while playing okay defense in eleven games with the team, though unlike many other guys in this post, he did have the proverbial One Big Moment. On July 23rd against the Rangers, after Eduardo Nunez tripled in the tying run against Joe Nathan in the ninth inning, Lillibridge singled in Nunez for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run (video). He drove in a run with a fielder’s choice earlier in the game. Lillibridge was designated for assignment when Alex Rodriguez came off the DL.
This was a really bad year for Marshall, who had a poor season with Triple-A Scranton (5.13 ERA and 4.62 FIP in 138.2 innings) and didn’t stand out in his three-appearance cameo with the big league team. The 23-year-old allowed six runs and 21 base-runners in a dozen garbage time innings, walking as many batters as he struck out (seven). He did manage to save the bullpen by holding the Red Sox to one run in 4.1 innings during a blowout loss in one of those appearances, however. Marshall also got to pitch in front of his family near his hometown in Houston during the final game of the season (video), so that was neat.
Miller, 31, struck out 92 batters in 63.1 innings down in Triple-A this past season (3.55 ERA and 3.22 FIP), but he got hammered in his only big league game, allowing three runs to the Red Sox in a four-out appearance on September 7th. The Yankees were desperate for bullpen help at that point and he was a warm body. Apparently the team saw something they liked though, because they re-signed Miller to a minor league deal recently.
The 2013 season was an overwhelming success for the 22-year-old Murphy, but not because of his big league performance. He hit .269/.347/.426 (117 wRC+) across two minor league level before joining the Yankees in September, when they added him to the 40-man roster because he was going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season anyway. Murphy went 4-for-26 (.154) in 16 games during his late season cameo and looked fine defensively.
Neal, 26, was the organization’s #Free[RandomGuy] this past season. You know what I mean, right? The random Quad-A player sitting in the minors who would be so much better than whoever they have at the big league level if they’d only give him a chance! Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, Neal put up a .325/.391/.411 (130 wRC+) in 297 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton before going 2-for-11 (.133) with really bad defense during a four-game cameo in pinstripes in mid-June. He was designated for assignment when Granderson came off the DL (the second time) and was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Cubs.
Nelson was something of a pioneer this past season. He was the first of many players the Yankees acquired in an effort to solidify the left side of the infield, coming over from the Rockies in a minor trade in early-May. Nelson, 28, played ten games in pinstripes, all at third base, and went 8-for-36 (.222) with eleven strikeouts at the plate. He actually went 0-for-10 in his first three games and 8-for-26 (.308) in his last seven. The team designated Nelson for assignment when they called up Adams, and he was then claimed off waivers by the Angels. Naturally, Nelson returned to the Bronx with the Halos in mid-August and hit two homers (including a grand slam) in one game against the Yankees. Go figure.
I wish I had kept track of home many times Zagurski warmed up but did not appear in the game in September. The guy was up every game it seemed. Zagurski, 30, spent most of the year bouncing between organizations before getting the call as an extra lefty late in the season. In his only appearance with the team, he faced three batters and allowed two runs. That appearance made him the franchise-record 56th player used by the Yankees in 2013. Let us never talk of this season again.
We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s while I covered the D’s. Let’s wrap this up with the F’s and incompletes.
Every championship-caliber team has a group of individuals who go above and beyond, who perform incredible feats in incredible moments. These are the players who carry the team on their shoulders through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the players listed in this post are not those guys!
No, instead we’re going to discuss the “F” team. These are the retreads. These are the players that we, as fans, wish we did not have to watch on a daily basis. These guys are the ones who make us cringe, curse, and grind our teeth for three hours or so a night on a daily basis.
It’s sad, really. The Yankees shortstops have collectively posted a .241 wOBA and a 44 wRC+ (-1.2 fWAR). Relative to the rest of the league, this production (or lack there of) is ranked second worst in all of baseball.
