The New York Yankees face a dilemma when Mark Teixeira is ready to come off the disabled list (which could be before June 1, reports Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). With Lyle Overbay performing so well in his stead, the team must figure out what to do with him.
Through 37 games, Overbay has posted a line of .256/.293/.488 with six home runs and 24 RBI. Surprisingly, his 24 RBI are second on the team to Robinson Cano's 25. Mark Teixeira is a top first baseman, though, so it's obvious that his return spells the end of Overbay's role as a starter.
The Yankees have three options with Overbay, even though one of them seems pretty unlikely. Not many teams would be in the market for a 36-year-old first baseman. While his run production has been great, his dwindling on-base percentage is suspect and his propensity to ground into double-plays (six in 125 at-bats) is unattractive at best.
The only teams that could be seeking a first baseman are the ones interested in implementing a platoon, or a team like the Houston Astros who are looking to add a bit more pop to the lineup. That being said, I don't think any team would want to give up any more than a low-level prospect for Overbay. His career is quickly coming to a close, and it's unclear as to whether or not this production will continue.
The second option the Yankees have is a bit more practical than the first, though it does have its pitfalls.
Teixeira will undoubtedly need days off upon his return. He was placed in a designated-hitter rotation of sorts last season with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, so having a capable first baseman to spell him is key. That role would presumably be filled by Kevin Youkilis, but his fragility at this point in his career is a question.
Keeping Overbay on the roster does handcuff the team a bit, though. He's useful only as a first baseman (unlike Youkilis, who can play both first, third and maybe even a corner outfield spot in a pinch). He could be used as a pinch hitter with the new interleague play schedule, but keeping someone on the roster just to pinch hit seems impractical.
The third option represents an unfortunate reality for Overbay. After Teixeira returns, the Yankees flat-out release him.
If keeping him is impractical and trading him is unlikely, then releasing him is really the only option. Teams unwilling to acquire Overbay via trade would be more apt to pick him up cheap off the free-agent market. The Yankees would suffer no loss in doing so, especially since Overbay isn't a key to the team's future.
Releasing him could also be best for his own personal future. Overbay has the potential to find much more playing time with a new club than with the Yankees once Teixeira returns. If he wants to find himself with a two-year deal to finish his career after this season, then he'll need to show that he can still perform like this over a full 162-game grind.
Teixeira will be the unquestioned starter when he returns, but it's good to know that the team has options with Overbay. In the end, an outright release is probably in the best interest of both the player and the team.
It's one of those rare situations where such a thing could work out.