The New York Yankees are preparing for Mark Teixeira to be healthy enough to play at the start of the regular season, and all signs indicate that he will be.
Teixeira has taken very few swings in spring training batting practices thus far, with the most recent ones coming on Wednesday morning, reports Dave D'Alessandro of NJ.com. D'Alessandro notes that the first baseman came out just fine in terms of his wrist, though he was a bit disappointed in the short session:
Before all the consternation, Tex looked fine for a guy coming off wrist surgery who can’t get enough BP.
He made contact on his three swings: A chopper to second in his first at-bat; and a foul at the plate followed by a skimmer through the right side on his second at-bat. Is that enough for him to make his spring debut on Thursday in Clearwater?
Just a few hours after the morning BP, Teixeira said this (via NJ.com): "I thought I was gonna get a lot more work the last few days. But, um...you know, I do what I’m told, and go back out there tomorrow."
The Yankees are likely doing their best to keep him healthy early on, hence his short session. Getting him in a groove early in the regular season will take a backseat to the health of his wrist—for now.
But what happens if he's not ready for the regular season?
General manager Brian Cashman didn't make any preparations for such a scenario this offseason. Russ Canzler is in camp, but he cannot be relied upon in an everyday role. Kelly Johnson could presumably play first, but that means manager Joe Girardi will have to run with Eduardo Nunez or Scott Sizemore in an everyday role at the hot corner.
Again, that is not optimal.
There's something the team can (and should) do to prepare for Teixeira possibly missing some time. Last season, Cashman made a move to sign Lyle Overbay after the Boston Red Sox cut him late in the spring. Cashman can go after another veteran this time around, though he isn't currently in anybody's spring camp.
Ten-year veteran Casey Kotchman is currently without a home. There's no better option out there, and Kotchman could actually be a great signing by Cashman if Teixeira's wrist forces his hand.
Kotchman was the first baseman on Opening Day last season for the Miami Marlins, but he hit the disabled list with a strained hamstring after just two games. He then returned to play just four games in June until he was sidelined with an oblique injury.
He was then activated and released by the Marlins in late August.
Kotchman was just a season removed from a career year when he signed in Miami. His 2012 with the Cleveland Indians wasn't largely successful, but his 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays was great. He batted .306/.378/.422 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI in 500 at-bats (146 games). He notched a career high in hits with 153.
The first baseman is also stellar in the field. He owns a career fielding percentage of 99.8, having only made 18 errors in over 7,300 career chances. FanGraphs boasts about his advanced fielding stats, listing that he has a career UZR of 31.3, a career UZR/150 of 6.0 and that he has saved 42 runs on defense over the course of his career.
Like Overbay, Kotchman wouldn't be relied on for much. In fact, a full season of Kotchman would more than likely be similar to Overbay's production from 2013. Take a look at Overbay's 2013 compared to Kotchman's last healthy season in 2012:
It seems—to me, at least—that signing Kotchman makes a ton of sense. With just a few weeks left before the Yankees head north, it's time to start preparing somebody to take over for Teixeira if his wrist acts up. You can't expect Kotchman to be ready to play in games if he's signed right when the injury happens. He needs time to prepare.
The worst-case scenario would have Kotchman spend time in Triple-A to start the year. Every roster is bound to be affected by injuries, and a veteran bat/glove like Kotchman could prove useful at some point in the year.
Everything makes too much sense here. Cashman would be very, very wise to sign Kotchman to a one-year deal loaded with performance-based incentives. I mean, it couldn't hurt.
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