While power is certainly a bit of a rarity from the shortstop position, it is both saddening and mildly surprising (at least to me) that this group, together, has only managed two (!) homeruns thus far. Hell, even the Marlins have three (though to be fair, the Cardinals and the White Sox both have one, and the Rangers none). I think, more than anything, what this tell us is a) how fortunate the Yankees are to have had Derek Jeter all these years, and b) how even a super-star in decline (like Derek Jeter or A-Rod perhaps) can still be a really preferable option to the alternative much of the time.
If the Yankees expect to reach the playoffs, they’ll need more from these guys, plain and simple. We’re not talking Troy Tulowitzki production (though that would be okay too), they just can’t be well-below replacement level. Right now, the shortstop position is a black hole in the lineup and it’s noticeable.
* I was a little torn about whether Nunez belonged in the “Grade F” group or with the “Incompletes.” At the end of the day I chose to throw him in with this lot which is probably a bit unfair. Nunez had a really great opportunity to prove his valuable to the team early on when it became obvious that Jeter would not be available for much of the year, and simply has not capitalized on his opportunity. Anyway you look at it, Nunez’ season has to be deemed a disappointment thus far. Of course, if you feel it’s unfair to give him a letter grade given his limited playing time, that’s fine too.
The Third Basemen
Next stop on the depressing infield tour is third base. It’s ugly. Really ugly. The good news is that the Yankees third basemen ranked higher relative to the league than their shortstop counterparts. The bad news is it’s not by much. They rank fourth worst in all of baseball with only the Twins, Blue Jays, and Brewers trailing. The group has managed to hit six home runs collectively (over 625 plate appearances) and has batted to a .219/.279/.295 (.256 wOBA, 56 wRC+) line. They haven’t taken many walks (6.2 BB%) though they have struck out at fair pace (25.8 K%), and as already mentioned, power has been a scarcity.
The culprits hear are pretty obvious. Kevin Youkilis was the super non-durable (and super desperate) backup plan to Alex Rodriguez. Even prior to his back injury, which ultimately sidelined him for the year, he looked pretty shot. He was getting an awful lot of weak ground outs down the third base line. His patented patience never really surfaced and he basically looked uncomfortable at the plate from moment one. I suppose if you’re generous you can give him a pass if you want to call his season “incomplete” too. I’m not that generous though. He’s getting an “F” in my book.
From there you can talk about Nix, who really has been used way more than he probably should be in an ideal scenario. Frankly, he was getting exposed out there. He’s an adequate fill in on occasion, but he’s not a starter. If the Yankees keep throwing him out their day in and day out, they should expect below replacement level production. As for Adams, I wrote a while back that we should temper our expectations. Well, our expectations certainly have been tempered. After an impressive hot streak following his big league arrival, he’s basically looked lost at the plate for months. There was a pretty clear reason why was he was optioned to AAA.
I hate seeing the young guys come up and struggle even though they do it most of the time. I mean, it has to be tough making the transition. After a lifetime of hard work, a prolonged stay in the Majors simply doesn’t pan out for many. For others, it’s a precious window that closes quickly. Very few stick around for an extended period of time, and even fewer make a big impact. That’s not to say Romine won’t enjoy a successful MLB career, but he’s had a pretty rough start.
At this point, Romine has batted .160/.182./.213 (.176 wOBA, 0 wRC+) and has been worth -0.4 fWAR. He’s taken basically no walks (1.3 BB%) and has struck out 22.8% of the time. This includes zero home runs. Of course, he’s only had 79 plate appearances. Joe Girardi‘s been unable to play Romine because he’s been awful in limited opportunities. It seems like this has probably been fairly detrimental to Austin’s confidence (and the team’s confidence in him). Romine, on the other hand, really hasn’t been able to bounce back because he rides the bench almost full-time. On the plus side, when he is in the game, he puts forth solid defense for the most part.
When I think about Romine’s predicament, I ultimately arrive at one point: the Yankees were not adequately prepared at catcher, and Romine was probably not ready to be a big leaguer when he was brought up. He missed substantial time during his minor league development due to back injuries in 2011 and 2012, and really never had the chance to progress at a typical pace. He was thrown onto the big league roster when Francisco Cervelli went down, and backup catcher Chris Stewart became the primary backstop. Maybe we should be apologists for Romine. Maybe we shouldn’t be. Either way, he’s been pretty abysmal through the first half.
