Yankees' Trade Options to Replace Mark Teixeira for the Entire Season
The 2013 season already appeared as if it would be one of the New York Yankees’ most challenging in years. They had many holes to fill, a lack of prospects ready to help out at the major league level and a $189 million luxury tax threshold they’re reportedly trying to get under before the 2014 season, which has limited them to mostly one-year contracts for veteran players this offseason.
In addition, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are on the rise, and the Tampa Bay Rays, despite their payroll limitations, are expected to be competitive year in and year out. The other team with a ton of holes to fill this offseason, the Boston Red Sox, signed several players to multi-year deals because they weren’t handcuffed by bad long-term contracts—thanks to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Yankees needed their veteran core to stay healthy and produce to avoid what could be a very long season in New York. We already knew Alex Rodriguez would be unavailable for at least a few months, maybe longer, as he recovers from hip surgery. Shortstop Derek Jeter is coming back from ankle surgery. Mariano Rivera is returning from knee surgery. Both appear to be on track and healthy for Opening Day.
But now they’re forced to deal with injuries to starting center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is expected to miss at least the first month of the season, and first baseman Mark Teixeira, who was believed to have suffered a strained tendon sheath in his wrist that would have kept him out of action for approximately the first two months of the season. Now we’ve learned that the tendon is partially torn, meaning that there’s a chance it could require season-ending surgery.
Current in-house options to replace Teixeira are Juan Rivera and Dan Johnson. Kevin Youkilis could also slide over to first base with Eduardo Nunez getting a majority of at-bats at third base. Rodriguez’s uncertainty, however, makes it unlikely that they’ll plan around him coming back and filling a hole. Acquiring a full-season replacement for Teixeira has to at least be an option now.
Keep in mind that the Yankees don’t really have the trade pieces to go out and acquire a bigger name, even if that player was available.
So, here are a few affordable options they could target.
Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
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Allen Craig is locked up through the 2017 season, and with no openings in the corner outfield spots anytime in the near future for the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s likely to stay at first base for at least the next few years. Barring injury, Matt Adams is without a clear path to the majors.
And this is a shame because Adams seems like he’s very good at hitting baseballs. The left-handed hitter has a career .318 batting average over four minor league seasons with 82 homers, including 50 over his last 182 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Would the Yankees go with an unproven 24-year-old who would once again be without a spot once Teixeira returns? It’s not like the designated hitter spot is wide open for the next several years, considering Alex Rodriguez will probably need to spend more time in that spot once he's healthy enough to play again.
It’s not a perfect fit, and the Yankees would probably have to give up one of their better lower-level prospects, but a trade for Adams might have the most upside for 2013 and beyond.
Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics
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Believe it or not, Daric Barton was once a very good prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization before the Oakland A’s acquired him in a package for Mark Mulder back in December 2004.
In 2010, Barton had a very good season with a .273 batting average, .393 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 33 doubles, 79 runs and a league-leading 110 walks. Things have gone downhill since, though the A’s still like him enough to have tendered him contracts for his last two arbitration-eligible seasons.
Still just 27, Barton is trying to resurrect his career after two injury-riddled and mediocre seasons spent between Oakland and Triple-A. With Brandon Moss coming off of a huge season in 2012, Barton is currently penciled in as his backup and potential platoon partner versus lefties (career .828 OPS versus LHP).
He likely wouldn’t cost much and could be a low-risk option with above-average on-base ability and solid defense, though some would argue that the Johnson-Rivera platoon would provide more offensively.
Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres
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I already mentioned the San Diego Padres' Kyle Blanks as a player who could be traded before the end of spring training, though teammate Jesus Guzman would probably be the guy most likely to be dealt to a team in need of short-term help at first base.
That could still be the case with the Milwaukee Brewers, who will be without Cory Hart for the start of the season. But that may no longer be the case for the Yankees, who could now be looking for a full-season solution.
In Blanks, the Yankees would be targeting a power-hitting first baseman who is nimble enough to play both corner outfield spots. So this wouldn’t necessarily be a move for just 2013. If the 26-year-old, who is hitting .395 (17-for-43) with seven extra-base hits and nine walks this spring, impresses with regular playing time, he could find himself as a candidate for the starting left field job in 2014.
As long as a top-level, major league ready prospect, which the Yankees don’t have, isn’t required to land Blanks, the Yankees could probably make it happen.
Brett Wallace, Houston Astros
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The Houston Astros are in full rebuilding mode, a perfect time to find out if a guy like Brett Wallace fits into their long-term plans. But don’t think it’s so important that general manager Jeff Luhnow passes up a chance to add another midlevel prospect or two to a much-improved farm system.
After acquiring Chris Carter, a first baseman who will likely play left field with the current roster construction, the Astros have some depth at the position along with Carlos Pena and Rule 5 draftee Nate Freiman, not to mention “First Baseman of the Future” Jonathan Singleton, who could be ready to take over in 2014.
The 26-year-old Wallace has a career .871 OPS in the minors with a few spurts of major league success. He’s doesn’t have huge power, but he could benefit from the left-handed hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. He's 10-for-35 with two homers and four doubles this spring.