The Yankees are dropping like flies, and age is probably a big factor. Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will be out until May, and that could be the equivalence of 10-15 homeruns lost. If you follow WAR, it doesn’t look as bad, and it’ll probably only cost the team around a win and a half, assuming the two would normally qualify for 4 wins each this season. The important thing is that the team can find good defensive replacements that have at least some offensive prowess.
Ideally, the Yankees would be targeting a Chase Headley or even a Logan Morrison to shore up current and future problems. While it answers some of the outfield and budget questions, obtaining such players will cost you a decent chunk of prospects, and who knows if they’re even available. Cashman is much more likely to target a veteran player on the last year of their contract, and Justin Morneau‘s name has been mentioned quite a bit. The problem here is that you’re temporarily stopping the injury problem with a 32 year old that has an extensive injury history. Once Teixeira returns, where do you play Morneau with Travis Hafner as your left-handed DH?
Cashman has done a fantastic job of targeting older veteran players in the past to create a strong bench without giving up prospects, but these practices have caught up to him. While Ichiro Suzuki was supposed to be a part-time player last year, he’s now a starter in 2013, and the margin for error has been dwindling down as these part-time players move from the bench to the starting lineup.
A middle ground between both extremes is to target a young player that might need a change of scenery. It doesn’t work all the time, but Nick Swisher is one example, where the Yankees brought him and his .219 average to the Bronx for peanuts. Cashman struck gold with Swisher, and although it’s a rare occurrence, Yankee Stadium is awfully friendly to offensive players. So here are a few trade targets that might enjoy a new home ballpark.
Justin Smoak- Smoak is infamously known to Yankee fans as the once prospect that the Mariners liked better than Jesus Montero. The switch hitter has hit a combined .223/.306/.377 in three major league seasons. The former top prospect has struggled offensively, but who hasn’t in Safeco Field? The stadium is infamous for robbing right-handed hitters, and in recent years, left-handers haven’t had much luck either. Over his career, Smoak has a 91 OPS+ at home, while he sports a 109 OPS+ on the road.
Last season, Smoak hit .235/.308/.434 on the road with 15 home runs. Something clicked for him after being called up from Triple-A at the end of the season. The switch hitter finished the last two months of 2012 hitting .288/.375/.475 with only 26 strikeouts. He’s carried that hot streak into Spring Training, where he has 8 hits and 2 home runs in 16 at bats. But if Smoak doesn’t hit, he’ll at least provide a team with above average defense at first base.
The Mariners currently have a number of options for first base, and will need to cut some players by the end of Spring Training. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a trade with the type of relationship the Yankees and Mariners have built over the last few years.
Matt LaPorta- Once a seventh overall pick by the Brewers, LaPorta moved to the Indians organization as the cornerstone piece for CC Sabathia. Through four major league seasons, and 1068 plate appearances, LaPorta has hit .238/.301/.393. At Progressive Field, where righties have struggled, he has posted an 85 wRC+ compared to a 95 wRC+ on the road. Defensively, he can play an average first base, and also has some experience in the outfield.
Unfortunately for LaPorta, his time with the Indians was spent struggling at the plate, bouncing around between positions and levels, and dealing with an ongoing hip problem that is now fixed. It’s extremely unlikely that he makes the Indians’ major league roster, and should be very available.
Daric Barton- Barton isn’t going to make up for Teixeira’s home runs, but he has the potential to make up for his on base percentage and fielding. He’s a career .249/.360/.371 hitter with a 105 wRC+. Like the other two first baseman, his career home/away splits are strong. Barton has been a much better hitter outside of Oakland, where he has a 111 wRC+ on the road. As a left handed batter, the difference between O.co and Yankee Stadium is immense, and he could fit very well into a patient Yankee lineup, and perhaps even show some more power with the short porch.
His defense at first base is very good, and even rivals that of Mark Teixeira. Unfortunately, he has little experience elsewhere, and hasn’t played third base regularly since 2007.
Barton is out of options and likely to be cut by the end of Spring Training. If the Yankees land him, where to put him after Teixeira’s return is a tough decision, but he’d at least be valuable as a bench bat.