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New York Yankees Backup IF Search: Placido Polanco or Chone Figgins?

David RyanContributor IINovember 11, 2012

New York Yankees Backup IF Search: Placido Polanco or Chone Figgins?

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    According to the NY Post's Ken Davidoff, the Yankees are looking for upgrades at their utility infielder bench position over Jason Nix.

    Nix played 74 games in 2012 spread across 2B, SS, 3B and LF. He put up a mediocre .234/.306/.384 slash line and produced only a 0.2 WAR.

    Another Yankee who saw significant time in the Yankees infield was Eric Chavez, who had 313 plate appearances in 113 games producing a slash line of .281/.348/.496 and 1.5 WAR.

    Chavez played 1B and 3B last year and is turning 35 this season. He hasn't been discussed extensively this offseason by any team as of yet, although, with decent returns from last season and with his pedigree as a former Gold Glove winner, he will likely be seeking a raise from his 900k salary of last season, and may price himself out of the Yankees interest.

    Click through to see the top55 backup infielder options for the Yankees in 2013.

Jeff Keppinger

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    The first option is utility infielder Jeff Keppinger.

    Keppinger put up an excellent 2012 season with Tampa Bay, hitting .325 with a .806 OPS in 418 PA over 115 games. He played 1B, 2B and 3B last season and has also played over a hundred games at SS in his career. His 2012 season was the best in his career, as Keppinger was worth 2.4 WAR.

    According to MLBTR's Mike Nicholson-Smith, Keppinger's versatility defensively and ability to produce against left-handed pitching makes him an option for many teams seeking infield help. Nicholson-Smith also postulates that Keppinger may be seeking a multi-year deal, in the neighborhood of a two-year, $10 million deal.

    At 32 years old, Keppinger is an interesting candidate for the Yankees, as his numbers from last season indicate that his could replace the value of Nix and Chavez combined for about the same amount of money.

    The possibility of saving a roster spot for the Yankees coupled with his performance against left-handed pitching offers tremendous value to a team that has a lefty heavy lineup and an aging roster.

    However, he is likely to be pursued by many teams, and his 2012 season may prove to be more of a statistical outlier than the norm. Still, it will be interesting to see how his market plays out over free agency.

Eduardo Nunez

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    The best SS/3B option for the Yankees may already be on the 40-man roster in the person of Eduardo Nunez

    Nunez had a tumultuous 2012 campaign with the big club. Nunez has shined at times, with no bigger moment in his career than his homer off of Justin Verlander in the top of the 9th in Game 3. Over his career, Nunez has a .272/.318/.384 slash line in 491 PA, and has a career 1.2 oWAR.

    Defensively, Nunez has seen his biggest struggles. While he is slightly beneath replacement value with  -0.3 WAR over his career, that ineffectiveness is mostly due to his -1.2 dWAR.

    He has made 28 errors and sports a .932 fielding percentage over his career with the Yankees, but at 25 years of age, there is still room to go in Nunez's development.

    Nunez will not head to arbitration until at least 2014, and is under team control until 2017, making him the most cost effective player on this list. Personally, I like the player affectionately known as "Noony." If he could get his defensive yips in check, he is a no-brainer on the active roster.

Brandon Inge

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    Another intriguing option for the Yankees infield is C/2B/3B/OF Brandon Inge

    Inge split his 2012 season between Detroit and Oakland, and finished as a Rawlings Gold Glove finalist at 3B. Inge's batting average was only .218 and his OPS was only .658; he still finished with 0.8 WAR due in part to his stellar defensive play.

    Inge is an interesting buy. He made $5.5 million with Oakland last season and clearly did not produce well enough offensively to garner another contract at that salary level.

    However, he suffered a few shoulder injuries and ultimately had to miss the end of the season due to shoulder surgery. He has said he would welcome a return to Oakland, however, he would likely only return as a utility player due to the performance of Josh Donaldson this season.

    While there has been no discussion of Inge headed to New York, his defensive prowess and utility ability are both desirable to the Yankees brass. In addition, Inge will be ready for spring training and could offer tremendous value on a non-guaranteed deal as a non-roster Spring Training Invitee. 

Chone Figgins

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    A really interesting and off-the-wall replacement would be the much maligned Chone Figgins.

    According to Mariners' beat writer John Hickey, Figgins is fed up with Seattle. And it's easy to see why: Figgins has only batted .227 with Seatlle and during his three year tenure has produced a paltry OPS+ of only 68.

    Both of his last two seasons have ended with his batting average under the Mendoza line of .200, and he has seen his playing time steadily drop from 702 PA in his first season in Seattle to just 194 PA last season.

    So what reasons do we have to expect that Figgins could end up in Pinstripes next season? For starters, Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik have a noted trade relationship.

    Secondly, Figgins contract is finally friendly to be dealt with only $8 million due to him this season and a 2014 option that vests with an unlikely 600 PA. Therefore, Figgins could be obtained for a low-level prospect or salary relief and would not affect the Yankees noted desire to be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014.

    In terms of baseball aspects, Figgins will only be 35 at the start of next season, and is only a few seasons removed from finishing 10th in the MVP race. He offers excellent speed, average defense and the ability to play nearly every position on the field. Limited to a few hundred plate appearances and used in proper doses, Figgins could offer significant value in the Yankees lineup.

Placido Polanco

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    The final option for the Yankees utility infielder position is Placido Polanco.

    Polanco is a player with an outstanding track record, although, at age 37, he may be entering the twilight of his career.

    His last two seasons are two of the worst offensive seasons of his career; but with OPS+ of 86 in 2011 and 70 in 2012, it is not as if he is no longer a productive player. He won a Gold Glove in 2011 and still ranks as one of the top fielders in terms of UZR and the Fielding Bible and can play capably at 2B and 3B.

    There haven't been many rumors surrounding Polanco's possible destinations this offseason and even less information on what kind of contract he might be looking for.

    However, a one-year deal could benefit both him and the Yankees; he can spell the Yankees infielders effectively on defense and he has a history of offensive production that could only be aided by the Yankees stellar lineup.

    The Yankees were successful with Phillies retread Raul Ibanez last season, and if the veteran Ibanez was re-signed it could possibly play an influence on Polanco's decision, as the two are close friends.

    Who do you think the Yankees should pursue as their backup infielder? 

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