Jobu weighs in on the possible Designated Hitter candidates for the New York Yankees, and who he’d like to see get the job.
This past weekend, the Yankees made one of the gutsiest trades of Brian Cashman’s reign as General Manager. We covered the excitement here, but for those of you who didn’t read it, the Yankees traded Jesús Montero and Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda and a minor leaguer named José Campos. Montero was pretty much tattooed in as their DH (part time third catcher too) for 2012, so this leaves a big hole for the team to fill in the next couple of months. Allegedly there’s only a couple million to go around for this, so who’s going to get the spot? Odds are it will be one of these men…
The Yankees might not even have to spend any money to find their DH for 2012. There are a couple of internal options they could go with who I think could be very productive.
1. Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones was looking to return to the Yankees as their fourth outfielder and right-handed masher off the bench for 2012. This was a role he filled perfectly for the Yanks last season. The former teen phenom and perennial gold glover has lost a step or two the last few years, but he can still mash fastballs, especially against lefties. As a part time player last season (got most of his playing time at OF/DH against lefties), Jones had an impressive .247/.356/.495 slash line and hit 13 home runs in just 222 plate appearances.
The negatives to having Jones as an every day DH is that he struggles against right-handers. His impressive slash lines drop to .172/.303/.406, although he managed 5 home runs in 76 plate appearances. Having Jones as your every day (or most of the time) DH would also mean that he wouldn’t be able to fill the fourth outfielder role, which creates another hole in the bench. This could be filled by a guy like Justin Maxwell or Chris Dickerson, but I’d rather it be Andruw.
2. Jorge Vázquez
Who? For those of you who don’t spend all day on Riveraveblues.com or other Yankees blogs, you might not know who this guy is. We actually profiled him early last season as a possible second half bat addition, so if you’re a Jobu fan, you won’t be shocked that I put him on this list. Jorge Vázquez was signed out of the Mexican Leagues as a 28 year old in 2009 because the guy could mash. In 2005, for example, he hit .379 with 33 homers and 96 RBI in 285 ABs. While he hasn’t matched that production in the Yankees farm system, he has hit 50 home runs in about 200 games. Last year he spent the whole year at AAA, where he produced a slash line of .262/.314/.516 and led the international league with 32 home runs (he also drove in 93 for Scranton). Dude can flat out hit.
As with every candidate, there are negatives. You can blame his late discovery for being 30 years old and not-yet having cracked a major league lineup, but there are factors that may prevent him from doing so even though he’s been so beastly at AAA. Like Kit Keller before him, Jorge is up there to hit the ball. Well, he’s up there to swing the bat, which sometimes results in him hitting the ball. A lot of times, 166 in 500 plate appearances to be exact, he’s not making contact. He also would much rather trot than walk, managing only 30 BBs last year. If you spread that out over 162 games, we might be looking at a 200K performance. That being said, if he puts up 30-100, I think I’m ok with that.
3. Old Guys/Eduardo Núñez
It’s very conceivable that Eduardo Núñez could see more time at shortstop and third base this year while A-Rod, Jeter or whoever gets a much needed day off from playing the field a couple days a week. Núñez showed that he can do quite a bit with the bat last season, so having him at third or short would not kill the lineup, especially if the guy getting the day off in the field is still in the lineup at DH. That being said, Núñez made me very queasy with his defensive performances, racking up 20 errors while playing on the left side of the infield. He did improve in the second half, but sheesh! I thought he was supposed to be all glove, no? If Núñez can improve his defense, this plan could work out pretty well, but I think they’d still need another guy to be the DH when A-Rod and Jeter are rested and don’t need days off. I’m not sure Núñez’s bat is big enough for that role.
The Yankees have also been linked to a couple of their own former World Series heroes. They could, reportedly reunite with one of the following men.
1. Hideki Matsui
That’s right friends, rumor has it that the Yankees are talking to, among others, the 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. The 38-year-old slugger would most likely hit the budget, and it could be time for a Godzilla sequel in New York. He still has some power left in that bat, and could be a nice fit for that short porch in right field again. I really wish I had more positive things to say about this rumor. Unfortunately, I think Matsui might be done. Last season he was hardly monstrous, hitting just .251/.321/.375 and only hit 12 home runs in his 517 ABs. While some of that decline could be blamed on the fact that he played most of his games in Oakland’s traditionally pitcher-friendly ballpark, the low production might have more to do with the fact that Matsui is 38 and has bad knees. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to say no to the man my friend once called “You Can Run, But You Can’t” Hideki (not sure what it means, but it still makes me laugh).
