Musing About The Bench

The Yankees are on the cusp of signing veteran outfielder Andruw Jones to be the team’s first OF off of the bench. They signed Russell Martin to be the starting catcher for now, with Francisco Cervelli as the back up, and Jesus Montero on the way up. Jorge Posada will be the primary DH and could probably catch every once in a while. The team will also (likely) have Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez to man the extra infield spots. Just so we can see it lined up:

OF–Andruw Jones
C–Francisco Cervelli
IF–Eduardo Nunez
IF–Ramiro Pena

Having two back up infielders may seem excessive, but the way the Yankees’ OF will be structured, I think it’s okay. All three starters are good enough both offensively and defensively that they won’t need many days off. Jones can spell one of Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner against tough lefties and is also a balanced enough player that he wouldn’t need a replacement fielder after batting for one of those guys. The outfield is also, generally, younger than the infielders. Those guys–especially the guys on the left side–will need more days off for regular rest than Gradnerson, Gardner, or Nick Swisher will.

The big thing Joe Girardi will need to avoid is having the three weaker backups–Cervelli, Nunez, and Pena–in the lineup all at the same time. I’m sure at some point this will happen, likely because of late inning defensive replacement (LIDR) moves. I doubt that Girardi will ever put all three of them into the starting lineup in a game that matters.

The catching rotation will depend on two things: How Russell Martin and Jesus Montero start the season. For arbitration/free agency reasons, I’m sure the Yankees will look to keep Montero in Scranton-Wilkes Barre for at least the first month or two of the season. If Martin falters, though, and Montero mashes, we could see the Montero Era start sooner rather than later. That would do one of two things: send Francisco Cervelli back to the minor leagues or mean the end of Russell Martin as a Yankee.

Where we could see some interesting maneuvering is with Jorge Posada. Obviously, he can catch. He won’t be doing it much considering his spot as a full time DH, but he can do it. Perhaps some rest will do him well when he does get a chance to catch. Posada could also be called upon to play first when Mark Teixeira needs a day off, though I imagine that duty would fall to Nick Swisher first, with Andruw Jones taking RF for the day.

Aside from the eventual call up of Jesus Montero, the performance of Brandon Laird could also shape the bench as the season moves along. Laird’s been a third basemen for his entire minor league career, but played outfield in the Arizona Fall League this past season. If he can keep up the bat that’s advanced him through the minors, while playing non-statue defense at third and in the outfield in early 2011, we could see him swapped out for one of Pena or Nunez. Greg Golson could also make a play as an LIDR and we could easily see Colin Curtis get some playing time, too.

The Yankee bench may not be sparkling, but what team has a sparkling bench? No matter what, the bench in the Bronx will feature either young or cheap parts that will not be heard to replace. This, like the bullpen-building strategy, is one that has a lot of advantages, especially for a team like the Yankees.