It appears as though the Joba Chamberlain saga is finally coming to a rather inglorious end. The once heralded prospect turned elite setup reliever, turned failed starter, turned back into not-quite-so-elite reliever will likely be gone by the trade deadline, or if not, most certainly by the off-season. Although Joba spent some time this season on the disabled list with a strained oblique, there were no massive setbacks to deal with like Tommy John surgery or an ankle dislocation.
As for Joba’s pitching stats, they speak for themselves (negatively). Through 22.1 innings pitched, he’s produced a 5.24 ERA (5.03 FIP). Joba’s strikeout rates are definitely respectable, as they generally are (8.87 K/9), but he’s given up way more walks (4.3 BB/9) than normal. He’s also seemed way more prone to the long ball (1.61 HR/9) than he has in the past. While I’m sure Joba wasn’t delighted about losing his eighth inning gig to David Robertson a couple seasons ago, I’m sure he’s been pretty disheartened this year about losing the seventh inning job as well. In fact, he’s no longer really being used in any high leverage situations, mostly just mop up duty at this point. Instead of responding to the challenge positively, Chamberlain has taken a step backward. As David Cone noted on Sunday afternoon’s brutal loss to the Twins, he looks like isn’t throwing with any conviction.
I do believe Joba is a better pitcher than what we’ve seen this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned things around in the second half whether with NY or somewhere else altogether. Not to bludgeon a dead horse much further, I also believe the Yankees have mishandled Joba for a few years now, which in turn has hindered him to some degree. Ultimately though, Chamberlain needs to be accountable for his production, which has been pretty lousy. Basically, this seems like a sad ending to what otherwise could have been a promising career in pinstripes. In any event, I think the relationship between Joba and the organization has soured, which is a shame. Such is life.
Mike and I were originally thinking of dedicating a separate article to the walking wounded. This includes Derek Jeter (ankle, quad), Mark Teixeira (wrist), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), A-Rod (hip), and Cervelli (hand, elbow). What is there really to say though? Injuries have decimated this team.
Would the Yankees be six games back out of first place if these guys weren’t all injured? Maybe. I have to believe though they’d be much more formidable. I suppose it’s appropriate to throw Zoilo Almonte into the mix as well. While he’s been a breath of fresh air offensively with all the quality at bats, he hasn’t been around all that long. After a torrid start, he’s since cooled somewhat, and who knows what he’ll happen from here (though if I had to guess, I’d say he’ll turn back into the AAAA guy I expected).
The team could have absorbed extended injuries to one or two of these guys perhaps. Having them all out basically all season has been a nightmare though. Who knows how long Jeter will be sidelined with this most recent setback, or whether A-Rod will face a big suspension. Granderson’s basically a non entity at this point. All we do know is that the guys who have been brought on board to supplement the production of these big names aren’t getting it done. While we can’t grade these players on game performance, I think we can say it’s been a very disappointing season for them (and the team) in terms of injuries.
Nelson, 27, hit .222/.243/.278 (36 wRC+) in 37 plate appearances for the Yankees after being acquired from the Rockies earlier this month. He finished up his tenure with the team with a nice little 8-for-26 (.308) road trip. The Yankees acquired infielder Reid Brignac from the Rockies earlier today, replacing Alberto Gonzalez.
3:59pm: Yep, Nelson has been designated for assignment. He had a nice little two weeks in pinstripes, specifically going 8-for-26 (.308) at the plate in the last seven games. Nelson was always just a stopgap until Adams could be called up.
3:45pm: The Yankees have officially called up infielder David Adams, the team announced. No word on the corresponding roster move just yet — they need to make both a 25-man and 40-man move — but I’m guessing it’ll involve Chris Nelson. They’re completely redundant.
Adams, who turns 26 today, hit .316/.407/.490 (155 wRC+) with three homers in 26 games for Triple-A Scranton this year. They Yankees couldn’t call him up any sooner because of some silly roster rules, but he is expected to get a chance to play everyday with Kevin Youkilis on the DL. Adams started his career as a second baseman but shifted over to third in the second half last year, exactly when Alex Rodriguez had his hand broken by a pitch.
