The New York Yankees figure to be involved in some MLB rumors now that Nick Swisher left last night’s game against the Oakland Athletics with a mile left hip flexor strain. Right now, Swisher is listed as day-to-day. Earlier in the week it was learned that leftfielder Brett Gardner could miss the rest of the season after it was learned he would need surgery to fix his injured elbow.
While the Swisher injury is not deemed serious, it could propel Yankees GM Brian Cashman to acquire some insurance. Right now, the Yankees have Kosuke Fukodome in AAA where he has been hitting .412 (7 for 17) since signing. Cashman might utilize Fukodome before investing money and prospects in acquiring another outfielder.
While a trade is still not likely, a waiver claim on Rick Ankiel, who was designated for assignment this week by the Washington Nationals, might make some sense. Ankiel, who turned 33 on the day he was designated, was hitting just .228 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI in 158 at bats this season for the Nationals. He owns a career slash line of .244/.306/.422 with 69 home runs and 233 RBI after converting from a top pitching prospect to an outfielder.
Ankiel, at this point, is looking more like a platoon player. He can still hit righties but struggles against left-handed pitching. However, last season he played for the Nationals against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium where he hit .357 with 1 home run, 2 doubles, and 3 RBI. Perhaps his left-handed swing translates to the short porch in right field. Perhaps that, and the fact that he play both corner outfield positions and some centerfield on occasion, and has a very good arm, would be enough to convince Cashman to take a chance on Ankiel.
In recent years, Cashman has been willing to roll the dice on low-risk, high-reward players. He penciled in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia for rotation spots after picking them off of the scrap heap last season. He also has found success in Cory Wade, Clay Rapada, Dewayne Wise, and Cody Eppley off of the waiver wire. It seems Cashman is more willing to roll the dice on a player when he doesn’t have to sacrifice much in return like he would if he made a trade. There is a reason he took a chance on Fukodome and also on John Maine, who is pitching his way back from injury in AAA. It doesn’t hurt to grab a player and stash him in AAA just in case he is needed. It costs nothing but a minor league deal. Cashman might just catch lightning in a bottle and get a few productive weeks, or months, on a player without having to surrender any prospects.
Given Cashman’s recent history and the fact that the trade market doesn’t really hold many options in the outfield that would be considerable upgrades, I can see Cashman bringing Ankiel in and seeing what he has left. Earlier in the week there were reports that the Yankees had no interest in Ankiel but now there are some reports saying they are interested. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with the Yankees soon as Cashman looks for band-aids in the outfield.
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