Yankees sign free agent Adam Lind and what it means
On Friday, the Yankees inked 12-year veteran first baseman Adam Lind to a minor league contract with an opt-out, should he fail to make the opening day roster.
If you’re like me, upon hearing that the Yankees signed 34-year-old Adam Lind to a one-year deal, an immediate red flag went up; what’s wrong with Greg Bird?
I know, I shouldn’t immediately think some catastrophe has struck down the American League’s best hitter (BTW, I’m sick of hearing this; I mean, doesn’t he have to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it, first?).
However, as general manager Brian Cashman assured Brian Hoch of MLB.com, Lind, who was taking part at the free agents camp in Bradenton, Fla., is viewed merely as insurance.
"“It’s an insurance policy,” Cashman said. “He’ll come in and be in the mix. We’ll see what he’s got. He’ll obviously have a chance to prove that he’s got some value elsewhere, but clearly there’s insurance in the event that injuries occur, which thankfully haven’t.”"
For those that lost track of Lind in 2017, the 2004 third round pick of the Blue Jays had an excellent season for the Nationals as a backup first baseman/outfielder.
In just 267 at-bats last season, Lind was a vital cog off the bench for the Nats, slashing .303/.362/.513 with 14 homers, 59 RBI and a productive 122 wRC+.
Although Lind played 25 games in left field in ’17, Cashman insists the Yankees have no intention of adding to an already crowded outfield situation.
Off the bench, the left-handed hitting prowess of Lind is tailormade for Yankee Stadium. His recent 126 wRC+ included a league-leading four pinch-hit homers in only 48 at-bats.
What does the addition of Lind mean to the rest of the roster?
Against left-handed pitching, Lind isn’t much of an option, slashing a measly .217/.263/.329. But you know who is, Tyler Austin!
After Friday afternoon’s two-run walk-off home run to give the Yanks a 5-4 win over the Braves, his second long ball in two days, it’s clear to see the 26-year-old former top prospect isn’t going down without a fight.
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Often displaying excellent opposite-field power when he isn’t fighting to stay off the disabled list, Austin still has enough upside in his game to beat out the venerable Lind for the backup first base job.
But, like it or not, Lind was brought in IF something should happen to Bird. Because as much as you and I would like to see Austin given an actual shot at holding down first base, Lind is a proven commodity.
He’s a career .272 hitter with 200 home runs and 723 RBI to his name. In six of his past nine seasons, Lind has hit at least 20 dingers.
In previous years, there haven’t been many battle-tested bats like Lind’s available this deep into spring. However, this offseason has been anything other than typical, as Lind told NorthJersey.com.
"“The way this winter worked out, I’m happy to just have a job.“They offered me a contract,’’ said Lind, who joins his fifth team in the last five seasons. “It’s a great opportunity, I know I’ve talked to them over the past couple of years (about potentially signing). I think it was the right situation.”"
As for Brandon Drury, although he too has experience at first base, the intention is for Drury to continue slugging it out with rookie Miguel Andujar for the starting third base job.
With Andujar taking a bit of a lead for the right to man the hot corner, I fully expect Drury to see more time at second base this spring, especially with top prospect Gleyber Torres scuffling with the stick.
The other player Lind complicates matters for is Billy McKinney. Still only 23, and having just started playing first base last season in the minors, and then in the recent Arizona Fall League, McKinney still needs at least half a year to round out his ability at the bag.
He too has flashed serious power this spring, hitting two home runs and driving in four runs in only 10 at-bats. Expect McKinney to get the opening day nod at first base for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
With Clint Frazier battling post-concussion symptoms and Jacoby Ellsbury having recently sustained a strained oblique, the possibility does remain, though slim, for both Lind and Austin to make the 25-man roster.
Next: Yankees walk-off winners again
Luckily, there are still three weeks until any final decisions need to be made. Each player should get plenty of reps to prove their merit. And who know’s, maybe if Lind were to be optioned to Scranton, he’d stick around due to the challenging job market.