Archive for Jerry Hairston Jr.
With the Yankees scaling back their spending, the Dodgers have emerged as baseball’s new financial superpower in recent months. The team’s new ownership has absorbed roughly $600M in salary obligation since July, and this year they’re likely to set a new MLB payroll record. All of that money has brought stars to Los Angeles, including big name guys like Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Zack Greinke. It’s been fun to watch from afar.
All of the spending has left the team with some surplus though, including on the infield as Ken Rosenthal notes. The Dodgers have seven (!) backup infielders after acquiring Skip Schumaker this week, though we should really say it’s just six backup infielders because Juan Uribe is completely useless and likely to be released before Opening Day. Seriously, he’s posted a 55 wRC+ in the two years since signing a three-year, $21M contract. Yikes. The Yankees need infield help among several other things, other things the Dodgers can offer as well.
Jerry Hairston Jr. & Nick Punto
Two veteran utility men that offer different skill sets. We all remember the elder Hairston brother from his time with the 2009 Yankees, when he most notably scored the game-winning run in ALCS Game Two on Maicer Izturis’ walk-off error. He’s a contact-oriented (11.3 K% and 87.4% contact rate since 2010) right-handed batter who has little power (.111 ISO) but will take a walk (7.8 BB%). Hairston can adequately play almost any position, though he only played 13 innings at short over the last two years. Hairston had hip surgery in September (labrum tear and bone impingement) and is a question mark for Opening Day. He’s 36 years old and is owed $3.75M in 2013.
Punto, 35, is a contact-oriented switch hitter who saw his strikeout (22.0%) and contact (84.1%) rates decline noticeably in 2012. It could be a small sample size thing (191 plate appearances) or it could be a sign that the end is near. Punto had a big platoon split this year (62 wRC vs. RHP and 107 vs. LHP) but hadn’t in the past. He’s an infielder who grades out as about average at second, third, and short these days. Neither he nor Hairston offer much speed, but Punto is a slightly better bet to steal a base. He’s owed $1.5M next season.
Rosenthal says the Dodgers are most likely to move Punto (and Uribe, but yuck), which isn’t much of a surprise. Hairston is the more desirable player despite his hip surgery, and they’re going to keep him in an effort to win this year. Punto is never going to hit like he did in 2011 again (125 wRC+) and history suggests he’s a true talent 70-75 wRC+ guy, which stinks. Is he better than Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix? Not offensively, but he surely is with the glove. He’s someone the Yankees could look into just for depth if the Dodgers are willing to give him away.
Scott Van Slyke
Van Slyke, 26, was designated for assignment yesterday to clear room on the 40-man roster for Schumaker. He is Andy’s son and a right-handed hitting corner outfielder/first baseman. Van Slyke didn’t hit a lick in his big league debut this season (38 wRC+ in just 57 plate appearances), but his Triple-A performance was huge (152 wRC+). The problem is that it didn’t just come in the Pacific Coast League, he also played his home games at altitude in Albuquerque. It’s hard to find a more hitter friendly environment, so take the hitting stats with a big grain of salt.
Baseball America ranked Van Slyke as the team’s #21 prospect prior to this season, saying he “has a nice swing with good wrist action (and) started showing solid power to all fields.” They also note that he’s adequate defensively in left and at first base. He tagged lefties for a .329/.398/.593 batting line with 10.9 BB% and 15.8 K% in the minors over the last two years (again, grain of salt), and profiles as a platoon corner bat.
What makes Van Slyke especially appealing is that he has two minor league options remaining, so he can be shuttled back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2013 and 2014 without having to be put on waivers. The Yankees need a right-handed platoon bat given their all-left-handed outfield, but I assume they would prefer someone more established. Van Slyke could be just a depth piece stashed in the minors though, which has value. I don’t think he’ll clear waivers, so the Yankees would have to swing a trade to acquire him.
* * *
The Dodgers don’t have many roster holes to fill, but they do need a left-handed bat off the bench and a reserve outfielder capable of playing center field. Chris Dickerson, who obviously will never going to get an opportunity with the Yankees, fits both of those needs and could be dangled. He’s not much, but then again neither are Punto and Van Slyke. They also need an extra catcher, but the Yankees aren’t in a position to give away catching help at the moment.
There is absolutely nothing exciting about the prospect of acquiring players like Punto and Van Slyke, but they would potentially fill some needs for New York. The cost shouldn’t be anything prohibitive and if either guys bombs, it would be easy to cast them aside and eat the money since it wouldn’t have any impact on the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. The Yankees need infield help and a right-handed bat, and Punto and Van Slyke could serve as depth pieces in those roles.
