The End of the Bench

With the word that that Yankees have signed Raul Ibanez, the Yankees have essentially filled 12 of the 13 offensive spots. We know the defensive starters are Martin Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Gardner, Granderson and Swisher and behind them we now have Nunez, Jones, Ibanez and almost certainly Cervelli. (I saw “almost certainly” because I guess Romine could win the spot, but I think the Yankees would much prefer to let him play a year at AAA) That leaves one spot and the suggestion is that Eric Chavez might get it, but should he?

Let’s start with the Ibanez signing. He can’t hit lefties anymore, which means he is a good pairing with Andruw Jones who can’t really hit righties. Platoons can be very potent tools, but they are harder to execute in these days when teams carry small benches. The plan seems to be that the Yankees will put Jones in left when a lefty starts and give A-Rod or Jeter a half day off at DH with Nunez starting at third or short. Conversely, when a righty starts, Ibanez gets the DH spot and the rest of the regulars are normally used. The problem with this alignment is when Nunez is in the field, the Yankees don’t have anyone on the bench who can play the middle infield. Furthermore, all of this is predicated on the idea that Ibanez isn’t finished as a hitter, something I am not sure about. At least the contract is very expendable.

So, ideally the Yankees would give the final bench spot to someone who could cover multiple positions. That’s where I wonder if they are better off just using Ramiro Pena at this point over Chavez? Sure, Pena can’t hit. But, he can play anywhere in the infield and he can even play the corners in the outfield in a pinch. He also can run a little bit, something that could come in handy. Eric Chavez hit .256/.320/.356 last year for the Yankees. Against righties he put up a nearly-identical line of .255/.322/.365. That was his best season since 2007. If Chavez can’t hit, what value does he add to the team that Pena doesn’t?

Rather than sign Chavez and potentially throw away a million or more, why not just wait and see how camp shakes out? Maybe Bill Hall, a guy who can play multiple positions, hits enough to justify a roster spot. Maybe someone who is out of options doesn’t make a big league club. The Yankees have players like Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell who are also out of options, maybe they could net something in a trade. The Yankees have been patient all winter, why change now?