In the last few weeks, the Yankees have been connected to a lot of outfielders. They signed one, Randy Winn, to a Major League deal and he will be the team’s fourth outfielder. Right now, Rule V Draft pick Jamie Hoffmann is the fifth outfielder the Yankees are going to give him at least Spring Training to see what he’s got and see if he can be a useful bench outfielder. If Hoffmann does not perform to their liking, the Yankees will drop him from their 25 man roster and be forced to return him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After Hoffmann, the Yankees’ outfield options are pretty thin. On the active roster is the recently acquired Greg Golson. He’s been described as “toolsy” but he’s had only seven major league plate appearances and has yet to reach base via hit, walk, or hit by pitch. The only outfield non-roster invitee listed is Reid Gorecki, who had an uneventful 27 PAs with the Braves in 2009, but has respectable minor league numbers (.262/.342/.428).
As we can see, the OF depth is rather thin for the Yankees. Any injury to an outfielder puts Randy Winn in the every day lineup and bumps of Jamie Hoffmann’s potential importance. The thin outfield also presents a problem if Hoffmann is indeed returned to the Dodgers. While Hoffmann is not much of a sure himself, I’d rather roll the dice with him than with Greg Golson or Reid Gorecki. This brings me to my point: the Yankees should invite Rocco Baldelli to Spring Training on a Minor League deal.
While Baldelli does have a condition that would not allow him to play every day, or maybe even back to back days, if he does make it to the Yankees, he would be the fifth outfielder behind all three starters and Randy Winn. The chances of Baldelli having to rack up many plate appearances or much playing time in the field are very small. He’d likely be doing late inning pinch hitting against lefties, then could be supplanted in the field by Randy Winn.
On a spring training invite, nothing is guaranteed to Baldelli. If he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training–which would require Jamie Hoffmann to be returned to the Dodgers OR for Brett Gardner to either be hurt or be so incredibly bad that the Yankees were forced to start Randy Winn–the Yankees would not be in much of a bind financially regarding Rocco.
In terms of upside, Baldelli does not offer too much. His career OPS+ is 101 and he has a career .333 wOBA. Essentially, Baldelli has been an average player in his career. He’s hit lefties well (.831 OPS), though, and that could be valuable in pinch hitting off the bench and facing tough lefties on occasion. However, it’s worth noting that the things I’m saying depend entirely on a) Baldelli even getting an invite and b) eventually making the team. Neither one of those things is guaranteed, but I think Baldelli’s worth a shot.