The Yankees are in desperate need of infield help these days due to injury problems (and bad timing), so on Wednesday they added some depth by acquiring Chris Nelson from the Rockies for cash or a player to be named later. Frankie Cervelli has been transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot, and I assume Corban Joseph will be sent back to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot.
Nelson, 27, was designated for assignment by Colorado last weekend. The Yankees had interest in him both at that time and during the Winter Meetings in December. He hit .242/.282/.318 (51 wRC+) in 71 plate appearances before the Rockies took him off the roster, but just last year he hit .301/.352/.458 (105 wRC+) in 377 plate appearances. Nelson is a career .279/.322/.416 (86 wRC+) hitter in parts of four big league seasons, and the right-handed bat doesn’t have a massive left/road (84/87 wRC+) or home/road (97/72) split.
Although Baseball America ranked him as the 26th best prospect in the game as a shortstop in 2005, Nelson is mostly a second and third baseman these days. He can fill-in at short in a real pinch, but otherwise the defensive metrics rate him as average or a tick below. He doesn’t steal or run the bases particularly well either. Nelson is out of minor league options — he can’t be sent to Triple-A without first passing through waivers — and there really isn’t anything about his game that stands out.
The Yankees just need a warm body on the infield for the time being, and Nelson is exactly that. He fits the roster better than Joseph because he’s a righty bat and can actually play third base. More than likely, he’s just a two-week stopgap until Kevin Youkilis is ready to be activated off the DL. It might even be shorter than that if the team is planning to give Ronnie Mustelier a shot as soon as he finished rehabbing from his bone bruise. New York needed infield depth and that’s what they got, nothing more. Nelson’s a band-aid.
Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees have discussed infielder Chris Nelson with the Rockies recently, but they don’t appear to have a ton of interest in trading for him. He was designated for assignment over the weekend and New York actually showed some interest in acquiring him back during the Winter Meetings. I wrote about him as a possible target just yesterday.
Nelson, 27, put up a .242/.282/.318 (51 wRC+) batting line in 71 plate appearances with Colorado before getting cut. He is one year removed from a 105 wRC+ though, plus he can play all three non-first base infield positions in a pinch. The Yankees desperately need some infield help while Kevin Youkilis is on the DL — Corban Joseph is a utility infielder in theory only given his defensive issues — so Nelson would help them out in the short-term. Even if it’s only a two-week thing while Youkilis is out, he fits their current needs better than their internal options.
The Yankees just rattled off four straight wins over the division rival Blue Jays and have now gone 14-5 since the ugly 1-4 start. The middle relief has settled down, the rotation overcame some early woes, and the lineup has really started to click even if they still stink against left-handers (71 wRC+). It took a few weeks (as usual), but things are starting to come together.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, especially for a team as injury-riddled as New York. They’ve already used the DL a league-leading nine times this season, and that could grow to ten depending on the results of today’s MRI on Kevin Youkilis‘ stiff back. Three players lost their jobs with other teams over the weekend, and all three could represent upgrades on the fringes of the Yankees’ roster.
Wells, 28, was designated for assignment by the Athletics yesterday, the third time a team has cut ties with him in the last month. That’s a pretty good indication front offices don’t consider him to be as productive as WAR or other freely available metrics say. He was claimed off waivers and traded for $100k this month, so the price is obviously low.
The Yankees aren’t looking for an offensive savior, they just need to find a better right-handed platoon bat than Ben Francisco (-7 wRC+ overall and -16 wRC+ against lefties). Wells has decent numbers against southpaws during his career (129 wRC+), but 317 plate appearances spread across three years aren’t definitive proof of anything. The various defense stats say he’s serviceable at worst in all three spots. Francisco hasn’t just looked bad, he’s looked horrible without even a hint of snapping out of it. Wells is freely available and it would be tough for him to give the team less than what they’re currently getting from Francisco*.
* That said, Wells has had five plate appearances in the last month because he’s been in transactions limbo, so rust is a very real concern.
