Yankees Not Necessarily in Market for DH

Up until about 18 hours ago, hitting prospect and kinda, sorta catcher Jesus Montero was slated to be more or less the everyday DH for the New York Yankees in 2012. In the meantime, however, he and right-hander Hector Noesi have been traded to the Seattle Mariners for a pair of players — most notably, Michael Pineda, a talented and hard-throwing right-hander entering his age-23 season. As Dave Cameron notes, the deal compares favorably, in term of cost, to similar bids by the Nationals and Reds to add young, frontline starters.

The Pineda move, coupled with the subsequent signing (like, three minutes later) of Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million deal, has, in Paul Swydan’s words, remade the Yankees rotation in one night.

What it’s also done is to create a vacuum at the DH spot for New York.

Here are the team’s four options for filling said vacuum, from least to most likely:

4. Sign Prince Fielder
The fact that the Yankees now have a clear opening at DH, combined with the fact that they’re the Yankees, will undoubtedly lead to speculation somewhere that the team could sign Prince Fielder. At the very least, it leads to people like me suggesting that there will be speculation about it. Either way, the sort of financial commitment likely required to sign Fielder makes New York an unlikely landing spot for him.

Consider: New York’s payroll, including Kuroda, is currently at about $189 million for 2012; however, that figure excludes arbitration-eligible players Joba Chamberlain, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Russell Martin, and David Robertson, who made more than $10 million combined in 2011. Assuming a generic arbitration increase, that figure will likely jump to somewhere in the $12-13 million range for 2012, bringing the Yankee payroll above $200 million.

After hitting the $208 million mark in 2005, the New York payroll has generally remained somewhere in the range of $190-210 million, peaking at $213 in 2010, but dropping to $207 last year. A deal with Fielder would push the Yankees’ overall commitment to somewhere in the mid-$220 million range. Nor is that even to consider the long-term implications of a Fielder signing.

3. Use an Internal Option as a Full-Time DH
While the solution to the Yankees’ DH problem might involve Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez or Andruw Jones (see below), it’s unlikely that any of them would become a full-time DH. Jones’ effectiveness is limited mostly to left-handed pitchers, while Jeter and A-Rod provide more value as competent fielders on the right side of the defensive spectrum.

A possibility from the minor leagues is soon-to-be 30-year-old Jorge Vazquez, who slashed .262/.314/.516 (.330 BABIP) in 500 Triple-A plate appearances in a pretty challenging environment (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the International League). OLIVER projects Vazquez to post the sixth-best wOBA on the team; ZiPS, the ninth-best OPS+. Vazquez’s power appears impressive (50 HR in 816 PAs over the last two season in Triple-A), but the approach is worrisome: in those same 816 plate appearances, Vazquez has posted a 47:261 BB:K. Like Jones, he’s probably best used against left-handers only — playing DH, for example, when Jones takes Brett Gardner’s place in left field.

2. Sign a Free Agent DH That’s Not Fielder
Among the players currently available on the market are (roughly in order of projected cost) Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Russell Branyan. Given the presence of Andruw Jones — and Jones’ capacity to hit left-handers well — a left-handed bat would make a better fit, likely, which makes Lee less attractive. Pena is both the youngest and best hitter on the list. Moreover, the 119 OPS+ for which ZiPS projects him would place him third among Yankee hitters (behind only Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano), also per ZiPS. Pena would probably cost about the $10 million he received from the Cubs before the 2011 season, however, likely pushing the payroll past the $210 million mark.

1. Use the DH Spot for Flexibility
En route to winning the AL East last year, the Yankees used 10 different players at DH. No other position was occupied by any more than five players during the course of the season. Nor was that arrangement anomalous: of the American League’s 14 teams, only three (Detroit, Oakland, Los Angeles) utilized more players, at one point or another, at a field position than at DH.

In its way, the DH spot has ancillary benefits that the eight fielding positions do not. In lieu of assigning one player to fill the spot — the way the Red Sox have done for David Ortiz, or the Orioles did for Vladimir Guerrero in 2011 — a team can use the position to rest old or injured players, or to give something closer to regular at-bats to back-up players.

The 2011 American League Champion Texas Rangers are the model for this sort of arrangement. During the course of the season, Ron Washington deployed a total of 11 players at the DH spot, with no one player making more than Michael Young‘s 69 starts. Mike Napoli (18 starts), Yorvit Torrealba (13), Adrian Beltre (11), Ian Kinsler (10), Josh Hamilton (9), Nelson Cruz (8), and Mitch Moreland (7) were all starters, at one point or another during the season, at another position.

