Yankees have discussed signing free agent second baseman Joe Panik


The Yankees lineup is one of the best in baseball, but if there’s one area of concern heading into next season it’s their lack of left-handed hitters. That could be why the front office has reportedly discussed signing veteran second baseman Joe Panik.

Last season the Yankees lineup was very right-handed heavy as well, but now it’s more so than we’ve seen in a very long time. Following the departure of Didi Gregorius who had been the team’s top left-handed hitter for most of his tenure in New York, the Yanks will likely enter next season with Brett Gardner as the only lefty-hitting starter in the lineup.

There’s a chance Mike Tacuhman could end up starting in left if the plan is for Giancarlo Stanton to DH primarily but the switch-hitting Aaron Hicks will be out until June at the earliest recovering from Tommy John surgery. Mike Ford and Tyler Wade will compete for spots on the 26-man roster this spring, but neither one of them projects to start once the regular season rolls around.

With only five left-handed hitters on the entire 40-man roster (Estevan Florial), it makes sense to look for another lefty bat but I’m not sure Joe Panik is the answer. According to Buster Olney of ESPN Joel Sherman of the New York Post, there is mutual interest between Panik and the Yankees but nothing appears to be imminent at the moment.

The former All-Star was a big part of the Giants’ 2014 World Series championship team and grew up a huge Yankees fan in Dutchess County, New York. However, over the past couple of seasons he’s really struggled offensively and in 2019 he was designated for assignment by San Fran and finished the season with the Mets. He hit .277 for the cross town rivals but overall he only hit .244 for the season with 5 HR and 39 RBI in 438 at-bats.

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Panik is a terrific defender but he plays second base, which makes this news even more perplexing because the Yankees are covered there with last year’s team MVP DJ LeMahieu. Obviously, Gleyber Torres can also play second but he’s set to be the starting shortstop in 2020 with Didi now gone.

In the minor leagues Panik came up as a shortstop, however he’s yet to play the position in the majors so it’s not like he would be signed to back up Gleyber at short. That role will go to either Wade or Thairo Estrada who are both more versatile than Panik and above-average defenders at short and second base.

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As I noted earlier Panik isn’t exactly a threat offensively any more and doesn’t hit for much power at all. He’s hit a combined 9 home runs the last two seasons and prior to that his career-high for a season was only 10. One thing he does do very well is put the ball in play at an extremely high rate. Since his debut in 2014 Panik has one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball and a season ago he had the lowest swing and miss percentage.

His ability to make contact is probably one of the main reasons why the Yankees are showing interest because their right-handed heavy lineup could be very strikeout prone at times. That’s been a big issue for the Yanks, especially during the postseason as we all saw this past October.

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Despite Panik’s lack of offensive production in recent years, I wouldn’t mind if the Yankees signed him to add to their infield depth as long as it’s a minor league deal. Even though he hits lefty and doesn’t strike out he’s not really a fit on the team unless he proves to be a solid defender at shortstop as well.