New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman recently stated that the Yankees weren’t done looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder. Andruw Jones, who filled the role over the past two seasons, took a deal to play overseas so he isn’t an option, and even if he were available, I don’t think Cashman would see him as an option anyway.
Cashman will be hard-pressed to find what he is looking for in this market, at least someone better than Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, two veterans whom the Yankees signed to minor league deals this off-season.
Diaz, who will turn 34 in March, had 108 at bats last year with the Atlanta Braves across 51 games. He hit .222/.280/.333 with 2 home runs and 13 RBIs. For his career, however, Diaz owns a .324/.364/.498 line against left-handed pitching in 945 at bats with 31 home runs. Last season, Diaz hit only .269/.329/.410 against lefty pitching, a fairly large departure from his career numbers. However, he did suffer a thumb injury that required surgery, causing him to miss the rest of the season from August 13th. That might have had something to do with his numbers being so drastically different from his career line. Or, Diaz could be just on the wrong side of 30 and finally showing it.
In Juan Rivera, the Yankees are hoping there is something left in the tank. This will be Rivera’s second go around with the Yankees after he was traded as part of the package that landed Javier Vazquez from the Montreal Expos. Rivera will turn 34 in July of this year and has been in decline over the last couple of seasons. He owns a .285/.332/.488 line against lefties in 1139 at bats and did hit significantly better against lefties last year, posting a .260/.312/.433 line against them while hitting .232/.269/.335 against right-handers.
If Rivera or Diaz have anything left in the tank they could be useful role players, allowing Joe Girardi to rest Ichiro Suzuki or Brett Gardner against left-handed starters.
With Cashman saying he isn’t done one has to wonder if he is trying to pull off a trade because the remaining free agents aren’t exactly overwhelming. Those that can be had on minor league deals are Jason Michaels, Chad Huffman, and Brett Carroll. Russ Canzler might be an option if he clears waivers, something that might not happen given that the Yankees were the third team to claim him off of waivers this off-season.
The trade route might be the only option for Cashman but that could be fairly costly in terms of money, something the Yankees suddenly are very stingy with, and prospects, something the Yankees will need if they are serious about staying under the $189 million luxury tax threshold next year.
For better or worse, I think the Yankees right-handed hitting outfielder is going to be heading to spring training when that begins in a couple of weeks.