Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The 2012 Designated Hitter

When the Jesus Montero-for-Michael Pineda deal went down on Friday night, most people started to talk about the long term implication and how the Yanks had a pitcher who controlled for the next five or so years while the Mariners received a big bat for the future. However, it initially seemed to slip through the cracks that the Yankees now had a hole to fill. They need a new designated hitter.

This spot in the lineup combined to hit .256/.336/.450 for the team last year, which is respectable, but there is room for improvement. With only a $1-2 million budget to add a piece they will probably wind up going for a platoon guy. The already re-signed Andruw Jones has proven that he can mash lefties, posting a .400 wOBA against them last year, so all they need is someone who can hit righties well. Let's take a look at who's out there.

Reunion? (New York Magazine)
We know by now that the Bombers have been linked to Johnny Damon, who has been essentially a DH only over the last two seasons. In 2011, he hit .261/.326/.418 and logged a 109 wRC+ for the Rays. Damon, 38, was able to play in 150 games for Tampa last season, but at his age a big decline is just waiting to happen. Of course, he does have the old 'True Yankee' thing to his credit which is why fans want to see him come back, but I'm not sure if he's the best option out there.

(Franklin Baseball)
Hideki Matsui is the other guy that's beloved by Yankees fans on this list. For Oakland last season, he only posted a .306 wOBA and a 93 wRC+. At 37, he would be risk for any team  with such fall off from last season, but if he can be had on a minor league deal, it would definitely be worth considering. Maybe decreasing his at bats and only letting him face righties would help him out a bit.

Next and my favorite option is Carlos Pena. Pena has gotten a bad rep from fans because he doesn't hit for a high average, but the guy is very productive. Last year for the Cubs he had a .354 OBP and a .237 ISO. He draws a lot of walks and as we know from his days with the Rays, he can hit the ball far. The short porch in right field would probably only help the power production. The problem is that he will probably cost more than $2 million and that's all the Yanks are willing to spend. He's definitely someone to keep your eye on though.

Another guy who is attractive because of his power is Russell Branyan. He had an awful year in 2011, splitting time between the Diamondbacks and Angels which yielded him 146 plate appearances. He is only one year removed from a very good season in 2010 in which he had a .250 ISO. His splits also show that he has killed righties for his entire career as he has a .259 ISO and .360 wOBA against them for his career.

Buster Olney tweeted the other day about the Yankees possibly using the in-house Jorge Vazquez to fill the vacancy. While Vazquez has shown he can rake in his few years with the organizations (63 homers in three seasons) he strikes out a ton (33.2 % in 2011) and doesn't get on base enough (.314 OBP in 2011). I'm sure he'll been given a chance to fight for the job, but in the end, he is your stereotypical Quad-A hitter. I can only seem him being effective in the big leagues in a small sample before pitchers figure him out.

There are other options that I have omitted such as Casey Kotchman, JD Drew, and even Nick Johnson, but the above handful are the ones that I see as the most likely. I like Branyan and Pena the best just because of the power they can bring to the table. If one of them can come cheaply, that would be my choice. Whatever the front office does, this needs to be a small, low-risk contract.

1 comments:

I have a feeling the Yankees will split time between A-Rod and Jeter there if Nunez is producing... Remember, Nunez can play either 3rd base or shortstop so he provides the Yankees with some versatility

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