The foregone conclusion is that Nick Swisher has completed his run as the New York Yankees’ right fielder. Swisher is looking for a multi-year deal and with 2014 looming for the Yankees, his demands will not fit with what the team hopes to do budget-wise. So who, then, will be the right fielder? In this post, we’ll look at internal options, trade possibilities and free agents available.
This one is easy. There aren’t any. Chris Dickerson cannot really be considered as anything more than a fourth outfielder. Plus, two-thirds of the outfield with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner are already left-handed batters. Cole Garner got the bulk of the right-field duties at the Triple-A level and he is not going to cut it. Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte are both interesting, but Mesa only got a taste of Triple-A last year and Almonte has not played above Double-A. Both have some speed and some pop. Mesa is a right-handed batter and Almonte is a switch-hitter. But judging from Brian Cashman’s statement that he is looking for less strikeouts and better on-base skills, neither fit that bill. Both strike out too often and neither has the kind of plate discipline the Yankees will be looking for. They will get spring invites perhaps, but it is doubtful they will get the chance to start the season in right.
Ichiro Suzuki. The Yankees enjoyed a renaissance of sorts from the old Ichiro after acquiring him from the Mariners. And judging by all accounts, Ichiro enjoyed his time as a Yankee and fit right in with the team. But again, this poses problems. Can he bat .300 for the entire season after a year and a half of sub-par offensive performances for the Mariners? He also gives the Yankees a problem as a third left-handed batting outfielder. A starting three of Granderson, Gardner and Ichiro would be a quick outfield would be effective against right-handed starters, but would provide a liability against left-handed starters and relievers. But, Ichiro can be had for a one-year deal and that would be attractive to the Yankees.
Cody Ross. Ross is right-handed at least but will want a multi-year offer. He likely will just want to get back to his 2011 salary of nearly seven million a year. That won’t break the bank. But Ross is only a mediocre fielder and strikes out far too often and has no on-base skills to speak of. He is a nice player in a backup role and would fit nicely in the Andruw Jones role if he would take it. But he is not really the answer for the every day right-fielder.
Torii Hunter. Hunter seems to fit the bill quite nicely IF he can play as well as he did in 2012. There is no guarantee of that since he will soon be 38 years old. But as such, he could very well be looking at a one year deal and that works. Hunter can man right field quite capably and still showed some decent pop. He was also nine out of ten in stolen base attempts. A solid right-handed bat would compliment Gardner and Granderson and give the Yankees’ batting order some balance. The two concerns here besides Hunter’s age would be that his strikeout rate has increased the last two seasons over his career norm and his plate discipline has eroded a bit since 2010.
When looking at trade possibles, the Yankees would need to look at one year rentals or players under cheap team control through the 2014 season. The former are easier to find and the latter more difficult. But let’s take a look.
Hunter Pence – Pence will be a free agent after the 2013 season. That fits. He is also a right-handed bat with some pop. He is not a good fielder but is a high energy guy with the ability to hit the ball out to all fields. Though he did have a somewhat down season at the plate in 2012, his career .813 OPS compares somewhat favorably to Swisher’s .828. Plus, Pence would be attractive coming off his prior team’s World Series win.
Shin-Soo Choo – Choo is in his last year of arbitration and is a Scott Boras client. That makes him the perfect one year rental for the Yankees. Choo would be one trade that would be an upgrade on Swisher. Choo has excellent on-base skills and has some pop. There are some warning signs, however. He is a left-handed batter with pretty sizable split problems against left-handed pitching. He only batted .199 against them last year and .249 for his career. Plus, his fielding skills have eroded the last two seasons and according to UZR and others, his skills have fallen in that area.
Nelson Cruz – Cruz is another that will be a free agent in 2014. He is the ultimate streak hitter (not unlike Swisher). He is a right-handed hitter but he strikes out a LOT and does not walk much. Plus, he is a terrible right-fielder.
So after looking at all of the possibilities, who do you think will be the Yankees’ right fielder in 2013? Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki seem to be the front runners and there is not a lot of quality behind them. We’ll just have to wait and see what Brian Cashman does. It will be interesting.