Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finding A Right-Handed Outfield Handcuff

(I wouldn't get your hopes up for this guy.  Courtesy of the AP)

The natural progression from the Ichiro Suzuki signing being made official is to nail down the now much-needed righty 4th outfielder.  For the first time in years, the Yankee outfield is a trio of left-handed hitters, all of whom are less than world beaters against their fellow southpaw slingers.  Brett Gardner has a .256/.362/.335 slash line against lefties in just a hair under 400 career PA, Curtis Granderson took a step backward in 2012 with a .218/.304/.458 line and a ghastly 32.0% K rate, and Ichiro, despite his shiny numbers in pinstripes, was still just a .284/.291/.358 hitter vs. lefties this past season.

Andruw Jones is moving on to Japan to become a real-life Mr. Baseball, and the budget doesn't provide Cash the means to go out and sign a bigger name like Cody Ross or say, Nick Swisher, so once again the Yankees will be down in the rough digging for another diamond.  The need is clearly there, but with the major portion of the offseason already passed, the supply of viable righty OF bat options is dangerously thin.

The top name still available on the board is Scott Hairston, who the Yankees continue to be connected to and reportedly continue to engage in talks.  But coming off a very good year, Hairston is still in a position to command a multi-year deal and the chances of the Yankees giving that to him after just breaking their "1-year deals only" rule for Ichiro are very slim.  Hairston's right-handedness and power would be the ideal compliment to Ichiro's slap-hitting left-handedness, but a second multi-year deal would put a serious strain on the 189 plans.

After Hairston, the quality of cheap righty bats drops dramatically.  Ben Francisco is still all-field/no-hit; Jeff Baker has battled health problems and declining production for the last few seasons, and doesn't fit the typical profile of what the Yankees look for; ditto Mark DeRosa, Matt Diaz, and Ryan Rayburn.  There's a reason these guys are still available and that reason is because they all suck.  Hard.

One brighter possibility is former part-time Yankee Austin Kearns.  He's been around forever but he's still just 32 and he hit .245/.366/.367 in 175 PA with the Marlins in 2012.  What little power he did have has pretty much evaporated, but he can still draw walks (12.6% this season, 11.4% career) and still grades as an above-average defensive outfielder.  Another less bright possibility is Yankee killer Delmon Young, a player who I don't think anybody would want to see in a Yankee uni.  He's got power and he's on the right side of 30, but the guy is a perennial underachiever, doesn't draw walks, and is a complete abortion in the field.  And then there's the fact that he likes to get boozed up and shout obscenities at Jews.  No thank you.

If the Yankees are going to bring in a player from the outside who can give them the type of production they're looking for in this role, Cash is going to have to get creative and pull off a sneaky trade because there just isn't much out there on the free agent market that's even worth a non-guaranteed deal.  The opportunity for guys like Melky Mesa and Ronnier Mustelier, who I mentioned as key potential in-house contributors in 2013 last week, has been laid out on a silver platter to make an impact in spring camp and earn a spot on the bench.  Cash keeps saying his starting catcher is already on the roster.  With what's out there to be had for a 4th outfielder, that same logic could apply to that position as well.

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