The Yankees barely have a third outfielder to start the 2013 season. Yes, they’re loaded with depth, but hardly any of these players have even seen Triple-A. Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, and Thomas Neal may be the most prepared players, but Diaz and Rivera couldn’t even break a .290 OBP in 2012. The two starting outfielders, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, have their own questions about health and age, and the Yankees could be in a lot of trouble if Gardner’s head-first sliding catches up to him for a second year, or Ichiro’s age starts to show.
Not only does the team need a third outfielder, but they need a respectable fourth outfielder. Living with an Adonis Garcia or Zoilo Almonte for one month isn’t terrible, but there is very little depth if Granderson can’t return or Gardner misses any more time. The Yankees were interested in a right-handed hitting outfielder a few weeks ago, and Curtis Granderson‘s injury will probably force them to make an actual move.
They don’t need a starting caliber outfielder, but a proper fourth outfielder should keep the position at replacement level or better. Here are a few names to look out for.
Casper Wells- I wrote about Wells at the beginning of the month. He’s nearly a perfect fit for the team, assuming the Mariners are willing to trade him. The 28 year old right-handed hitter can play all three outfield positions, but finds himself in a stacked outfield in Seattle. After a promising minor league career, Wells has struggled with the bat over the last couple of years, but splits show that Safeco Field is robbing him. In his career away, Wells has hit .268/.331/.478 with a 120 wRC+. He also has a ton of success against left-handed pitchers, who he hits for .264/.349/.489 with a 132 wRC+ both at home and away. Wells’ handedness, his ability to play all three positions, and his upside outside of Seattle could mean that he develops into an above average fourth outfielder and perhaps an everyday player. The outfielder is out of options on a crowded team, and he may be available as things take shape for the Mariners.
Tyler Colvin- Our own Domenic Lanza brought up a possible match up between the Yankees and Rockies recently. The Rockies are searching for pitching, and the Yankees have some excess. If Pineda continues rehabbing successfully, the Yankees could be forced to move both David Phelps and Ivan Nova to the bullpen or Triple-A by June. If the Yankees like what they see in Colorado, dealing one of these pitchers wouldn’t hurt the team’s depth with starting pitchers still sitting on the free agent market.
Usually, trading for a Rockies hitter is a bad idea, the stadium is just far too hitter friendly. But moving Colvin from Coors Field to Yankee Stadium might not have much of an impact. The left-handed Colvin hit .290/.327/.531 in 452 plate appearances in 2012. Though he can demonstrate bad plate discipline at times, Colvin has power, and that’s something which should continue for the 27 year old in Yankee Stadium. Colvin is a pull hitter, who batted .434 with a .478 ISO when going to right field. At home, he put up a 151 wRC+ versus an 83 wRC+ on the road, however Yankee Stadium is almost just as friendly to lefties as Coors Field. When it comes to power, StatCorner gives Coors a 150 rating (100 being average) for left-handed batters, and Yankee Stadium earned a 146 in 2012.
Domonic Brown- For some reason, Yankee fans love Domonic Brown. At one point, there were several rumors about the team trading Dellin Betances to the Philles for the left-hander, and perhaps that’s where fan interest began. Brown’s stock has fallen considerably. The 25 year old has earned a reputation as a poor outfielder, and the Phillies have not been kind to his development. In 492 major league plate appearances, Brown has put together a .236/.315/.388 slash line, and his power in the minor leagues has all but disappeared. But some still hold out hope, because sometimes he happens to do this.
Perhaps a change of scenery will help Brown, but his availablilty is questionable, and the Phillies will have a better idea of their outfield situation by the end of March.
Drew Stubbs- He only hit .213/.277/.333 last year, but as a right-handed hitter, Stubbs could fit a role as a strict platoon player. Over his career, Stubbs has hit .276/.344/.476 with a 120 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers. Against righties, Stubbs has a miserable 77 wRC+. Other than hitting lefties, Stubbs could also work himself into the game as a productive pinch runner. His massive amount of strike outs and average fielding is a major drawback, but it looks like the Indians want to trade him, and if the price is right, he could be useful.