The Rockies called up top third base prospect Nolan Arenado this weekend, and the 27-year-old Nelson was the roster casualty. Colorado designated him for assignment and it’s very likely another team will pick him up despite his poor performance this month (51 wRC+) because he’s versatile, one year removed from a 105 wRC+, and not too far removed from being a top prospect.
I wrote about Nelson as a potential target last month, so I’ll just refer you back to that to keep things simple. Nelson can provide depth at the three non-first base infield positions, which is something pretty much every team needs. The Yankees will be without Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez until at least the All-Star break and there’s a chance Youkilis will wind up on the DL following today’s MRI, so adding an infielder seems rather prudent. Even if David Adams or Corban Joseph are the team’s preferred call-up options, there is still an opening to stash Nelson in Triple-A. That would require signing him to a minor league contract following his release, which seems unlikely. I’m guessing he doesn’t go through waivers unclaimed.
Quintero, 33, was cut loose by the Phillies over the weekend when Carlos Ruiz was eligible to return following his 25-game amphetamine-related suspension. The veteran journeyman barely played with Philadelphia (21 plate appearances), but he’s managed over 1,300 plate appearances (55 wRC+) in parts of 11 big league seasons. He’s always had a strong throwing arm (83-for-257 career, 32.3% caught stealing rate) and the rest of his defensive game is well-regarded, but who really knows these days.
The Yankees will be without Frankie Cervelli for at least six weeks thanks to his broken hand, and it could be even longer considering how hand/wrist/finger injuries tend to linger. They’re unlikely to find anyone better than Chris Stewart and Austin Romine right now, but Quintero is someone they could stick in Triple-A for further catching depth. Remember, Romine has a series of back injuries in his recent past, so it wouldn’t take much for the team to have to dip into it’s backstop depth again in the coming weeks. Quintero is likely to clear waivers and take a minor league contract, which fits what the team needs at the moment.
The Yankees have lost more than their fair share of players to injury this spring, most notably losing Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Curtis Granderson (forearm) for the first month of the season. Lesser injuries to Clay Rapada (shoulder) and Boone Logan (elbow) threaten the Opening Day bullpen. The Bombers have the depth to replace the two left-handed relievers if need be, but replacing the first baseman and center fielder will be impossible.
“This ain’t good,” said Brian Cashman to Mark Feinsand following Teixeira’s injury. “We’ll just wait and see. What we have in our camp is what we’ll continue to evaluate, and we have at our disposal potential casualties from other camps … It’s not the time of year to try to make any moves. Usually movement takes place after the draft unless people are trying to cut garbage.”
At this time of year, that “garbage” is typically players who are out of minor league options and can’t go to Triple-A without passing through waivers. A handful of these guys are traded in late-March every season as clubs finalize their roster and try to turn spare parts into something useful. Chris Stewart is a perfect example — he was out of options last year, so when the Giants didn’t have room for him on the roster, they made a small trade with the Yankees. Happens every single year.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, this spring’s crop of out of options players is rather unappealing. Lots and lots of fringy relievers, it seems. There isn’t much potential help in that garbage pile for Cashman, not even decent depth players for first and the outfield, nevermind a legitimate starting caliber position player. Here are three out of options guys who might help New York if they become available before the start of the season.
Daric Barton, Athletics
Barton, 27, was a sabermetric darling a few years ago, when he hit .273/.393/.405 (126 wRC+) with more walks (110) than strikeouts (102) in 686 plate appearances for the 2010 Athletics. He’s been hurt and ineffective since, putting up a .209/.329/.275 (75 wRC+) in 416 plate appearances from 2011-2012 while battling injuries to both shoulders — he had labrum surgery on the left shoulder in September 2011.
Oakland is set to go with the left-handed hitting Brandon Moss at first base — with various platoon partners — making the left-handed hitting Barton expendable. The Yankees have a similar hitter in Dan Johnson already in camp, except he will actually hit for some power in addition to drawing a ton of walks. Barton is a better defender at first, but he hasn’t been healthy and he hasn’t hit. I’m not sure he’s much of an upgrade over what New York already has in-house.
