Let’s start this post with a quick update on yesterday’s happenings. So far this off-season, the Yankees have had a big shakeup at second base. First of all, Robinson Cano left for the greener pastures (money green, that is). I will be reacting to that signing sometime soon, but I’m still processing it as a fan. To make up the lost production, the Yankees then signed Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, but this still leaves a question mark at second base. They need to find someone, and perennial old timer’s day participant Pat Kelly (pictured above) is not coming out of retirement, so what have the Yankees done so far to fill that need? Let’s take a look.
Before they even let Cano go, the Yankees traded minor league reliever Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres in exchange for a 27-year old minor league middle infielder named Dean Anna. Who? Be patient, I’ll tell you. Anna was drafted by the Padres out of Ball State in the 26th round of the 2008 draft. He has quietly risen through the ranks, but did put up a pretty solid year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (AAA) last year. Anna hit .331/.410/.482 in the PCL, with 9 homers and 73 RBI (the average was good enough for the league batting title). The numbers were, no doubt, heightened by the league (something about thinner air, and the ball not breaking as much in the league cities) He still has a career triple slash line of .286/.386/.428, which is nothing to shake a stick at. He also makes good contact (only a 13% strike out rate) and works the count well (12.5% walk rate), so he’s a guy that goes up to the plate with a plan and puts the ball in play more often than not.
He bats lefty, and has experience at second, third, shortstop and even some outfield, but for the Yankees purposes, he’ll probably be mostly featured in the middle infield positions. At 27, it’s probably time for him to make a major league contribution, or become a career minor leaguer, and he might be a solid utility infielder for this team. If he’s starting, something probably went wrong along the way, but he seems like a nice little option to have for the bench.
I mean… He’s the god damn “Dean of Swing” after all. Check out his official website.
On the day Cano left, the Yankees signed Beltran and, to much lesser fanfare, one Kelly Johnson. Johnson, a first round pick by the Braves out of Westwood High School (Austin, Texas) in the 2000 draft, has carved himself out a nice little big league career over the last eight seasons. He had his best season in 2000, after being traded to the Diamondbacks, when he hit .284/.370/.496 with 36 doubles, 26 homers and 73 RBI. At his peak, Johnson could hit for good power and decent average, which made up for his lack of glove in the field. He again topped 20 homers in 2011, but his average came crashing down to .222. He was also traded to the Blue Jays in late August for John McDonald and Aaron Hill. That turned out to be an absolute steal for the D-backs, as hill has regained his All-Star form, and Johnson ended up hitting .225 in 2012, before signing with Tampa Bay for the 2013 season.
His best days are behind him, but Johnson still has a bit of pop in his bat. He can also play second and third base, as well as the corner outfield, although not exactly at Gold Glove levels. As a part time player, and a utility infielder/outfielder, he’ll probably will never hit in the .280s again, but if he can hold his own in the field and run into one every once in a while, he’ll be a good addition to the team too. Plus, they signed him pretty cheaply, on a one year deal for only $3.5 MM.
Brian Roberts is the latest, and depending on what blog you read, the best and worst decision the Yankees have ever made in the history of the franchise. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Roberts was drafted out of the University of South Carolina (after transferring from UNC after his father was fired from the head coaching position) in the first round of the 1999 draft. He made his big league debut in 2001, and was the Orioles’ every day second baseman by 2003. He quickly became a fan favorite, as well as one of the best second basemen in the league. At his best, he was a doubles machine, twice topping the 50 double mark and, although he wasn’t known much for his home run power, did twice hit over 15 dingers in a year (18 was his best in 2005).
The problem with Roberts is the increasing list of injuries he has suffered over the last four seasons. We profiled this history in a post last season, but it’s worth going into again. Starting in 2010, he herniated a disc during Spring Training and strained an abdominal muscle in April, which sidelined him until June. In September, he suffered his first severe concussion after hitting himself in the helmet with his bat out of frustration, which kept him out until the next year. In May of 2011, he suffered another concussion while sliding in to first, and this one cost him 13 months. When he came back in June of 2012, he suffered a groin strain and eventually had hip surgery. In April of 2013, after finally being cleared of concussion symptoms and healing his hip and groin, he ruptured a tendon in his knee while stealing second base and was out until June.
Roberts has, by far, the best pedigree of all the current second base options. In his prime, he was a an All-Star who could hit for average, wreak havoc on the bases (50 steals in 2007) and even hit the ball over the fence from time to time. When he came back last year, he hit .249/.312/.392 with 8 homers and 39 RBI in 77 games. The Yankees signed him for only $2MM, so everyone who is yelling about how awful the signing is, take it easy. Secondly, I’m sure the Yankees checked his medical records, and aren’t expecting him to play 162 games next year. This is a low risk, high reward type scenario. I think we’d be happy even with a mid-reward for $2MM.
The last time he was able to play a full season, which was in 2009, Roberts hit .283/.356/.451 with 56 doubles, 16 homers and 79 RBI. Even if he’s able to stay healthy, there’s probably no way he’ll put up those types of numbers at age 36. That being said, I heard an interesting stat on Intentional Talk yesterday. If you average out 81 games from Roberts and Johnson, they add up to a .241 average with 19 homers and 77 RBI. With the current lineup, wouldn’t you take that type of production from the bottom of the order?
These guys are not going to even sniff the kind of production that Robinson Cano put up during his tenure in pinstripes. When Cano hits .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI next year, I will not be comparing his stats to the numbers put up by these guys, or anyone else that happens to play second base for the Yankees. I think the Yankees have gotten better all-around on offense than they were last year, even before the injuries. Also, Cano chose to leave. Nobody “let him” go. He was taking the money and that’s it. It’s time for us, as fans, to move on and get over it.
The only real option for filling second base with solid MLB talent this off-season was Omar Infante. The Yankees had their limit with him, and the Royals exceeded it. I’ll say this; are we really going to cry over Omar Infante? Or Mark Ellis even? Personally, I think that this lineup will be able to carry whoever play second base, whether it’s Johnson, Anna, Roberts, a combination of all three, or someone else all together. The Yankees will have plenty of production from Teixeira, Beltran, Ellsbury, McCann, Gardner and possibly Mark Reynolds (if they bring him back to play third). Having a platoon at second base is not the end of the world, especially if they are able to sign Masahiro Tanaka when (if?) he gets posted.
Here’s hoping from the best of these guys, and possibly anyone else that comes along.
Featured image courtesy of: Mike McCann/WFAN
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