Monday, January 28, 2013

Yanks Sign Juan Rivera To A MiL Deal

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

As first reported by the ESPN NY comedy duo of Marchand and Matthews, the Yankees have signed Juan Rivera to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.  No details yet on what the dollars will be if he makes the team, but Rivera will join Matt Diaz, Russ Canzler, and the litany of other internal and external candidates competing for a spot on the 2013 Yankee bench.

Rivera, now 34, started his career with the Yankees and has spent almost all of his time on the West Coast since leaving in 2003.  He's a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who can moonlight as a first baseman and has a strong platoon split against left-handed pitching.  He has a .274/.323/.443 career slash line (.331 wOBA) and a .286/.333/.489 career slash against lefties, but he hit just .244/.286/.375 in 339 PA with the Dodgers in 2012, and his offensive production has waned in the last few years as he's moved into his 30s and struggled with injuries.

Defensively he's not much, and could only be used in the outfield corners, and there isn't much else he brings to the table.  But for the purposes he would serve with the Yankees this is as good a cheap signing as any.  Rivera has a long Major League track record, a recent Major League track record, and a positive split against southpaws, which is more than you can say about some of the other guys they've brought in.  Even as a player clearly in decline, Rivera falls right smack dab in the middle of the early roster battle I laid out this afternoon.

Ranking Final Roster Spot Contenders (First Try)

(Would Eduardo Scissorhands make my roster cut?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

I commented last week on Cash's statements regarding the current Yankee roster construction, and the declaration that the team would be willing to go to Tampa with "what they've got" right now.  By my count, there are still 4 roster spots unaccounted for, almost all of them on the bench, and the group of candidates to fill those spots is uninspiring to say the least.  But it's looking more and more likely that this group, and maybe an additional cheap MiL signee or 2, are going to be the players battling it out for the final 4 spots, and that being the case we might as well start separating the real contenders from the pretenders.  Spring Training is still a few weeks away, so I'm going on nothing more than past performance and perceived team needs, but here are my early rankings for who I think should get the final 4 roster spots.

Yankees' Plan This Offseason Could Be Setting Them Up For Future Failure

(Courtesy of the AP)

One of the posts I read over the weekend that really stuck with me was Greg Corcoran's open letter to Brian Cashman over at Bronx Baseball Daily letting Cash know what he thinks of the Yankees' offseason plan.  The general theme of Greg's post was that while he can get on board with what the team has done this offseason to transition to the sub-$189 mil payroll in 2014, he didn't see their no-spending approach as a real plan for success after the payroll ceiling had been reached.  Specifically, he cited the Yankees' failure to sign or trade for useful players on multi-year deals and their perceived assumption that multiple prospects are going to come up and contribute as flaws in their logic, and that got me thinking.

As it is, the Yankees have seen their monetary advantage shrink over the past few seasons as teams started signing their own players to new deals before they hit free agency.  Now, with that spending already capped and more teams working to extend their big names, any plan to reload after reaching 189 could prove useless if there are no big free agent targets left.