Watch Your Back Raul

The Yankees signed Jack Cust to a minor league deal today. While we can certainly debate whether or not Cust is a viable outfielder, he is definitely a left-handed hitter who used to produce some pretty good numbers. He is a career .247/.383/.466 hitter vs. righties, but he had a terrible 2011 hitting .213/.344/.329.

I don’t think Ibanez is in any danger yet, but the way his contract is structured will increase the pressure on him to get off to a good start. He gets a base salary of $1.1 million, but incentives for every 25 plate appearances starting at 50. Those incentives start at $50,000 per level and increase by $50,000 every 100 plate appearances after that. So, he makes 50k at 50, 75, 100 and 125 PA’s and then 100k per milestone at 150 PA’s, $150k per milestone at 250PA’, etc..

While these incentives will hardly bankrupt the Yankees, they won’t pay them if he isn’t hitting. How short is the trigger? That’s very hard to guess. Randy Winn got 71 PA’s in 2010 before being jettisoned. If I had to guess, I would say May 1st is as good a guess as any. The Yankees have options. They could give the AB’s to Chavez. They have Chris Dickerson sitting in the minors and now they have Cust. Johnny Damon is still a free agent. Add it all up and Raul probably won’t have a lot of leeway when it comes to producing this year.