The New York Yankees didn't plan on making all that many moves this past offseason, but a roster decimated by spring training injuries forced general manager Brian Cashman to acquire players to fill the holes vacated by injured stars.
Cashman, similarly to his strategy of the past several offseasons, acquired players past the prime of their respective careers. Cashman hoped to catch lightning in a bottle by watching these former stars reestablish themselves as legitimate major leaguers.
It looks as if he's done well through just one month of play.
Many veterans have outperformed the expectations placed upon them prior to the start of the season. It's no surprise the Yankees have gotten off to a 16-10 start. The new signings have done well to keep the team out of the cellar during the early going.
It may be unreasonable to expect this production to last throughout the entire season, but many of these players have deserved high grades for the month of April.
The fact that Kevin Youkilis is already on the disabled list hurts his grade just a bit but not nearly enough to consider his signing a failure—or even something close to a failure.
Youkilis has been exactly what the Yankees needed him to be. He's been a reliable veteran bat in the middle of the order and has produced when called upon. In 64 at-bats, Youkilis has compiled a line of .266/.347/.422 with two home runs and seven RBI. He also leads the league in hit by pitches with four.
He's played primarily third base, but his versatility has allowed Joe Girardi to play him at first base when necessary. This usually comes when the Yankees face a tough lefty. Putting Youkilis at first allows Jayson Nix to play third and the left-handed hitter Lyle Overbay to get the day off.
Between his versatility and his overall production, Youkilis receives a "B" grading. Throw in his troubles staying healthy, and that grade drops just a bit.
The Yankees acquired Shawn Kelley from the Seattle Mariners during the offseason in hopes of putting another quality arm in the bullpen. To Cashman's credit, the acquisition was based off of some solid numbers.
In Kelley's first effective season as a reliever, he posted a 3.25 ERA in 44.1 innings, striking out 45 and walking 15. While not the most dominant of numbers, they were good enough to get the job done.
Come 2013, Kelley seems to have lost it. Through 10.1 innings, he boasts a 7.84 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP. He allowed just five home runs in 2012 but has already allowed four this season. Kelley has had issues leaving the ball up in the zone, and it's been detrimental to his success.
Kelley has the making of a solid reliever. He strikes out more than a batter per inning (9.1 SO/9 last season and 13.1 this season) and doesn't really walk all that many guys. He's very hittable up in the zone, though, and that'll have to change before he can become a valuable member of Girardi's bullpen.
He'll keep getting opportunities because of the way Girardi handles his relievers, but he'll need to start capitalizing on them if he wants to stay with the club.
The signing of designated hitter Travis Hafner has been the best move of the offseason for Cashman, hands down.
After five straight futile, injury-ridden seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Cashman took a risk (in terms of performance) by signing the big lefty. On a low contract, Cashman knew he wouldn't lose much financially if Hafner failed.
He's done the farthest thing from fail, though, possibly reestablishing his once-promising career and putting himself on track to be in the discussion for AL Comeback Player of the Year. Through 22 games (66 at-bats), Hafner has six home runs, 17 RBI and a line of .318/.438/.667. His OPS is a fantastic 1.104.
Hafner handcuffs the Yankees for the future because of his inability to play the field, but that won't go into consideration for his April grading. Pronk has brought some much-needed thunder to an otherwise lacking Yankees lineup.
To be perfectly honest, I initially hated the trade to acquire Vernon Wells from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Wells had been one of the most worthless hitters for the past two seasons, posting an OPS of .660 in 2011 and .682 in 2012.
Many, including myself, thought his playing days were essentially over. Thank goodness Cashman saw enough of him to go out and make a trade, because his numbers thus far have ranked him second on the list of best acquisitions of Cashman's offseason.
He's already hit six home runs, driven in 13, stolen two bases and walked 10 times. His line is very impressive—.300/.366/.544—and his OPS is finally back up to respectable standards at .911. Throw in the defense he's provided all over the outfield, and Wells has been extremely important to the team's early success.
He, like Hafner, is a candidate for AL Comeback Player of the Year.
Lyle Overbay hasn't been great, but he's been a pleasant surprise offensively. His line isn't all that good at .241/.267/.446, but he's already cleared the fences four times and driven in 12 runs. Both numbers exceed his marks of two and 10, respectively, from last season.
Overbay has done a commendable job filling in for the injured Mark Teixeira at first base, especially considering the fact that he wasn't even in spring training for the Yankees until just days before Opening Day. When Teixeira comes back, Overbay will likely be dumped or traded, and the Yankees can only hope that he keeps his value high enough to keep other teams interested in acquiring him.
Defensively, Overbay has been very good. He's recorded just one error, but his true value comes at the runs he saves from Eduardo Nunez's errant throws from shortstop. Nearly every game Overbay is forced to dig balls out of the dirt or stretch high and wide to grab throws from the young shortstop. He's saved the Yankees some runs on defense and has given them a good deal of offense.
If only he could get on base at a higher clip.
As the fourth outfielder, Brennan Boesch has had a pretty limited role so far this season. Signed after the Detroit Tigers released him, Boesch has the potential to be an everyday outfielder in the future for the Yankees. For now, he's just bench depth.
Boesch has posted a line of .200/.243/.457 with two home runs, one double, one triple and four RBI. He's scored just four runs and tallied just seven hits in 35 at-bats.
Defensively, Boesch is simply an average outfielder. Blessed with neither a strong arm nor overwhelming speed, Boesch is a passable fourth outfielder. He's already tallied one outfield assist and one error.
What keeps Boesch on the team is his propensity to hit the ball a long way. As a left-handed bat in Yankee Stadium, he has the potential to hit the ball out during any given at-bat. When Curtis Granderson returns from injury (whenever that may be), expect Boesch to be demoted.
Ben Francisco has been terrible—absolutely terrible.
He's recorded only three hits and three walks in 33 plate appearances en route to a line of .103/.212/.103. All three hits have been singles, and he has yet to drive in a run. Francisco was the team's Opening Day designated hitter (likely because they faced a lefty in Jon Lester), but he has not performed at all like someone who earned himself an Opening Day start.
The fact that Francisco is still with the team is solely a result of injuries. Once the team's stars return—Teixeira, Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez—Francisco will be released.
Girardi and the Yankees may be better suited giving a youngster from the minors Francisco's roster spot, but I understand why they probably want to give the youngster regular at-bats down on the farm.