Bold roster moves that could help the Yankees
The Yankees’ season has been up-and-down so far, with some mild success and a lot of painful failure. At their best, this Yankees team has almost looked like they could possibly be a contender, but at their worst, they’ve looked like the only thing they’ll be in contention for is a top-five draft pick. It doesn’t take a whole lot of searching to determine the root of this problem--it’s offense. The bullpen, obviously, has been lethal, and, although the starting pitchers got off to a rocky start, they seem to have settled down and are finding a really nice rhythm. The hitting, however, has been utterly dreadful. The Bronx Bombers rank 14th out of 15 teams in the American League in runs scored and batting average, and they’re dead last in hits, total bases, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging. They don’t have a single player with a batting average above .300, and, after Carlos Beltran, the second-highest OPS on the team is .770, belonging to Jacoby Ellsbury. There are seven teams that have a higher OPS than that. Seven. Teams. Frankly, that is inexcusable. There are a few ways that the Yankees can deal with this.
|Picture Credit: Julie Jacobson | AP|
On the contrary, they could make some lineup changes to rejuvenate the lineup. My colleague Mavin Saunders delved into this possibility in a recent article, suggesting that Starlin Castro move up to the 3-spot, with Carlos Beltran batting cleanup and Didi Gregorius sliding up to sixth. This option allows the coaching staff to assert confidence in the current starters, while mixing things up in a way that could make a big difference.
The possibility that I’d like to look at today is actual personnel changes. I lack confidence in some of the players in the Yanks’ lineup (Yes, A-Rod, McCann, and Tex, I’m still looking at you) and I think that, barring a drastic change in production, the Bombers might be better served simply removing certain players from the lineup. I openly acknowledge that this article is probably unrealistic, but hey, it’s fun to hypothesize about what could be, right? That being said, let’s get right into my bold roster moves that could help the Yankees.
1. Start Rob Refsnyder over Mark Teixeira at First Base
Yes, even once Teixeira comes back from the DL (although I do think he should be given a chance to prove himself prior to any consideration of benching him). I think we’re all painfully aware of Teixeira’s offensive woes--he is hitting well below the Mendoza line, and without any of the power that we’ve seen from him in previous years. Furthermore, Refsnyder has shown that his defense, which has been generally acknowledged as the main thing keeping him from a bigger role, is undeniably improved. His stint at first base hasn’t lasted very long thus far, but he has yet to make an error. When it comes down to it, I’d take solid defense and a solid bat (Refsnyder) over great defense and no hitting (Teixeira). Of course, if Teixeira comes back from the DL and shows us that he still has something left in the tank offensively, this could change.
But if Teixeira is unable to hit better than the .180/.271/.263 stinker of a slash line that he has so far, this is a no-brainer. Teixeira could still get reps at DH or when Refsnyder is given a day off, but a .180 hitter doesn’t belong in the starting lineup, no matter what he has done for the team in the past.
2. Start Carlos Beltran over Alex Rodriguez at DH, with Aaron Hicks in Right Field
I’m by no means the first person to suggest that this is a good idea. There are a few reasons behind this. First, A-Rod isn’t doing much for the team. Second, Carlos Beltran moves about as fast (or as slow) as a sloth in right field. Rodriguez, unlike Mark Teixeira, has shown a bit of pop at the plate (on pace for a 20-HR season), but he’s hitting .204.
What’s that, you say? Hicks is only hitting .207? OK, you’re right. But Hicks is young, and I suspect he is still getting acclimated to a new team (and playing Major League Baseball, for that matter) for the first month or two of the season. Whether he will be able to turn it around at the plate is anyone’s guess, but I think that either way, it’s worth taking a flier on the 26-year old. After all, he covers ground quickly in the outfield, and he has a cannon for an arm. If he can hit as well as A-Rod has (which isn’t really saying much), this move makes a lot of sense.
Conversely, Beltran, although the undisputed MVP of the lineup so far, has a negative defensive WAR on the season. He is the perfect guy to hit out of the DH spot because at this point in his career, he’s really only good at hitting. A-Rod, on the other hand, isn’t doing much of anything right now. This move would put Rodriguez’s $20 million contract on the bench, which seems like a waste of money, but there comes a point at which we must simply admit that the money is wasted and let A-Rod sit. This roster move fixes two major problems, and it just makes sense.
3. Start Austin Romine over Brian McCann at Catcher…
...more frequently, at least. Romine already gets a start behind the plate about one time through the rotation, but it might be nice to see what could happen if that number was doubled. Romine has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, as he almost didn’t make the major league roster. However, I think that his performance thus far warrants more playing time.
As of today, Romine is hitting .290 in 69 at-bats, whereas McCann is only hitting .222. McCann has a distinct advantage in the power department, with eight dingers and 22 RBI on the season, as opposed to Romine’s eight homers and 11 RBIs. However, one must also consider that McCann has over twice as many at bats as Romine this season; as such, it’s probably fair to assume that Romine would have at least 22 RBI for the season if he got the playing time that the 32-year-old does. Pro-rated to a 500-at bat season, Romine’s numbers of two home runs, 11 RBI, and 20 hits in 67 AB translate to 15 HR, 82 RBI, and 149 hits, albeit he maintains that pace. Those aren’t slugger numbers, but that kind of production from a bottom-of-the-lineup guy could be invaluable for the Yanks.
McCann still has some pop in his swing, as evident in his 431-foot blast against the Angels on June 6th and the Yankee pitchers seem to like him as a battery mate, but he simply doesn’t get on base enough to warrant the majority of the playing time at catcher.
None of these predictions are easy or fun for me. Mark Teixeira has been my favorite Yankee for a while now, but Rob Refsnyder is simply a better option at first. I’ve forgiven Alex Rodriguez for his PED scandal, and he has one of the sweetest swings I’ve ever seen, but he just doesn’t hit the ball like he used to. Brian McCann is on pace for 20+ homers, but Austin Romine plays in a way that McCann simply can’t. Again, all of these suggestions are contingent on all continuing players continuing to play the way they have thus far; if any of the players I suggested to bench heat up, or any of the replacements cool down, you can take this column with a grain of salt. Or you can do that anyway, if you want. But keep in mind that something has to be done to remedy the Yankees’ offensive woes. If that doesn’t happen soon, there’s little to no chance of playoff baseball in the Bronx this year.
Article by: Peter Marshall
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(All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com)