Friday, December 3, 2010

The Walking Non-Tendered

With the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players having come and gone, a new wave of free agents should serve to keep the hot stove burning while fans and front offices alike wait on the responses of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Derek Jeter (among others). This year's group of non-tenders has its fair share of intriguing names, including an All-Star (Russell Martin), former top prospects (Lastings Milledge and Andrew Miller), and ex-Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang and Jose Veras). Perhaps more importantly, there are a half-dozen players that could ably fill an important role for the Yankees.

Jack Cust, DH/OF
Yes, he struggles against lefites. Yes, he doesn't belong in the outfield. And yes, his power seems to have degraded a bit over the last two years. That being said, should the Yankees seek a righty-mashing DH, they would be hard-pressed to do much better than Cust. The big lefty has a career line of .253/.387/.480 against righties, including a .285/.410/.470 line last season. I am also intrigued by his power potential in Yankee Stadium, as Cust tends to pull the majority of batted balls to right field.

Matt Diaz, OF
Diaz is the first of three players that could fill the void left by Marcus Thames - a destroyer of southpaws. The former Brave batted .273/.318/.512 against lefties in 2010, well below his career line of .335/.373/.533. He's also a decent corner outfielder, so he could fill in for Gardner or Swisher if the need arose.

Josh Fields, 3B/OF
The small sample size caveat applies here, but Fields has batted .293/.357/.600 against lefties in 240 PA in his limited career - a trend that is supported by his minor league resume, for what it's worth. Fields' ability to play a passable third base and left field adds to his value a bit, as he could hit for Gardner or Granderson in a pinch, or give Rodriguez a breather. While he may never live up to his lofty draft status, there's still some value to be had.

Scott Hairston, OF
Jerry Hairston's younger brother may have the least impressive bat of the three (.278/.331/.498), but he makes up a fair bit of that discrepancy with his glovework. Both DRS and UZR indicate that Hairston is slightly above average in both left and center field, whereas Total Zone sees him as roughly average in center. Having a fourth outfielder capable of playing solid defense and hitting lefties well would be a boon for the Yankees bench.

Bobby Jenks, RHP
Jenks represents the biggest long-shot on this list, as I see him latching on somewhere as a closer. Still, with the Yankees appearing to have both Chamberlain and Robertson on a very short leash in the set-up role, it may make some sense to find a proven arm for that role. Perhaps Jenks' deceptive 4.44 ERA (2.59 FIP, 2.62 xFIP) will lead to his being undervalued.

George Sherill, LHP
Cashman has stated a desire to find another lefty for the bullpen throughout the offseason, and I'm not sure that he could find a much better option than Sherrill. Lefties hit .192/.286/.288 against Sherrill in 2010, which is in-line with his career norms (.167/.235/.265). It's tough to see much of a difference between Sherrill and Scott Downs, who has been mentioned a few times as a potential target - aside from the fact that signing Downs, a Type-A free agent, would cost the Yankees a draft pick.

blog comments powered by Disqus