I might have watched every game this year, but it’s still hard for me to remember exactly what kind of season Raul Ibanez had in 2012. Our most recent recollection was his three ridiculously well-timed homeruns in the playoffs. For the rest season, the left handed hitter had his good moments, but also some pretty lousy ones. As expected, he was rather awful against left handed pitchers, but a .248/.319/.492 triple slash (115 wRC+) against righties more than made up for it.
Unfortunately, once the Yankees lost Brett Gardner for nearly the entire season, Ibanez saw much more defensive playing time than expected. The 40 year old actually manned 90 games in the outfield, and started nearly half of the regular season games. It’s not a fact, but the extra work apparently caught up to him after the allstar break, where he hit just .190/.287/.341 for the two months of the Yankees most important stretch of the year. From August 16th to September 19th, Ibanez recorded a total of 3 hits over 60 plate appearances. That obviously all changed at the end of the season, coincidentally when Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki manned the outfield, and it’s quite probable that the unforeseen playing time in the outfield exhausted him for a prolonged stretch.
Even with the rough two months, Ibanez was an important player who did contribute over the regular season. With a 1.1 fWAR, his $1.1 million contract was surely worth it. After a ridiculous postseason, his stock is likely higher than last year, and the Yankees have to consider whether or not a bigger contract is worth it. There’s been interest on both sides, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to at least explore the market for other left handed bench players.
Travis Hafner DH- (2012 v. RHP .241/.361/.437 wRC+ 123) Last offseason, Hafner’s name came up a few times as a trade target for the Yankees. With plenty of money owed to him, and a lack of production from the DH position, many thought the Indians would be willing to let him go in his final year of his contract. Now that he’s a free agent, he enters the market with a career 143 wRC+ against right handed pitchers. His strong platoon split stayed true through the 2012 season, though the production dropped from both sides of the plate. Hafner dealt with knee and back issues last year, which limited him to just 263 plate appearances. While the injuries might be a risk to consider, as well as a lack of a defensive position, it will all amass to a lower 2013 salary.
Carlos Pena 1B- (2012 v. RHP .206/.342/.363 wRC+ 104) Here’s another guy who was mentioned a lot last year. Pena was widely regarded as the Yankees best left handed DH option during the 2011/2012 offseason, but for once, money prevented them from obtaining their guy. The Rays surprisingly outbid the Yankees with a $7.25m one year contract, and Pena proceeded to show them why he wasn’t worth that much money. He finished 2012 with 600 plate appearances, a .197/.330/.354 slash, and a 98 wRC+. Though he faced plenty of right handed pitchers, his numbers dropped dramatically from his career stats. If you believe in Pena, it’s because you believe that 2012 was an outlier, since his career wRC+ against opposite side pitchers is a strong 131.
Luke Scott OF- (2012 v. RHP .260/.313/.507 wRC+ 122) I’ve already heard his name suggested a few times from readers, and his bat is actually a very good option, but this is without considering who he is. The Yankees have stood strongly that they want no part of players with character issues, and Scott is one of the most hated players in the MLB. That aside, he owns a career 122 wRC+, and he can even fake it in the outfield.
Jim Thome DH- (2012 v. RHP .267/.365/.430 wRC+ 115) He’s got a career triple slash of .292/.426/.608 against left handed pitchers, and 494 homeruns against them. The problem with Thome is that he’s 42 years old and a full time DH. It’s hard to tell what he’ll do in future seasons, simply because he just hasn’t had a massive number of plate appearances over the last couple of years. Although he’s entering the retirement stage, he’s adamant on finishing his career with a ring, and New York then becomes an intriguing option for him. Assuming he doesn’t find any better deals on the market, the Yankees could bring him to camp extremely cheaply and see what he’s got left.
Lance Berkman DH- (2012 v. RHP .281/.403/.453 wRC+ 135) Even though he’s already seen time in pinstripes, there’s no indication that he’s drawn to the Yankees, yet he’s probably got the highest upside on this list. Although he’s a switch hitter, Berkman has shown a growing platoon split which favors him from the left side of the plate. As you can see by his 2012 numbers, the 36 year old can still get on base, but there are some major concerns about his ability to play.
Berkman missed a huge chunk of the 2012 season with his ongoing knee problems, and with retirement a possibility, it’s hard to tell if he’ll even play next year. The Yankees could swoop in and offer him the same sort of treatment as they did with Eric Chavez, who in the same situation, overcame injury problems to put up a couple of productive seasons. Because he can still hit lefties fairly well, he’s the most versatile option, but a lot has to go right for him to even accept an offer from New York.
Jason Giambi DH- (2012 v. RHP .194/.373/.226 wRC+ 63) Who would say no to this one? Jason Giambi. In pinstripes. I don’t care what he hit in these 83 plate appearances from 2012, the guy crushed it in 2011 when he hit .273/.354/.636 with a wRC+ 155 in 113 PA.
After missing out on the job managing the Rockies, Giambi has been contemplating whether or not to retire from playing. It’s a shot in the dark, but at 42 years old, Giambi might have something left in the tank. The Yankees could offer him some money under $1 million, bring him to camp, and if it all fails, they are in a great position to bring him into the Yankees for front office work or coaching opportunities. Plus we might just get to hear Sterling’s Giambino call one last time.