New York Yankees: Early Winners and Losers from Offseason Shakeups
The New York Yankees have been pretty busy so far this offseason, and the moves they've made have resulted in new roles for several players on the roster.
Not every player will be benefiting from these new roles, however.
Spring training will bring clarity to a few of these situations, but that's a long time to wait before knowing the definitive roles of these players. Of course, they could be resolved with corresponding moves later this offseason.
For that, we'll just have to sit and wait.
The Yankees seem determined to make the big moves this offseason to get back to the playoffs, and that will leave several role players displaced. Because general manager Brian Cashman is committed to making improvements, expect middling reserves to have different responsibilities in 2014.
Winner: Brian McCann
Brian McCann should be a very, very happy man after signing a massive contract with the Bombers in November.
Playing in New York will work wonders to resurrect McCann's career. The short right-field porch will help his uppercut swing and will presumably result in an increase in power numbers. That will be invaluable to a lineup that seriously lacked pop in 2013.
McCann has hit 20 home runs each of the past two seasons, but he has only produced a .243 batting average in that time. His on-base percentage of .318 over that time represents the lowest two-year OBP of his career.
Regardless, the Yankees feel as if he can rejuvenate his career during his tenure with the team. If nothing else, McCann will be a great mentor to the bevy of younger catchers in the organization.
Don't be surprised if he challenges Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra's mark of 30 home runs in a single season—the Yankee record for catchers in one campaign.
Losers: Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez
McCann could very well act as a mentor for the trio of young catchers in the Yankees organization, but ultimately, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez are big-time losers.
Romine and Murphy found playing time last season behind Chris Stewart, but McCann will concede fewer at-bats to his backup catchers. Of course, his backup will more than likely be Francisco Cervelli now that Stewart has been dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates—as reported by the team's official Twitter account.
Aside from a late-season surge by Romine, his 2013 season wasn't all that strong. He hit just .207/.255/.296 with a home run and 10 RBI, and his defense behind the plate was simply mediocre.
Murphy was also bad at the plate in just 27 plate appearances. He posted a line of .154/.185/.192 with four hits and an RBI, but his defense was superb.
Neither prospect can hold a candle to Sanchez, however. Sanchez has real power at a premium position, and his defense is actually solid. He's still a few seasons away from cracking the big club, but McCann will be a Yankee at least through 2018.
That will seriously alter Sanchez's track to the bigs.
Winner: Brendan Ryan
Slick-fielding middle infielder Brendan Ryan earned himself a two-year contract that contains an option for a third year, and he is now potentially in line to take over for Derek Jeter at shortstop—if not next season, then in 2015.
Manager Joe Girardi would be wise to consider moving Jeter to a full-time designated hitter. At most, Jeter shouldn't see more than 50 games at short. This will presumably keep Jeter healthy over the course of the season, and it will result in an incredibly improved defense.
Ryan may be lacking at the plate—he owns a career line of .237/.299/.320 in seven seasons—but his defense makes up for much of what he lacks. He is widely considered one of the top defensive infielders in the game, and a full-time gig could give him his first real shot at taking home his first Gold Glove.
If nothing else, the Yankees' multi-million-dollar commitment to Ryan would suggest that they're ready to give him time in front of Eduardo Nunez. It also suggests that Jayson Nix is on his way out.
Loser: Jayson Nix
As a result of the Ryan signing, infielder Jayson Nix became a part the Yankees simply didn't need to keep on board. They non-tendered him on Monday, and he'll now be a free agent looking for a new home.
Nix had done a great job for the Yankees the past two seasons, and he was asked to step into semi-regular duty quite often because of injuries. He did not disappoint, and his gritty style of play earned him the respect of the fans and his teammates.
Overall, Nix hit .239/.307/.340 with seven home runs, 42 RBI and 19 stolen bases for the Bombers. While Ryan may not even be able to match that offensive production, his glove work makes him far more valuable at this point than Nix.
Nix would be useful to many teams given his status as a veteran and versatility around the infield, so expect him to get scooped up quickly. His contract may not have a major league guarantee, but he'll find his way into the bigs in one way or another in 2014.
Winner: Francisco Cervelli
Sure, the McCann signing prevents Cervelli from possibly ever being the starting catcher for the Yankees, but the trade of Stewart opens up the backup role for him in 2014.
There will be a competition between Cervelli, Romine and, likely, Murphy for the position, but Romine and Murphy need to be playing everyday in the minors to improve. Plus, Cervelli has shown that he can perform in clutch situations when healthy.
His best campaign came in 2010 when he drove in 38 runs and posted a line of .271/.359/.335. He showed flashes of clutch hitting and adequate defense, and it was his hustle that really caught everyone's eye.
Cervelli also wins because McCann missed 60 games last season and is no guarantee to stay off the disabled list. Should McCann get injured, Cervelli would step up and start with either Romine or Murphy coming up as a reserve.
Loser: Eduardo Nunez
Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com opines that Eduardo Nunez's time in New York is over, as the Ryan signing and the team's interest in other infielders signals that they aren't confident in the young infielder.
Honestly, they really have no reason to be confident.
Nunez doesn't hit consistently, every ground ball at him is an adventure and he is a poor baserunner. He has speed to burn, but he has bad instincts on the basepaths and often hesitates when stealing or taking the extra base on a ball in the outfield.
The Yankees could potentially look to flip Nunez in a deal for a pitcher, though no rumors have surfaced about that just yet. If he's with the Yankees come spring training, expect him to be fighting for his life to stay on the team.
To be fair, he'll more than likely end up in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.