2. Johnny Damon
Ah Johnny Damon. The apple of my eye, and my favorite to land this spot. Sure he’s also 38-years-old, but lacks the balky knees and extreme statistical decline that Matsui brings to the table. I have the same soft spot in my heart for Johnny that I do for Matsui, but I think the former is much more likely to stay healthy all season and, most importantly, take full advantage of the friendly confines of Yankees Stadium. Las season, for the Rays, Damon hit .261/326/.418. While ideally you’d want your DH to have a little more power than that, Damon still managed 16 homers and 71 RBI last season for a very weak hitting Rays ball club. He also showed he still has a little zip left in his legs, stealing 19 bases. The main reason I would like damon back is that, in recent memory, there hasn’t been a hitter better equipped to taylor his swing to that short porch in right field. His last year in pinstripes, Damon did just that, hitting .282/365/.489 with a career-high 24 home runs and 82 RBI. The guy understands how to hit in Yankees stadium, and doesn’t take too many points off his average trying to hit homers. It’s not that easy to do (ask Jason Giambi).
The only real negatives for this signing are the fact that Damon is another year older, and he might be just a little too expensive for the budget (he made over $5MM last season). For one, he won’t have to worry about playing the field (thank god), which should keep him healthier for longer. He probably won’t be facing many lefties either, which would give him some built in time off throughout the season. As far as the budget goes, it wouldn’t be the first time Johnny didn’t sign with the Yankees because of money. It wouldn’t shock me if he balked at a $2MM offer. It also wouldn’t shock me if he just decided to come home for another year, where he has a chance to win, rather than play in Baltimore for a year.
Available Free Agents:
The Yankees could also go off the books and sign a completely new free agent, which could end up being one of these men.
1. Carlos Peña
Ok for those of you fact checkers, I realize Carlos Peña was once a Yankee, but it was only for half of 2006, and he didn’t even play on the major league team, so it totally doesn’t count. Also, that was back before he decided he could hit the ball, so the Yankees cut him. There are many pros to signing Carlos Peña. For one, he was featured as the guy A’s GM Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) wanted benched and eventually traded. More importantly, he would fit this lineup like a glove. I know he has now hit under .230 for the last three seasons (including .196 in 2010), but he’s one of the most patient hitters in the league. He also has a ton of power, which you can see here. Over the last five seasons, Carlos has mashed 172 home runs. In this lineup, he’d be a lock for close to 100 walks, which helps negate his terrible batting average. If he’s still getting on base 35-40% of the time, he’ll be great for this lineup. You could also slot him in between a couple of power hitters, which would give him more pitches to hit and more home runs and RBI. I’m convinced that, in Yankees Stadium, Peña would hit 30-35 homers, and what more do you want from your DH? Peña is more than just a DH too, as he is known for his excellent glove at first base. This could provide Mark Teixeira with days off without the risk of putting a Nick Swisher or Jorge Posada (last year) in there and losing out on defense.
There are, clearly, negatives here. For one, the man hasn’t hit over .227 since 2008. That’s three full seasons. In fact, he’s only hit over .253 once in his entire career, and that was in 2007, his big breakout season. He will not be hitting for high average, even if he’s working with Kevin Long again like he was in 2007. Peña made $10MM last year, and he’s only 33 right now, so he is probably way to expensive for the Yankees at this point, unless his market completely collapses or the Yankees decide to spend a little extra for a quality bat. I list him as more of a “wishful thinking” option than a truly realistic one, but I also didn’t think the Yankees would have Pineda and Kuroda until it actually happened, so who knows?
Who Else Is Left?
Undoubtedly, the Yankees will kick certain tires if they’re favored options end up not being available, or affordable. Who are these leftovers, and who else could I see filling the role? These gentlemen could do…
1. Vladimir Guerrero
Stop me if you see a pattern emerging, but Vladimir Guerrero is 37 years old and finds himself entering free agency again. Last season, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles and, while he showed some life in the first half, his second half left much to be desired in the power department. In the end, Vladdy hit a very respectable .290, but his slugging percentage dipped to .416, which was his lowest since he slugged .296 in 27 ABs in 1996. His health is always a concern as well, as he has a history of knee problems, and those don’t get better with age. Is there a chance last season was just a fluke bad year? Of course. Is there a chance his power has faded? Absolutely, and I don’t want to take that chance.
2. Magglio Ordóñez
Hey everyone, an 38 year old outfielder with health concerns! How refreshing! I really hope the Yankees don’t go with Magglio Ordóñez. As great as he was just a couple of seasons ago, his back and knee ailments have really made him a shadow of the player who hit .363 in 2007, or even the one who hit .317 with 21 home runs in 2008. Last year, Magglio was held to under 100 games for the second straight year, and managed only 5 home runs and a slash line of .255/.303/.331. Simply put, it’s pretty pathetic, and Magglio would probably be wise to just hang them up.
3. Manny Ramirez?
He has to serve a 50 game suspension to start the year, but he’ll be good for the twenty games he manages to play before getting suspended for steroids again.
4. Dmitri Young… He’s lost 70 lbs but… In Russia, declining baseball skills retire you!
5. Jorge Posada… No. It’s over, Rock.
Peña image courtesy of: John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated
Jones image courtesy of: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Vázquez image courtesy of: Al Bello/Getty Images
Núñez image courtesy of: Christopher Pasatieri
Matsui image courtesy of: Brian Bahr/Getty Images North America
Damon image courtesy of: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America
Peña thumbnail image courtesy of: Kent Horner/Getty Images North America
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