The Yankees organization has a big decision to make today, one that has no perfect answer. As the team continues to struggle offensively, Andy Pettitte will make his return from the disabled list, and thus his return to the 25-man roster. To clear a spot for him, the team will need to cut someone, and there is no easy choice at the moment.
As the team stands, the Yankees already have a short pitching staff, hosting just 11 pitchers on their active roster. Likewise, they only have four outfielders on the team, excluding Jayson Nix. With Travis Hafner taking up a spot without a position, the Yankees will most likely cut one of their infielders, and that could mean cutting one of their most productive bats or most versatile gloves.
You’d assume that one of Reid Brignac or Nix, both of which have done very little offensively, are the most likely to lose their job. However, dropping one of these players means that the backup shortstop is Robinson Cano. I highly doubt that the organization is willing to take any sort of risk in moving their best player to a position he hasn’t played regularly in years. If they do decide to take that risk, I’d assume that Brignac would draw the short straw. Although Brignac offers a better left-handed bat to compliment Derek Jeter/Eduardo Nunez at shortstop or Kevin Youkilis at third base, as well as an upgrade in defense, there’s no denying Joe Girardi‘s regular endorsements for Nix. Despite posting a wRC+ of 66 with a BABIP that’s nearly .070 points higher than his career rate, and average to below average defense, Nix’s job looks safe based on what we’ve heard from his manager, but one could easily argue that he is currently the weakest link.
The two players who would be easiest to cut based on positions are Lyle Overbay and David Adams. As the team waits to see if Youkilis and Mark Teixeira are indeed healthy, these two guys have already seen their playing time cut. Overbay, who’s posted a .247/.289/.461 slash this year, and a 98 wRC+, will have very little opportunity to play the switch-hitting Teixeira and the left-handed Hafner remain healthy. Some have suggested that the first baseman move to the outfield, but unfortunately, the last time Overbay played the outfield was in Double-A in 2001, and the downgrade in defense might be enough to counter any benefit you’d see in his offense. The Yankees already have a surplus of left-handed outfielders, but his 130 wRC+ against lefties this year is not something you can easily overlook. I don’t think the Yankees will let him go easily, but he’ll need to play in the outfield or wait for another injury to start receiving regular at bats again.
On the other hand, David Adams has cooled down since his hot start. He has 5 hits in his last 27 at bats, which brings his major league slash down to .259/.283/.414. It doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t handle the major leagues, as the numbers are influenced by the small sample size you’d find in just 16 games, and if you look at his minor league numbers, it’s easy to believe he could hit at the major league level. The problem is, he’s not hitting, and Kevin Youkilis is a clear offensive upgrade at third base. With Nix and Brignac remaining on the roster, the team already has their backup third baseman, and Adams might be better served getting regular at bats in Triple-A, especially with the injury-prone Youkilis dealing with ongoing back trouble.
As I mentioned, there’s no real perfect answer. The guys with the best bats don’t have a position to play, and the guys with the positions to play don’t have adequate bats. In a stretch where the offense has started to show its’ cracks, do you remove one of the better offensive players for a backup infielder? Do you try to keep the bats in the roster and take a chance playing without a backup short stop? But then how do you find Adams or Overbay time to play? It’s a complicated decision, so I’ll ask our readers, who would you cut?