We learned earlier today that the Yankees never made an offer to Jerry Hairston, Jr.. Obviously, it would seem that Mr. Hairston was not in the Yankees 2010 plans. So, what else could they be thinking for the 2010 bench?
The first option is rolling with a bigger bullpen and a smaller bench. That is, the Yankees could just have three bench players–a back up catcher (Frankie Cervelli), an infielder (Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo), and an outfielder (presumably Jamie Hoffmann). That would mean a thirteen man pitching staff and a very green and probably weak hitting bench. To make a potentially medium sized discussion rather short, there’s no way this happens. There’s zero power threat off of this bench and if a regular got hurt, I don’t think the Yankees would want one of those three guys being the replacement. There’s also the pitching side to this: it’s hard enough to get innings for seven bullpen guys, let alone eight. With a thirteen man bullpen, there would always be at least one rusty pitcher.
Another choice that could present itself is the re-signing of Johnny Damon. Should Damon return, Brett Gardner gets shifted to the bench and the Yankees then have two extra outfielders–both of whom play plus defense–an infielder, and a catcher. However, this seems unlikely, considering the Yankees and Damon basically haven’t spoken in a long time. From Mike Axisa of RAB:
Olney also mentions that the Yanks have had no recent contact with Johnny Damon. Ever since the Nick Johnson signing became official, there’s been basically zero movement on the Damon front. It’s apparent the team has no interest in bringing him back unless it’s on their terms and their terms only. Will Scott Boras crack? I say no.
I definitely agree with Mike; neither side is going to budge on this and the chances of Damon returning to the Yankees seemingly grow slimmer by the day.
Option number three is one we’ve discussed ad nauseum: bringing in a platoon partner for Brett Gardner. The most popular candidates have been Reed Johnson, Xavier Nady, and recently, Rocco Baldelli. This is the most likely scenario. On the upside, it likely fits the Yankees reported budget constraints (we’ve heard they have ~$2MM to spend), it gives the Yankees someone with which to spell Brett Gardner, and it gives some pop off the bench if needed. On the downside, Johnson’s not too hot against lefties and both Nady and Baldelli carry injury concerns; Nady is coming off of his second Tommy John Surgery and Baldelli is physically unable to play more than sporadically. However, the rewards–a good righty hitter, competent fielders, and low cost–seem to outweigh those risks. This also allows the Yankees to use Jamie Hoffmann sparingly, rather than throwing him out there whenever possible. While he’s older, he’s inexperienced at the ML level and breaking him in gently could be of great benefit to the Yankees (assuming they keep him after ST).
If/when option number three comes true, I’d assume the Yankee bench would look like this:
IF–R. Pena OR K. Russo
OF–(PLATOON PARTNER HERE)
This bench gives a good combination of defense–Pena, Cervelli, and Hoffmann–and a decent option for pinch hitting or for facing tough lefties. Not only would it be very effective, it’s also the most likely scenario.