Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Shortstops and Catchers and Pitchers, Oh My

We're a week away from the Major League Baseball All-Star game, which means the Yankees need to get moving. If you have watched the majority of games this season you know that run support is not easy to come by for a team nicknamed the "Bronx Bombers". There's not a whole lot of punch in the lineup due to injuries, players that are much closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, and a lot of kids who are still wet behind the ears.

A huge boost may be on its way from Scranton this weekend, though it will be more likely as soon as the players regroup from their All-Star hiatus. Either way, Derek Jeter is getting closer to a return to the number one or two spot in the Yankees' batting order.

No one knows how he will hit, field, or run. You can only look at how he's currently moving and reacting on the baseball field, and how he feels the next day...which he will never honestly tell you. I can tell you that Jeter's return to the lineup will give a big morale boost to his teammates.

Jeter has the same pull as a prior Yankees captain, Don Mattingly. Players played harder for Mattingly and felt they were letting him down if they didn't contribute to the team's success. Mattingly only made one playoff appearance in his career, but still commanded respect throughout the clubhouse. Jeter commands that same respect and he has five World Series rings to back it up.

Jeter will primarily play shortstop and will DH on those days he needs a partial rest. Eduardo Nunez, if he can stay healthy, will back him up when needed.

Brian Cashman has to do some other things to strengthen this team, even if he doesn't want to spend much to do it. Austin Romine has always possessed the ability to play defense and control a pitching staff at the Major League level. However, his hitting is another matter.  Romine has had some decent minor league seasons, but his slash line in 68 at-bats with the big club is .132/.145/.176.  It's time for Romine to return to the minors and for Cashman to get another catcher to share time with Chris Stewart.

With Francisco Cervelli sidelined indefinitely with a "stress reaction" to an old elbow injury and the lineup's failure to produce runs, getting another Major League level catcher with some life in his bat is an imperative. Cashman will have to look outside the Yankees organization for an upgrade. (Scranton presently has three catchers- 23-year old John Murphy, who has only 20 games experience at the Triple-A level, veteran Bobby Wilson and his .199 batting average, and unknown Jeff Farnham, who has a meager .585 OPS in 14 games after a .504 OPS in 10 games at Trenton.)

So who might be available? (Please stop calling in to radio shows and saying John Buck.)

Ramon Hernandez: The 37-year old's better days are behind him and was released earlier this year by the LA Dodgers. He was signed to a minor league contract by the Toronto Blue Jays at the end of June and has just two hits in 19 at-bats at Triple-A. However, he had a .728 OPS with the Dodgers before he was shown the door.

Miguel Olivo: Made news in mid-June when he blasted his employers, the Florida Marlins, for not sending him elsewhere. The team placed him on the restricted list after he complained about his lack of playing time for the nth time. He's a week away from his 35th birthday, but Olivo averaged 17 home runs over the last four seasons.

Dioner Navarro: Yes, the one and same catcher who appeared in five games for the Yankees as a 20-year old. The now 29-year old Navarro has had a bit of a resurgence with the Chicago Cubs after a number of poor years. Signed as a free agent by the Yankees in 2000, Navarro has an .886 OPS in 44 games with the Cubbies.

Carlos Ruiz: "Chooch" is a free agent after the season and is coming off a season in which he had career highs in HR (16) and RBI (68). Was any of it due to using banned amphetamines? Good question, since Ruiz sat out 25 games earlier this year after getting busted for use of the aforementioned substance. The 35-year old also missed time this season with an injured foot and has struggled all season with his bat. His availability will be based on whether or not the Phils can't grab a wild card spot.

Max Ramirez: The 28-year old was once thought to be a middle-plus prospect, but has only gotten cups of coffee in the Major Leagues with Texas in 2008 and 2010. He's been with five organizations since then and his current address is with the KC Royals' Triple-A squad in Omaha. Ramirez has good power (he averaged 15 home run the past two seasons) and has a career .769 OPS in over 400 Triple-A games.

Tomorrow - A look at getting some infield and pitching help.

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