With the New York Yankees closing in on a deal with Ichiro Suzuki, they will have three left-handed hitting outfielders including Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. The Yankees are still interested in bringing back Raul Ibanez, but they’ll really need a right-handed hitting bat, preferably one which hits lefties hard.
The ‘bigger’ names remaining on the market are Cody Ross and Scott Hairston. Ross would be a nice fit, but he profiles as a regular and is looking to make $25 million over three years. Hairston has been linked to the Yankees for a few weeks now and his bat makes absolute sense.
Hairston hit 20 homers in 398 plate appearances for the New York Mets in 2012 while recording an overall slash line of .263/.299/.504. He mashed lefties to the tune of .286/.317/.550 in 199 plate appearances. One wrinkle, Hairston is said to be looking for at least a two-year deal according to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, which is something the Yankees are not very interested in.
After Hairston, the Yankees will be hurting for options with the same kind of upside as Hairston provides. Here are a few available names they may have to consider if Hairston goes elsewhere and there are no trades to be made. Be wary, none of these options is especially exciting.
Remember, we are digging deep here, but the Yankees had interest in Lee over the past summer. In fact, they had a deal in place for him with the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline, but he invoked his no trade rights. Lee will turn 37 in June so he’s in the year to year contract situation now. He could get plenty of at-bats against left-handed pitchers who he had a hard time with last season for some reason — .206/.261/.298 with just 2 home runs in 153 plate appearances. He hit much better against righties, but this wouldn’t matter in the Yankees case unless there was an injury. In 2011, Lee crushed lefties — .348/.413/.615 with seven homers in 155 plate appearances. He is a lifetime .290/.356/.479 hitter against left-handers. Lee can also play some first base if needed. Question is would Lee sign to come to New York if he didn’t want to accept a trade to the Yankees last season?
Hairston is looking pretty good, right? Anyway, Rivera, a former Yankee is coming off his final season as a Los Angeles Dodger. He hit .244/.286/.379 in 339 plate appearances in 2012 with nine homers and 47 RBIs. He was slightly better against lefties — .260/.312/.433 with six home runs in 133 plate appearances. Rivera was not so great in the outfield last season in 310 innings with a -11.9 UZR/150, but he’s had seasons in which the metric was well into positive territory. Rivera played some first base for the Dodgers and was a mess there, so this type of move would be exclusively for a bat.
Ugh, forget it, I’m not going to waste your time, the guy had a -0.7 fWAR in 2012. He only hits well against the Yankees in the playoffs…wait he actually hits very well against lefties. His career splits against southpaws is .307/.341/.483 in 1,046 plate appearances. In 2012 he went 308/.333/.500 with seven home runs in 189 plate appearances against left-handers. But, he would need to stay away from right-handed pitching which made him look below average — .247/.279/.370. I’m not sure what Young is looking for, but it is probably more than the Yankees would give him and someone else will likely make the mistake of signing him to be an everyday player since he is still on the younger side (27-years-old).
To me, if Hairston doesn’t work out and the Yankees can’t make a trade then why not try someone in the system? Mesa is going to be 26-years-old in January and enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Bombers in 2012. In 371 plate appearances with Double-A Trenton, Mesa went .277/.344/.464 with 18 doubles and 14 home runs. He also stole 17 bases. Before he was called up to the Yankees he received 133 plate appearances with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and hit .230/.271/.524. He hit nine homers showing his bat does have some pop. The question with Mesa is whether he is ready for the big leagues and could he handle off and on duty. But, since Mesa does not project to be one of the mainstays in years to come, maybe the Yankees don’t care too much if he regresses. There is some upside and obviously Mesa would be paid a rookie salary which suits the Yankees if the other options don’t pan out.
Another Yankee farmhand, who defected from Cuba in 2011, Mustelier is on the older side at 28-years-old. He came into his own a bit in 2012, hitting .303/.359/.455 with 10 home runs in 373 Triple-A plate appearances after tearing up Double-A with a 1.010 OPS in 121 plate appearances. He is currently playing in the Mexican Pacific League hitting .287/.341/.452 with seven homers in 169 plate appearances. He obviously has some pop and displayed that he could hit at the Triple-A level. It’s possible the Yankees invite him and Mesa to Spring Training to see what they have to give.
Like I said, beyond Hairston and he’s not exactly anyone to jump up and down about, the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make when it comes to filling this role. Is there someone on the free agent market I missed? Let me know in the comments.