After losing out on Cliff Lee, the Yankees have more than $20M in 2011 payroll room to play with, and we’ve heard that they plan to spread the wealth around and shore up several spots rather than dump it all on one or two pieces. The process started on Tuesday when the Yankees agreed to sign catcher Russell Martin, who allows them to be patient with top prospect Jesus Montero while keeping Frankie Cervelli in a limited role. While Lee was busy finalizing his deal with the Phillies, we also learned that New York has interest in bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr.
Hairston short stint in pinstripes was productive but not overwhelming. He reached base 32 times in 93 plate appearances (.352 OBP), and hit enough to post a .325 wOBA with more walks (11) than strikeouts (8). Jerry Jr. did all that while playing six positions, everything but first base and the battery. In the only postseason action of his career, Hairston made one spot start in place of the struggling Nick Swisher in Game Two of the 2009 World Series (1-for-3 with a strikeout) and came off the bench on six other occasions. You probably remember him best for racing around third to score from second on a walk-off error by Maicer Izturis in Game Two of the ALCS.
Jerry got his World Series ring then did what was best for him, signing for a guaranteed $2.125M with the Padres so he could play with his brother Scott (who the Yankees should totally sign). Forced into everyday shortstop duty due to Everth Cabrera’s hamstring injury, Hairston put up a measly .287 wOBA in 2010. It wasn’t just Petco Park either, his home wOBA (.318) was better than his road wOBA (.259). Jerry’s season ended prematurely because of a stress fracture in his tibia (the bone between your knee and ankle), which came after an elbow strain. “Every step hurt, like needles were sticking me,” he said. “I stopped thinking about the elbow. I was playing on one leg.” I haven’t found anything that indicates he won’t be ready for the start of Spring Training, so let’s just assume he will be.
Evaluating bench options is pretty simple. Hairston can hit a little (career .257 AVG, .266 over the last three years) but does so without much power (career .113 ISO, .134 over the last three years), though he makes up for it with some secondary on-base skills. His walk rate is slightly below average at 7.4% career and 7.1% over the last three years, and he’s got a bit of a knack for getting hit by pitches (one every 48.5 plate appearances for his career, the modern day HBP king Craig Biggio got plunked once every 43.9 PA in his career). That’s allowed Hairston to keep him IsoD’s (isolated discipline, same idea as isolated power but with OBP-AVG) right around 0.065 over the last six or seven years. It’s not great, but if it was any better Hairston would be a starter. Unless his batting average on balls in play tanks, Hairston should get on base enough to be useful at the plate.
Of course, Hairston’s calling card is his ridiculous versatility. Like I said, he played six different positions for the Yankees and I’m willing to bet he could handle first base if needed and even chip in an inning off the mound in garbage time at some point. He’s got several hundred, if not thousands of innings of experience at pretty much any spot a team would use him, and his UZR‘s are generally positive. At 34 years old, I wouldn’t expect him to be anything more than average at any position, which is perfectly fine. The best case scenario is something like 250 plate appearances with a .320 wOBA, which is good for about 1.0 WAR.
The Yankees are focused on upgrading the margins of their roster right now, and replacing Eduamiro Penunez as the utility infielder is one place they can do it. Hairston is probably going to end up commanding a salary around $2M, which seems high, but the Yanks are in the position to overpay a bit. They’ll probably have to to get him to join their bench given their regular players. Unlike some other bench options out there, Hairston can handle shortstop, allowing them to use the other two non-backup catcher reserve spots on guys that can hit. I’m all for signing Jerry Hairston Jr. at this point in time, and really I’d love to see a package deal where his brother Scott comes along and replaces Marcus Thames as the righty bat off the bench. For once, the Yanks could start the season with a strong bench rather than worry about upgrading it at the deadline.
Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees have called the Padres to inquire about the possibility of acquiring Jerry Hairston Jr. for the second straight trade deadline, but they were told he’s not available. San Diego has the best record in the National League and leads the NL West by five games in the loss column, so they’re not going to give him away despite his .290 wOBA (.323 at home, .255 away, so it’s not Petco either). That’s a kind of player the Yankees are looking for though, a versatile righthanded bat that could platoon with Curtis Granderson if needed.
