Yankees of 2013 – Part Three – The Current Roster – The Batters

And so we come to the third part of our survey and the offensive players who are currently on the 40-man roster……. those who have stayed, those who have arrived and those we might meet for the first time:

Zoilo Almonte – Born 10 June 1989

In 2013, Almonte debuted in the major leagues for the Yankees. His defensive appearances were divided between left and right field. The outfield picture, for the Yankees, is very crowded at this moment so unless there are some significant trades before the season begins, Almonte will begin the season at Triple-A.

Francisco Cervelli – Born 6 March 1986

Cervelli comes off a season wrecked by injuries and a drug suspension. He is one of four contenders for a catchers’ spot on the major league roster and so it will be something of a race-off in Spring Training to see whether he can win the backup role.

His best period was between 2009-2011 but he has only played 20 games over the last two seasons. His career batting average is .271 but he lacks some of the finesse of the top catchers in the defensive necessities.

Brett Gardner – Born 24 August 1983

Gardner played 138 games in centrefield in 2013 but in 2014, if he is still with the Yankees, he is likely to find himself in leftfield where he didn’t play a single game last year. 2013 was amongst his best full seasons for batting average total (.273), leading to a career average of .268. However, his stolen bases total (24) has dropped to half of what it was in 2011 before an injury-shattered 2012. He has never reached double figures in home runs.

Derek Jeter – Born 26 June 1974

Derek had an injury hit season in 2013 but is hoping to bounce back in 2014. He managed only 17 games in the line-up as he ricocheted from the disabled list to the roster and back again. Indications are that he will probably see more time at DH than previously – even if fully fit. At 40 years of age, he is coming towards the end of his tenure as one of the major stars of baseball and the class act who has been the captain of the Yankees over the last years. In 2012, he hit .316 with 15 home runs. The Yankees can only dream that he might return to something like that level. He has signed a 1-year contract with the Yankees for this year which is worth $12m.

J.R. Murphy – Born 13 May 1991

Murphy is the youngest option that the Yankees have for the second catcher role but he will need to perform well in Spring Training if he is to move ahead of Romine and Cervelli in the chase. Murphy struggled when promoted to the majors last season finishing the year on .154 with no homers in what were his first 16 games for the senior Yankees club. He will, in all probability, start the year at Scranton.

Eduardo Nunez – Born 15 June 1987

Nunez could be a backup for Derek Jeter in 2014. He could share the role previously held by Alex Rodriguez (if he is suspended or moved to DH). He could be a bench player (unlikely). Or he could be on another team’s roster altogether. Who knows! Nunez’s problem is his flaky infield skills and his need to play in the same role for consecutive days if he is going to perform at all well. He batted .260 with 3 home runs in 2013 which are both around his career averages. He has some speed on the bases but the Yankees will have plenty of that in the coming season. My tip is that he will be getting used to calling a new city home by opening day.

Alex Rodriguez – Born 27 July 1975

Who knows what the situation will be with A-Rod in a month’s time never mind by opening day. He has a suspension appeal hanging over him. He is approaching his 39th birthday. He has spent large parts of the last seasons on the disabled list and when he wasn’t on the DL, he looked a shadow of his former self in the field. If he is available the Yankees should make him alternate between DH and 3B in an attempt to keep him fit. If he isn’t, then, at last we can say goodbye to the whole circus for the time being. But the fact remains that he is under contract until 2017 and is the Yankees’ highest paid player so I don’t see this problem going away anytime soon.

Austin Romine – Born 22 November 1988

Last year, Romine played 60 games for the Yankees but averaged only .207 with the bat. This was better than Murphy but significantly less than the Yankees might expect from Cervelli if he rebounds well. So the question is: do the Yankees want an offensive catcher to replace McCann if he gets injured or a defensive one to replace Stewart. If the latter is the case I think you go with Romine.

Alfonso Soriano – Born 7 January 1976

In 2003, the Yankees let go of a 2nd baseman called Alfonso Soriano. In 2013, the Yankees signed a left-fielder called Alfonso Soriano from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for a Single-A pitcher. It was the same guy. He took a while to get warmed up but when he did he exploded with power. But that explosion was short-lived. By season’s end his batting average with New York was only 2 points higher than it had been with Chicago and his season average across both hit the mid-point between the two – .255. He had 17 home runs with the Cubs and 17 home runs with the Yankees. So there is little question where his level lies. Next year, if he is still in New York, his best chance looks to be filling the designated hitter role. This year, he will be paid $18m of which (if the situation remains as it is today) $13 will be paid by Chicago and $5 by New York. However, it is a crowded situation on the Yankees roster and they have too many outfielders to carry into the new season and there are only so many they can move to DH or to the bench.

Ichiro Suzuki – Born 22 October 1973

Ichiro played 128 games in rightfield for the Yankees in 2013 but with the arrival of Carlos Beltran, he looks a little surplus to requirement. He is not either the heavy hitter that you would ideally choose to make your designated hitter and his batting average declined sharply between 2012 and 2013. He is scheduled to be paid $6.5m in 2014 so he will not find many takers if the Yankees seek to trade him – all of which leaves Cashman and Girardi with some head-scratching to do.