In the Yankees’ case, manager Joe Girardi will want to find some way to protect the 38-year-old Derek Jeter and 36-year-old Alex Rodriguez, who missed 94 games combined in 2011. The emergence of Eduardo Nunez, who played both short and third in 2011, will allow Girardi to do that. Furthermore, utilizing some combination of Andruw Jones and Jorge Vazquez — and also outfielder Justin Maxwell, a right-handed batter who can handle center field — would allow Girardi to exploit platoon advantages while also resting his starters.

In this way, the loss of Montero is mitigated (perhaps considerably) by the potential gains received from a flexible DH spot, whether said spot is used to keep starters fresh or give at-bats to back-up players with a view to keeping them sharper.




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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.


50 Responses to “Yankees Not Necessarily in Market for DH”

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  1. Brian says:

    I think there is another Yankee trade in the works, we don’t need all these starters and AJ is one expensive mop up reliever. AJ could have some potential elsewhere, how about a swap for Jason Bay?

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    • Mets' Fan says:

      yes, please.

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      • Robert58 says:

        Look for the Yankees to sign Fielder. He might have been waiting to see what the NY would do. The staduim would be the perfect fit.
        Most ballplayers want to play for the Yankees. The Yankees will pay the most money and like CC before him, he can say how he always dreamed of being a Yankee. They can always sign a couple of utility infielders,or use someone from their farm to back up Jeter and A-Rod. Fielder makes them untouchable in 2012,and beyond.

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    • Raf says:

      Burnett and Bay both have no trade clauses.

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      • Jeff W. says:

        I’m pretty sure Bay will waive it to come to a contending team.

        AJ might, considering Citi is a pitcher’s park… plus, he might want to put his bad starts behind him by changing uniforms.

        It’s definitely interesting.

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      • Michael says:

        Hell, neither guy would have to move

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      • Chicago Mark says:

        I could see Bay waiving his. Does Burnett WANT to be a Yankee? I know he took the money but thought he liked being a Yankee. Jorge not included.

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    • Frank says:

      Doesnt Bay have some kind of funky vesting option? i may be wrong but thought it was some kind of AB threshold and a 17mil option kicks in. money isnt as even as it looks. Yanks wouldn’t want to play Bay full time.

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  2. Daniel Stern says:

    Manny. Ramirez.

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  3. Mark says:

    Maybe I’m crazy but wouldn’t Wilson Betemit be perfect? He had an 865 OPS vs RHP last year, and he’s always been pretty solid against them. His defence sucks so he’s perfect for a DH role. If A-Rod needs time off you can use Betemit at 3rd. You live with the lousy D here because it keeps A-Rod healthy/rested. Chavez is gone so it’s not like they have a good corner infielder for when A-Rod hits the D/L, so at least this protects you a bit for when he goes down.

    He’d be much cheaper than Pena or any of the other options.

    And since Betemit wouldn’t need to play vs LHP you could use that time to rest the older regulars like Jeter. Plus you could give A-Rod more rest vs RHP and bring out Betemit to field. You could always replace Betemit in the later innings for defence.

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  4. tommybones says:

    Burnett for Adam Dunn!!!! BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!

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  5. Mike says:

    Is fangraphs going to totally ignore the other team in the trade?

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  6. jesse says:

    which other team?

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  7. Rowsdower says:

    The long-term implication of signing Fielder is that the Yanks would have to find low-cost replacements for the likes of Mo, Burnett, Soriano and Kuroda when their contracts expire, which doesn’t strike me as too daunting.

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    • Aggie E says:

      Everyone outside of Seattle ignores Seattle, so why would you expect any different from fangraphs. DC already talked about Seattle anyway…

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    • Aggie E says:

      Maybe Fielder does not want to be a fulltime DH at 28….

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      • Rowsdower says:

        True, it will be difficult to overcome Prince’s love of physical activity and desire to showcase his world-class defense, but I think Cashman is up to it.

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  8. MattG says:

    I really don’t understand the knee-jerk reaction that says rotating regular starters through the DH spot “protects” them. Doesn’t giving them a day off protect them more? Batting leaves you open to hit by pitches, fouls off the shin, and the perils of running the bases. It also affords the player no mental break.