Via Dave O’Brien (with a h/t to Chad Jennings), Eric Hinske and Melky Cabrera both received their World Series rings yesterday, courtesy of Jerry Hairston Jr. Hairston, who was able to fly in for Tuesday’s ceremony because the Padres had an off day, picked up his ring as well as Hinske’s and Melky’s. As luck would have it, the Braves are in San Diego this week, so the three former teammates met up before last night’s game for the exchange. “Jerry shook our hands and hugged us,” said Hinske, “and said they told him to tell us, ‘This is from the team and we wish you could have been there.’”
It’s a shame Hinske and particularly the Melkman couldn’t make it back to New York for the ceremony, but I’m glad they were able to get their rings from a fellow 2009 Yankee instead of through the mail. That’s pretty cool. Make sure you click through the O’Brien link for the photo.
Buster Olney gives us two interesting nuggets today. First off, he says the Yankees never made an offer to Jerry Hairston Jr., despite their reported interest in bringing the jack-of-all-trades back. Jerry Jr. got his ring last year, so he headed to San Diego over the weekend for a little extra cash and the chance to play with his brother. Can you blame him?
Olney also mentions that the Yanks have had no recent contact with Johnny Damon. Ever since the Nick Johnson signing became official, there’s been basically zero movement on the Damon front. It’s apparent the team has no interest in bringing him back unless it’s on their terms and their terms only. Will Scott Boras crack? I say no.
And finally, Boras indicated that Xavier Nady is on schedule to be ready for Spring Training. “The doctors have his throwing program ahead of schedule,” said the superagent, however we’ve already heard that he’s out of the Yanks’ price range. Given the concern about a second Tommy John surgery, I don’t see why the Yanks should risk a roster spot and anything more than the league minimum on a proven league average commodity with basically zero upside.
On July 31, Brian Cashman sent Chase Weems to the Reds in exchange for Jerry Hairston, Jr., and for three months, Hairston got the job done. He served as a versatile utility player with decent speed and hit .237/.352/.382 over 93 plate appearances. He scored the winning run in Game 2 of the ALCS and filled in during the World Series when both Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon went down with leg injuries. Today, Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Diego Padres and Hairston are “closing in on [a] deal.” Hairston will be joining his brother Scott who arrived in San Diego yesterday, and the Yanks will be out a potential bench player.
We were just about finished with the left field closing arguments series, but then we learned that the Yankees and Jerry Hariston are in serious talks. So we’ll bring back the series to examine the Yankees’ 2009 second-half utility player.
We titled this series left field closing arguments, but Jerry Hairston isn’t so much a left field solution as he is a roster solution. Because he can play every position except pitcher and catcher 1, the Yankees can better cover their bench. One player becomes the backup outfielder and backup infielder, thereby creating in essence an extra roster spot. The Yankees can find many uses for that, both to start the season and later on, when they could swing a trade for a more valuable bench asset.
With a 12-man pitching staff, the Yankees have room for just four bench players. Usually that would consist of a backup infielder, outfielder, and catcher, plus one wild card position. By combining the backup infielder and outfielder into one player, Hairston, the Yankees can then afford two wild card bench spots. That allows them the flexibility to give Jamie Hoffmann a real shot to stick with the team. They could also keep Juan Miranda on the bench for pinch-hitting situations.
As a left field solution, Hairston doesn’t provide an attractive case. In only two seasons has he hit above league average, and in this seasons he came to the plate a total of 631 times. His highest OPS+ during a season in which he got 400 or more plate appearances was 92, all the way back in 2002, when he was the regular second baseman for the Orioles. It looks like too much exposure can be detrimental to his production.
The Cincinnati Reds found that out first hand last season. They got excellent production from Hairston in 2008 after signing him to a minor league deal, the second straight year in which Hairston had to settle for one. In 297 plate appearances he hit .326/.384/.487 while playing all positions 4 through 9. Apparently impressed, the Reds signed Hairston to a $2 million major league contract for 2009.
He started off slowly in April, but from May 5 to May 30, over 103 plate appearances, Hairston hit .326/.370/.620. It wouldn’t last. From May 30 through July 30, the last game he played for the Reds, Hairston came to the plate 191 times and got just 43 hits (.247 BA), including 10 doubles and two home runs. Already out of the race, the Reds traded him to the Yankees for Chase Weems. Used as A-Rod‘s primary backup at third base and as the fourth outfielder, Hairston hit fairly well as a Yankee, going 18 for 76 (.237) with five doubles two home runs, and 11 walks (to just eight strikeouts).