Mark Teixeira – Born 11 April 1980

Teixeira spent most of last season on the 60 day DL but the fact that the Yankees have signed little in the way of 1B backup shows that they have high confidence he will return. In 2012, he batted .251 (career .278) and hit 24 home runs. His home run total was below average for his career. In 2013, he played only 15 games. He is under contract until 2016 so it is crucial that he returns to full health this year. He will be paid $22.5m for each of these last three of eight on his contract and to lose him at this stage would be disastrous. One player who is still on the market is Mark Reynolds who played some first base last year and could be a safety-first addition.

Vernon Wells – Born 8 December 1978

Wells is another piece in the crowded outfield picture and another one who is ageing and past his best. The good news is that the Yankees need only to pay him $2.4m of the remaining money that he is owed on his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays (the club before his previous club) picking up the rest. The bad news is that his home run total declined last season to 11 from a career high 32 and his batting average was .233 whilst his career average is .270. Last season, he divided his time between leftfield, rightfield and designated hitter with leftfield taking up most of his time. This year, only DH seems to remain for him and that is a spot with many, many options. It rather depends on how much the Yankees like the cheap option.

Free Agents who are Coming Back

Brendan Ryan – Born 26 March 1982

Ryan was a highlight of last season when he came over from Seattle to fill the void once again left by another injury to Derek Jeter. He was traded for a player to be named later as Seattle sought to rid themselves of a player who was about to become a free agent. He played 87 games for Seattle and 17 for New York and proved a delight to watch with his agile fielding and range. He will earn $2m in 2014, $2m in 2015 and there is both a club and player option for 2016 which would result in differing amounts being payable. He is, however, a weak bat. He batted only .197 across the two teams in 2012 and his career average (7 seasons) is .237. He brings little power and declining speed on the bases. How much playing time he receives will depend on how much Jeter is used at shortstop. At the very least, he will spell the ageing Jeter on his off-days and be a late innings defensive substitution.

Incoming Players

Carlos Beltran – Born 24 April 1977

Beltran began his major league career with Kansas City Royals in 1998. Since then he has spent time with Houston Astros, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, and the St Louis Cardinals. Last season at St Louis, he played 137 games in rightfield. In his best season, he batted .325 (2009) with the Mets and has a career batting average of .283. He comes to the Yankees on a 3-year contract worth $45m (15m each season 2014-2016). He will be nearly 40 when this contract comes to an end so this is a risky deal. Last year, he hit 24 home runs, which would have made him second on the Yankees behind Cano, who is now in Seattle. So in the short term this should bring the Yankees some extra power but the further we get into that contract, Beltran’s value becomes debatable.

Jacoby Ellsbury – Born 11 September 1983

For every Wade Boggs, there is a Kevin Youkilis. And there is only one Babe Ruth. Red Sox who have made the transition to the Yankees don’t always have the smoothest of rides. And Jacoby is a career Red Sox man to this point. He will need to prove himself. His career batting average is .297 peaking at .321 for a full season in 2011. Last season, he played 134 games in centrefield where he looks likely to be preferred to Gardner in 2014. He has a career 241 stolen bases and last season managed 52 so his speed is not gone yet. Like Gardner, he usually hits less than 10 homers a season although he did have one season (2011 again) when he hit a mammoth – by his own standards – 32, which he looks unlikely to repeat. The Yankees will pay him just over $21 million each year for 2014-2020 with a club option at the same rate for 2021. By that time, if this works out – and it should – he will have split his career equally between Boston and New York. By then he will be 38 years of age.

Kelly Johnson – Born 22 February 1982

Johnson has divided his major league career (which began in 2005) between the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays. Last season with the Tampa team, he split his time between left field (53 games), 2B (22 games), 3B (16 games) and 1B (3 games) as well as extensive time at designated hitter. Consequently, he could be one of the players to replace Cano at 2B, Rodriguez at 3B (if he is suspended), and he could spell Gardner in the outfield or be one of the players making up 162 games at DH. That’s how you spell utility. He has a $3m 1-year contract for 2014 so he will be in the mix somewhere. During his career he has hit .253 with about 15 home runs per season and has a little speed on the bases so he will be a contributor.

Brian McCann – Born 20 February 1984

Free agent Brian McCann replaces Chris Stewart as catcher, having spent the whole of his major league career so far (2005-13) with Atlanta. Last year, he played 92 games behind the plate out of 102 total appearances. He has a solid bat (over .250 most seasons) and usually adds 20 home runs to his teams total. He is a 7-time All-Star for the National League. Since 2009, he has been prone to injury and has a number of trips to the disabled list which is something that the Yankees will hope does not continue and need to watch. On the face of it, he seems a distinct upgrade on last season’s catching situation, bringing much more offensive power. He has a five year contract which is spread evenly totalling $85m over the whole period. The club has an option for a sixth year at a slightly reduced rate.

Players with no major league experience

Dean Anna (2B/SS) (Traded from San Diego for Ben Paullus)

Ramon Flores (LF) (With Trenton Thunder {Yankees AA} last season)

Slade Heathcott (CF) (With Trenton Thunder {Yankees AA} last season)

Gary Sanchez (C) (With Tampa Yankees {High A} and Trenton Thunder {Yankees AA} last season)

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