Bargain shopping has certainly not been the usual style of the New York Yankees. As far back as 1976 when they signed Reggie Jackson to a then whopping $3 million deal, and more recently with C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees have been known for their big spending in free agency. But with such a poor free agent market, New York was forced to look to the scrap heap for a change. Thus far, it seems to have worked out for them.
Veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay has been a solid replacement at first for Teixeira. Overbay struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves. Even when he was healthy, he failed to produce, accumulating just 11 home runs for those teams. Yankees GM Brian Cashman signed him for just $850,000, and so far he’s played well. Overbay’s been a good five to seven spot hitter, and he also provides the Yankees with a solid glove at first. His six home runs already give him more than last year’s total, and he’s only three away from eclipsing his total from 2011.
Vernon Wells has also put in good time for New York. Another veteran whose career was derailed by injury, Wells has excelled at the plate, hitting .286 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI. He also brings three Gold Glove Awards to the mix, rounding out a strong defensive unit in the outfield. Wells is making a lot of money this year, but nearly half of his contract is being paid by the Los Angeles Angels. If they decide to keep him, next year the Yankees will only owe him $2 million.
Travis Hafner has been an excellent left-handed bat for the middle of the order. Not too long ago, Hafner was considered one of the most feared hitters in MLB. Think back to the 2006 season in which he swatted 42 long balls in only 129 games, and you’ll remember why. After injuries halted his productivity, Hafner has bounced back nicely to put up a respectable line of seven homers, 20 RBI, and a .378 on base percentage. His salary? A modest $2 million.
Brian Cashman and the Yankees front office have done an excellent job patching together a first place team. With their stars on the mend, don’t be surprised if New York makes a push for the playoffs.