With Brian McCann Gone, What Should the Yankees Do at DH?
By Cory Fallon
The first of the New YorkYankees offseason moves involved shipping veteran catcher Brian McCann off to the Houston Astros in exchange for a pair of young arms. Now that the DH spot is open, here are some options for the Yankees to consider filling that vacancy.
By trading away Brian McCann, general manager Brian Cashman answered a lot of questions in regards to the Yankees catching situation. After a stellar rookie season, Gary Sanchez was named the starting catcher, and now appears will have the position all to himself. After losing his job behind the plate, Brian McCann took over as the team’s primary designated hitter, but after his departure, that job is up for grabs.
On Thursday, Cashman told James Wagner of the New York Times that moving McCann and a large chunk of the $34 million owed to him over the next two years gave the club “more choices,” and they are now rumored to be eyeing several of the biggest bats available on the free agent market.
If they decide to stay in-house, the Yankees best bet at DH would be either Tyler Austin or Aaron Judge. Austin will be competing with Greg Bird for the starting first base job in the spring, while Judge has many rivals for the open right field position. If either guy loses out, they could prove to be capable DHs.
New York is in the middle of a youth movement but probably will branch out and sign an older veteran to fill this role. There two different approaches they could take when signing one of these free agents. They could sign someone based solely on power, a traditional slugging veteran bat. Or they could try and sign a guy who could see some time in the field and fill the DH role by mixing and matching.
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If they tried to sign a true DH, then this free agent class offers a few good options. Some names like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Howard, Mike Napoli, and Mark Trumbo are available this offseason.
These five are true power hitters, combining for 170 home runs during the 2016 season. The 2016 Yankees managed to put 183 over the fence as a team. This exposed one of the Yankees problems from last year, a real lack of power and is one of the reasons they should pursue a true power hitter.
The power issue is something the Yankees struggled with during 2016. Their two best power hitters last year weren’t even on the team at the same time. Carlos Beltran got traded in July and Gary Sanchez got called up shortly after.
There have been rumors circulating that New York is trying to re-sign Beltran and bring him back for 2017, which would be a great move but unlikely. With the lack of a dynamic consistent bat, the Yankees were often exposed for their inability to hit the ball for power.
The other route they Yankees could explore is signing a normal position player and changing the DH day-to-day. A few names out there the Yankees should consider, including Yoenis Cespedes and Ian Desmond, would provoke some interesting scenarios. These outfielders could rotate with Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, giving one of them a day out of the field but keeping their bat in the lineup.
With the club’s lack of power, they should really consider signing a true power hitter and making him the full-time DH. Although he does strike out a lot, Mike Napoli would be a great fit for this role.
Napoli is a proven winner, making it to the postseason in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors. Leading the Red Sox to a title in 2013 and the Indians to the World Series in 2016. He is also noted for being a great teammate, and a leader in the clubhouse.
The veteran slugger is coming off a career year in 2016 where he hit 34 home runs and drove in 101 runs. The Yankees need a guy like Napoli, and the short porch in left would benefit both him and the Yankees’ offense.
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While they have a number of options to consider, New York needs a power guy who can drive home some runs and hit the ball over the fence, something they struggled with in 2016. It will be interesting to see who they will eventually put there, but they should consider Mike Napoli as the player to fill the now empty role.