The rash of injuries to Yankees infielders has led to rampant Stephen Drew speculation and the requisite denials. “Drew Day” is probably six weeks away regardless, as Scott Boras, having overplayed his hand this winter, has a new opportunity to create a sellers market once Drew’s draft compensation expires in June. Moreover, the timetable for signing a free agent, likely measured in weeks, isn’t exactly conducive to the Yankees pressing need. Players acquired via trade, on the other hand, may be available in as little as 24 hours. While pursuing this course of action probably depends on today and tomorrow’s injury updates, here are what I believe to be some realistic options. None of these players are world-beaters, but they are proven major-leaguers whose skill sets make them amenable not only for filling current gaps, but being valuable in various roles throughout the season.
Nick Franklin – 2B/SS – Seattle Mariners
Franklin’s youth (23) and pre-arbitration status make him an asset of considerable value and a somewhat unlikely trade chip. However, rumors circulated this spring that Seattle was looking to deal whomever lost the competition for the starting shortstop job. Brad Miller won and is having a decent start, with 3 HR in his first 12 games. Franklin, meanwhile, has clearly outgrown AAA (1.207 OPS this year, .912 in 2013). Franklin displays very good power for his position, and slightly above average speed, defense, and plate discipline. His rookie season featured modest production (.225/.303/.382, 1.9 bWAR, 102 GP) in the unfriendly confines of Safeco Field, but his power should play better elsewhere (8 of his 12 HR came on the road). Moreover, as a switch-hitter with experience at both middle-infield positions, he would give Girardi flexibility either in the starting lineup or coming of the bench.
DRAWBACKS: Because he’s an inexpensive young player with upside, the cost will be steep, probably including one of the Yankees top 10, if not top 5 prospects.
Rickie Weeks – 2B – Milwaukee Brewers
This is clearly the classic Cashman move. After two subpar seasons, Weeks has fallen out of favor in Milwaukee. Despite a strong Spring Training, the Brewers handed their starting job to an underwhelming prospect, Scooter Gennett. They would likely jump at the opportunity to unload the potentially bitter ex-cornerstone and the $10 Million or so remaining on his contract. Weeks may be rejuvenated by a new situation and, at 31, there’s no reason to believe he has nothing left in the tank. Unlike the other players on this list, Weeks is capable of carrying a team during his hot streaks. He possesses premium power for his position, as well as excellent plate discipline.
DRAWBACKS: Weeks should only be considered as a permanent starting 2B if Brian Roberts proves unequal to the task. He’s been a starter his whole career. He has never played another position and he is one hit since 2007 as a pinch-hitter. Also, for the past two seasons, Weeks has been a putrid defender. This was not the case during his prime. Perhaps, as with his offense, some of this might be attributed to ambivalence as the Brewers slipped from contender to bottom-feeder. One might surmise than, like Alfonso Soriano, Weeks needs to play in meaningful games again. One might also surmise that, like Vernon Wells, he’s toast.
Cliff Pennington – 2B/SS – Arizona Diamondbacks
While some speculation has been directed towards Didi Gregorius, who lost the D-Backs starting shortstop competition this spring to Chris Owings, I think Gregorius’s potential is limited if he isn’t the everyday shortstop, which can’t happen in New York until 2015. The Yankees might, however, be interested in another member of Arizona’s infield rotation. After three years as Oakland’s everyday shortstop, the switch-hitting defensive whiz, Pennington, is recasting himself as a utility infielder. In relatively small samples at second and third, Pennington has continued to flash the leather. Committing to a player like Pennington isn’t about scoring runs, but rather preventing them, and thus also protecting a starting rotation which has clearly been effected by the porous infield in these early weeks. Pennington doesn’t have as much offensive upside as the other players on this list, but he does have patience (4.02 P/PA for career), which fits the Yankee approach, and he doesn’t become a free agent until 2016, so he could be a cost-effective part of next year’s in flux infield as well.
DRAWBACKS: He’s 29 and his offensive production hasn’t improved a lick, despite four full seasons in the majors. At this point, his career aspiration is to become Nick Punto.