    If you want to protect older players, I think you are better served finding a batter to take 500 DH at bats, and let the injured really have a rest.

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    • Jon says:

      It doesn’t eliminate regular days off but it gives them a little more frequent rest. Playing defense is hard work, even for Derek Jeter.

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    • Kenny Collins says:

      It does afford the player a mental break (whether for better or for worse). Numerous players have had hard times hitting from the DH spot because it “removes” them from the game. So all in all, people might not hit as well from this spot (Adam Dunn), but I think it does give them a rest.

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  9. DSC says:

    Who needs a DH, the Yanks will let the pitcher hit. Besides, in a year or two the DH position will be gone, so NYY will get ahead of the curve. For now, they’ll platoon 3-5 players to get differnt gus DH time. It worked for a lot of teams last year, like Seattle, Cleveland, Minnesota….

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    • Jon says:

      The DH will never be eliminated, its much more likely that the DH will be in both leagues before the players union lets a job be eliminated.

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      • iluv2partynaked says:

        I’ve heard this explanation a few times (that it’s more likely the DH will be in both leagues than be eliminated because they wouldn’t want to eliminate a job), but wouldn’t there be the same number of roster spots regardless, thus the same number of employees, implying no jobs eliminated overall? Does this make sense/has the union made any official statements regarding this position, out of curiosity?

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      • algionfriddo says:

        Perhaps the owners would agree to a 26 man roster in exchange for dropping the DH? Here’s hoping… I hate the DH.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      are you trying to be sarcastic? because you have to know that those teams you name are not exactly known for great DH work or hitting in general… and thinking that they would ever eliminate the DH…

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    • Paul Wilson says:

      CC can hit!

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  10. Youppi! says:

    the smart businessman says sign manny so there will be a couple hundred thousand manny tshirts sold in washington heights, nary a mile from the stadium. if he sucks, you cut him; at the worst, you made him get a haircut.

    me, i’d take a flyer on Vlad in a quasi platoon with Andruw. they don’t actually need much production to beat what they had last year.

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  11. Matt says:

    I think it makes the most sense to go with Option # 1 and rotate your regulars around and provide some additional rest for the aging vets. If this works through July, keep doing it; if you are 2nd/3rd place and worried about not making the playoffs, then you trade for a bat that is an expiring contract. No need to panic in January.

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  12. 44 says:

    Hopefully (as a Nats fan) Adam LaRoche will be available very soon. Just give us a A-ball prospect, a bag of balls, pick up his 8 mil salary and he’s yours, NY. Balances out all those righty-hitting options.

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  13. GreeptyDii says:

    Pena on a one-year deal makes the most sense. He is still very dangerous against RHP, while Andruw Jones can DH against LHP.

    Anybody notice that Teixeira has been slipping against RHP multiple years in a row?

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    • Matt H says:

      Seconded. Pena had a 140 wRC+ against RHP last year, and Jones had a 151 wRC+ against LHP. That would make for a pretty powerful platoon at DH.

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  14. Matthew Cohen says:

    Funny someone else thought of Burnett for Bay. I think that Bay would agree to get out of Flushing and Burnett if it looks like he will go to the bullpen.

    As a Yankee fan, I think that there might be upside in Bay leaving Citifield. Of course, you worry when you power dropoffs in the testing era.

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  15. Tom Zig says:

    Carlos Pena…come on down!

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  16. Frank says:

    They should just use DH to rest guys, keep some financial flexibility, and trade for someone before the deadline.

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  17. DSC says:

    If you have two guys who are about as good/valuable at, say 3B, and one hits LHP better, the other hits RHP better, then who needs a DH? But few teams have a platoon situation with two good hitters, so making one a DH keeps him involved, and even fewer have a left/right platoon available.

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  18. Bad ideas says:

    What about signing Cespedes? He could play right, or they could move Granderson and he could play center. That would be a great defensive outfield, and Swisher could DH.

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  19. shel says:

    Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs: 22HR, 88 RBI, good attitutude, good clubhouse guy. Cubs are desperate to deal him, would pay all but 3-4 mil of his remaining salary, in exchange for a pitching prospect or two. Says he will waive his no-trade for “the right” team – a contender, closer to the Dominican. No brainer.

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  20. shel says:

    depends on what you need, and the price. Obviously not worth 18 mil, but if you need power, no glove, and for not a lot of money (and 3-4 mil today is not a lot of money for a guy that can hit 20-30 HR’s) then, yes, he is worth something in return.

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