"Hitting is the most important part of the game. It is where the big money is, where much of the status is, and the fan interest." ~ Ted Williams
Who will hit for the Yankees in 2014? Too many names are in question on the roster. New York is sure to lose some stars. The Free Agent Pool will have to be a factor for the Bronx. As we did with Pitching Fits, when we examined pitchers available in the off-season for the best fits, we will do it again for batters.
To do this, we need to look at who will be staying and who will be going. The Yankees are sure to lose either Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson. Losing both is also a possibility. Those are two very big bats and two very big holes to plug. And they are just the start.
Kevin Youkilis shouldn’t be back. The Bombers will probably also let go of Travis Hafner and Mark Reynolds. Lyle Overbay should be hung onto. Alex Rodriguez is a smoking crater of a hot mess. It is hard to believe he will ever wear the Pinstripes again.
Examining Free Agents, certain names stand out. Most names should be discarded. These are the players most logical to pick up:
Ben Zobrist. This guy is capable of playing Second Base and Outfield. He is defensively sound, with a career Fielding Percentage of .983. He hits around and about .270, and can surprise with power. He could potentially reach 20+ homers with the short porch in Right.
Can he replace Robbie or Grandy? Of course not. But he would be a solid option to play either of their positions. He will be expensive, but he should be a priority for the Office to sign up.
Michael Young. This guy’s name just keeps coming up. He was attached to New York several times this season in trade rumors already. Writers at this very site, including myself, have pointed out he would be a good fit.
Young sports a Fielding Percentage of .979, can hit .300, and will be good for 15 or so dingers. As mentioned in Undercover Yankees, he is an impressive player to watch in person. Most importantly, the Hot Corner is thin in the Free Agent Pool. Other than Martin Prado, there is nothing out there. The Yankees need to shore up Third Base. No excuses.
Behind the plate this season, the Yankees used not one, not two, not three, but four catchers. Francisco Cervelli might end up working out, but his injuries and suspension make him a question mark. Austin Romine and JR Murphy are waiting in the wings. Chris Stewart is amazing defensively, but isn’t consistent offensively.
Once the Yankees know what’s going on with Second and Third they should address who will be Catcher. Mike Napoli is going to be available. But he should be approached with caution. These last few years he has been injury prone. The last thing New York needs is another fragile player.
Yes, Napoli is having a good season this year, but his previous campaign was miserable. He would be a gamble, and an expensive one. But it might be worth it to pick him up just to get him to shave that beard off.
Carlos Ruiz is someone to take a hard look at. He is experienced with All Star pitching staffs, is watertight defensively, .995 percentage, and will hit for around a .275 average. The Phillies will want to bring him back, but the Yankees should keep him on the back burner for now.
Other Free Agents that catch our eye include Justin Morneau, Stephen Drew, and Raul Ibanez. Drew is lower priority until we know what is going on with Derek Jeter. He is still The Captain, and deserves the chance to show us he is capable of playing Short. Take a flyer on Drew and bookmark him, just in case.
Morneau has returned to elite form, and regular readers of this site know that we like him. If he can be picked up at a reasonable price, Justin would be a very good addition. Raul Ibanez is already beloved in the Bronx. He has not missed a beat in Seattle.
Other major names in the Free Agent Pool should be ignored. Chase Utley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Brian McCann, Hunter Pence, Kendrys Morales, Kelly Johnson, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, Corey Hart, and Lance Berkman. All of these names will be expensive and risky. Many of these players are aging, susceptible to extended slumps, and/or injury prone. They should all be avoided.
The real questions are who stays and who goes in the Bronx. As long as the Yankees make sure they have their bases covered, particularly Second and Third, they will be fine.
New York is infamous for contracting hits. This year should be no different.
Chad R. MacDonald
BYB Features Writer
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