Offense, however, is just a bonus for Hairston. His true value lies in his ability to cover every position on the diamond. That provides the Yankees with flexibility for their final bench spot. It’s very much like the Mariners trading Bill Hall for Casey Kotchman. As Jeff from Lookout Landing explains, “this isn’t about Kotchman over the alternative first basemen. Chances are, this is about Kotchman and a righty OF over the alternative first basemen and Hall.” For the Yankees, this is about Hairston and the extra bench spot over a left fielder like Reed Johnson a utility infielder like Ramiro Pena.
As a pure left fielder, there are better options. But as a total roster solution, the Yankees will do well to sign Jerry Hairston. He provides them the flexibility to build and change their bench over the course of the season, adding players as they need them. On a team with just four bench slots, combining two of them provides value. Hairston should be well worth a $2 to $3 million contract.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
1And in the playoffs, after Jorge Posada subbed for Jose Molina, Hairston was said to be the emergency catcher. (Up)
On Friday evening, Mike reported that the Yankees were interested in bringing back Jerry Hairston, Jr. for at least the 2010 season. Late last night, ESPN analyst and former outfielder Chris Singleton reported that the two sides were in “serious talks.” He noted that Hairston would provide an offense-minded backup for A-Rod and Derek Jeter while serving as an outfielder as well. The Yanks have expressed “strong interest” in Hairston, and the two sides will probably reach a deal soon. The Padres remain interested, but the Yanks are definitely the frontrunners right now. (Hat tip MLBTR)
Via MLBTR, the Yanks are one of five teams that have expressed interest in free agent jack-of-all-trades Jerry Hairston Jr. Sucka got no juice, the proprietor of said rumor, says that Jerry could get as much as $2-3M on a one year deal, though he’s received multi-year deals as well. The Yanks could certainly afford that, especially since he’d also double as a backup backup plan for left field.
The bench right now is decidedly young, and Jerry did a bang up job during his stint in pinstripes last year. It’s not every day that you can find a guy to come off the bench and get on base 35% of the time while running into the occasional fastball.
Over the next week or so, we’ll again break down what went wrong and what went right for the 2009 Yankees. The series this year will be much more enjoyable than the last.
While the big offseason additions received the majority of the media and fan attention during the season (rightfully so), the little moves the team made to tweak the roster midseason also played a key role in bringing them to the promised land.
For most of the first half, the best bat the Yankees had on the bench belonged to Brett Gardner, which was sad. That all changed in late June, when the team acquired World Series veteran Eric Hinske (and $400,000 to pay his salary) from the Pirates for two throw away minor leaguers (a.k.a. Casey Erickson and Eric Fryer). Hinske immediately became the team’s primary pinch hitter, and even chipped in a few starts here and there to keep the regulars rested.
Hinske famously clubbed five homers in his first seven games with the Yanks, and hit .226-.316-.512 overall. He also played three different positions (not including DH), and reached base in his only postseason plate appearance, eventually coming around to score.
The second midseason pickup came right on the July 31st trade deadline, when the Yanks used their surplus of minor league catching depth (in this case: Chase Weems) to import the versatile Jerry Hairston Jr. from Cincinnati. Hairston replaced the overmatched Cody Ransom as the all-purpose bench player, and he went on to play every position but pitcher, catcher, and first base for the Bombers. Hairston’s overall batting line of .237-.352-.382 wasn’t spectacular, but bench players that can get on base more than 35% of the time don’t grow on trees.
On the roster for all three playoff series, Hairston ignited a game winning rally with a lead off single in the 13th inning of Game Two of the ALCS. He later made a spot start in rightfield for the slumping Nick Swisher, going 1-for-3 off Pedro Martinez in Game Two of the World Series and igniting another rally with a lead off single. Although Hairston and Hinske saw limited action in the playoffs, both certainly contributed in big ways once their names were called.
The final midseason pickup came a week after the Hairston trade, when the Yanks shipped $100K to San Diego in exchange for Chad Gaudin. The righthander initially worked out of the bullpen, but soon displaced Sergio Mitre as the team’s fifth starter. The Yankees won all six of Gaudin’s starts, during which he posted a 3.19 ERA. Even though he was on call to make a start every round, Gaudin appeared in only one game in the postseason, mopping up a blow out win in Game Four of the ALCS.
No team is ever complete in April, and the Yankees did a tremendous job of upgrading their roster during the season while using minimal resources. Weaknesses were addressed by acquiring veteran players familiar with the roles they were being asked to fill, not players who weren’t accustomed to coming off the bench or pitching on an irregular schedule. The added depth rewarded the team down the stretch and in the postseason.