The Hot Stove season is far from over. There are still over 40 days until pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training, so there is still plenty of time for deals to get done. Despite that, the Yankees seem to have a fairly complete roster. With the re-signing of Ichrio Suzuki, the outfield is set and with the signing of Kevin Youkilis, the infield is set. The top of the bullpen is set, even with the departure of Rafael Soriano and the rotation is more or less set. The one spot that doesn’t seem to be settled is the DH spot. Matt Diaz recently signed a minor league deal and has a chance to be the DH vs. LHP, but can the Yankees do better? What about the other side of the DH platoon?
There is a more important question to pose, though. What exactly do the Yankees want out of the DH? As recently as 2010 with Nick Johnson, and later, Lance Berkman, the team has gone with the “traditional” DH: a hitter who offers little in the way of playing a position. In 2011, that changed a bit as the Yankees used Jorge Posada as the sometimes DH and sometimes catcher. Going into 2012, the Yankees looked to be aiming for a sort of rotating DH. The acquisition of Raul Ibanez altered that a bit, as he wasn’t exactly well suited to play the field, though he was pressed into that job with Brett Gardner‘s injury. This year, I think they’ll end up skewing towards that rotating DH. Derek Jeter is coming off an injury and will probably need to get days and half-days off more often. Kevin Youkilis isn’t a paragon of health and when he returns, Alex Rodriguez will need to spend some days at DH as well. Perhaps getting a full time DH isn’t the best thing for the team. However, the guys that will need half-days off frequently are all right handed-hitters. They can rotate days at DH against lefty pitchers. But since the Yankees’ll face mostly righty pitching–as every team does–a strong left handed bat could be worth it. Using the free agent tracker from MLBTR, let’s take a look at the unsigned free agents and see if we can find any hitters worth picking up.
First on the list, thanks to the alphabet, is Bobby Abreu. There’s one positive: he can still work a walk. Though below his career rate of 14.7%, Abreu still posted a fantastic walk rate of 14.4% in 2012. However, that’s pretty much all he can do. He had a paltry .100 Iso after a .112 mark in 2011. He’s had higher Iso marks recently, but I wouldn’t bank on those, considering his age. There isn’t much here, aside from nostalgia. Lance Berkman was injured for most of 2012 and he played in just 32 games. When he did play, though, he was productive, posting a 125 wRC+. Like Abreu, Berkman can still draw a walk, but his ability to hit for power is still solid, even if it’s not what it used to be. Jason Giambi and Jim Thome are also free agent sluggers who hit left-handed, but I think the Yankees would stay away from them since they can hardly fake their positions, while Abreu and Berkman could at least fake the outfield if needed.
Chances are, the guy the Yankees use as a DH against righty pitching is someone that neither you nor I have thought of yet. And given the timing of the Ibanez signing last year (February), we may have to wait a while to get the resolution to this question.