Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yankees Must Now Address Right Field

The Yankees should fly Byrd to New York

When the Yankees signed Carlos Beltran to a three year, multi-million deal this past offseason, they expected a 25 HR, 90 RBI season from their new right fielder. What they didn't expect was for Beltran to be limited to designated hitter duties to a balky right elbow that may eventually lead to surgery.

For now, Beltran has begun throwing again, but is limited to the designated hitter role. Even if he gets cleared to play the outfield, it will be on a limited bases. Right now, Ichiro Suzuki is the right fielder. Kelly Johnson is on the DL with a groin strain and Zelous Wheeler has a little outfield experience. Yes, the Yankees need an outfielder, preferably someone who can play right field.

The possibilities:

Most teams aren't making deals since they are within close range of either the division leader or the two wild cards. But there are some teams ready to bite the dust.

Josh Willingham
The Twins are one of those team that are quickly descending back to the AL Central basement. The 35-year old had fabulous back to back seasons with the A's and Twins in 2011-12. But injuries limited him to 111 games last year and he missed three-quarters of May this season. His OPS is a modest .770, but his .412 slugging pct. is a vast improvement from last year.

Willingham is a free agent after this year and would be owed the remainder of the $7MM he's set to earn this season. The drawback is that Willingham has primarily been a left-fielder in his career. He has 35 games of experience in right field and that all came in the 2009 season, while he was a member of the Washington Nationals.

Had Beltran been healthy, Kendry Morales would have been a good acquistion from Minny to fill in for the much injured Mark Teixeira.

Marlon Byrd
The Phillies are "phading" fast - they enter Thursday's play 15 games under .500. The 36-year old (these guys are the perfect age to be a Yankee) has played 98 games in right field this season. The much traveled Byrd - he's been with seven organizations in the Major Leagues (and more than once as a member of the Phillies)  - has put up a .796 OPS with 19 HR and 58 RBI in 387 at-bats.

The drawback is that Byrd is owed $8MM next year with the possibility of a vesting option in 2016 (also at $8MM). The Phillies will get more in return in if they eat some of the contract, but they already have a ton of money owed to several players. So far, the rumor is that the Phillies are asking for too much in return.

Alex Rios
The player that was once compared to Dave Winfield is a conundrum. A two-time All-Star, a player let go off recallable waivers, 25 home run power one year and just four home runs in 97 games this year.

It's hard to believe Rios is 33-years old. It seems like yesterday that he was an up and coming five-tool athlete with the Toronto Blue Jays. Rios was an All-Star in 2006-7 and hasn't been since. Toronto signed him to a six-year, $64MM extension prior to the 2008 season. But after a solid, but not upper tier season in 2008, the Blue Jays put him on waivers during the 2009 season. At the time his production had dropped off more and the Blue Jays must have been regretting the contract extension they gave to the then 28-year old.

They could have pulled Rios off of waivers and tried to make a deal with the White Sox, but they simply let him go and allowed the White Sox to assume the rest of the contract. He had just a .530 OPS in 41 games. But he bounced back the next season with 21 HR, 88 RBI, and 34 steals. For the most part he did well with Chicago, but was dealt to Texas last August (after clearing waivers) for Leury Garcia, a light hitting infielder.

This season, Rios leads the AL in triples and has 16 stolen  bases. He has a $13.5MM team option for next season, which no team will exercise. He sprained his ankle a few days ago and has been unable to play, though the team does not think a DL trip is necessary. Rios is a risk, but at the right price, one worth taking for a handful of months.

Drew Stubbs
Stay away from the Colorado Rockies outfielder. The 29-year old once stole 40 bases in a season, but doesn't hit. His .297/.335/.498 slash line and 10 home runs in 82 games is merely a product of playing his home games at Coor's Field. Stubbs road line is .229/.277/.343.

There you have it
And sadly, that's about it. I would love for the Yankees to pick up  Jay Bruce, who has having an off-year. While the Reds might be willing to dump his salary, the Yankees aren't likely to pick up more. ($25.5MM guaranteed with the potential of $12MM more.) The Reds would also demand a king's ransom for him. Marlon Byrd should be the top target in this flip-a-coin reality.

The Yankees also need to address starting pitching, but let's solve one crisis at a time.

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