Casper Wells, Mariners
I think the 28-year-old Wells has gotten pretty overrated in recent weeks. The right-handed hitter owns a .264/.349/.489 (132 wRC+) line with a 10.2% walk rate against lefties in his career, but that has come in 313 plate appearances spread across three years. Those three small samples — career-high in plate appearances against a lefty is 151 last season — smashed together doesn’t really paint an accurate picture of what he can provide.
That said, Wells is better than most of what the Yankees have in camp. He is a (much) better defensive player than the established veterans like Juan Rivera, Ben Francisco, and Matt Diaz, and he has more of a big league track record than the youngsters like Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte. Since the Yankees will need a right-handed hitting outfielder even after Granderson returns, picking Wells up would be more than a one-month stopgap. The Mariners are overloaded with corner outfield and DH types, so he could become available. He’s useful, I just think he’s gotten a little overrated lately.
Chris Nelson, Rockies
Nelson, 27, hit .301/.352/.458 in 377 plate appearances last summer and .284/.327/.427 in 593 career plate appearances overall. Pretty solid right? Well, he’s a Rockie and when you adjust that stuff for Coors Field, you get a 105 and 90 wRC+, respectively. Not too hot all of a sudden.
Anyway, Nelson has a little bit of pop from the right side and can play the three non-first base infield positions in a pinch. He’s not a great defender but he is better than Eduardo Nunez, plus he offers a little more with the bat than Jayson Nix. The Yankees have talked about using Kevin Youkilis at first base and finding a new third baseman while Teixeira is out, though I wouldn’t recommend playing Nelson everyday. He could fit as a bench player though, representing a tiny little upgrade over what New York already has in-house. Given where they sit on the win curve and what they’ve lost due to injury, grabbing every little upgrade possible is a wise idea.
Baseball’s annual Winter Meeting officially kick off today in Nashville, and the next three and a half days will be chock full of rumors, rumblings, trades, free agent signings, and all sorts of neat hot stove stuff. Whether the Yankees get involved and make some moves remains to be seen. They’ve already take care of their major pitching issues by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera to one-year contracts.
New York’s needs are rather obvious. They need a right fielder to replace Nick Swisher, a catcher to replace the already departed Russell Martin, as well as most of a bench and miscellaneous depth players. We’ll keep trade of any Yankees-related news right here throughout the day with the latest updates up top. Just check the time stamps (all ET).
- 6:23pm: The Yankees were not in on Joakim Soria before the agreed to a two-year deal with the Rangers. [Sherman]
- 4:25pm: The Yankees have some interest in Cody Ross as a right-handed hitting outfielder. He seems like a lock to get multiple years and overpaid. [Jon Morosi]
- 3:42pm: Brian Cashman confirmed A-Rod‘s injury will not impact the team’s budget. They’re sticking with whatever number this year and will still try to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold next year. They may received some insurance money, however. [Buster Olney]
- 3:29pm: The Yankees had some trade interest in infielder Chris Nelson of the Rockies earlier this season. The 27-year-old hit .301/.358/.458 this summer, but that’s only a 105 wRC+ when adjusted for Coors Field. Nelson is a second and third baseman. [Troy Renck]
- 3:21pm: The Yankees are one of several teams trying to sign Scott Hairston, but they don’t want to spend 2014 dollars and he’ll likely require a two-year commitment. [Sherman]
- 1:55pm: The Yankees were “quietly inquiring” about third base help at the GM Meetings last month. [Sweeny Murti]
- 12:38pm: Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury means the Yankees figure to be even more interested in finding infield help, though they don’t believe Kevin Youkilis, Placido Polanco, and Ty Wigginton can handle the position on an everyday basis. They view Marco Scutaro as a second baseman. [Sherman]
- 11:00am: The Yankees are interested in Stephen Drew and are “working hard” to sign him. They would presumably use him as their 100-game backup shortstop and third baseman, but there is no indication Drew is okay with playing the hot corner. He has never played a professional game anywhere other than shortstop and figures to get offers to start for other teams at the position. [Jim Bowden & Joel Sherman]
Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.