Yankees Free Agent Showdown: Steve Pearce or Luis Valbuena?
Underrated and versatile free agent sluggers Steve Pearce and Luis Valbuena would both be great fits for the New York Yankees roster.
One of the downsides with going young in 2017 is the New York Yankees aren’t really sure what kind of production they can count on from certain positions next year, especially in right field and first base. Aaron Judge and Greg Bird are the favorites to hold down those jobs at the moment, but neither is even close to a sure thing at the moment. It’s not hard to imagine either guy struggling badly in the spring and beginning the season in Triple-A.
The team is said to be on the lookout for a veteran power bat to fill their full-time DH role after trading Brian McCann to the Houston Astros, but, ideally, whoever they bring in would have some positional flexibility to provide insurance for Judge and Bird. Two free agents this winter who could fit the bill are Steve Pearce and Luis Valbuena.
Pearce has quietly been one of the more productive sluggers in the AL East the last three seasons while seeing time at first, second, third, and both outfield corners. He put up a .288/.374/.492 (135 OPS+) with 13 home runs and 35 RBI in 302 plate appearances split between the Rays and Orioles this past year, although one concern is that his season was ended prematurely because of elbow surgery.
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Valbuena had a very similar 2016 season to Pearce, in that he was excellent when healthy, but missed considerable time due to injury. In 342 PA for Houston, he hit .260/.357/.459 (124 OPS) with 13 home runs and 40 RBI. Like Pearce, he has been used at first, second, third, and left, although he hasn’t seen big league action in right field.
Although both guys are still reasonably close to their prime years, neither should cost more than a modest one or two-year commitment because they have been used mostly as part-time players for much of their careers, despite the evidence that they have the skills for full-time roles.
MLB Trade Rumors expects a two-year $10 million pact for Pearce, and predicts Valbuena will also sign a two-year deal with a slightly higher $14 million total outlay. Dave Cameron is slightly more optimistic on Valbuena, projecting two and $18 million, while pegging Pearce at just one year and $7 million.
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While I’m ostensibly supposed to be deciding between these two players for the purposes of this column, I’m going to cheat and say I would be ecstatic with either player (or both) at the prices they are likely to command. They seem like two of the best potential bargains available via free agency this winter, and the Yankees should sign them immediately.