With the best record in baseball, the New York Yankees have a 2.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. They are also six games ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
But according to the experts, the Yankees need major help. Since Andy Pettitte went on the disabled list with a strained groin, the Yankees now need a starting pitcher. Now that Joba Chamberlain has been very hittable, the Yankees also need bullpen help.
Since their bench consists of defensive wizard Ramiro Pena, fourth outfielder Colin Curtis, LHH/DH Juan Miranda, and RHH/DH Marcus Thames, the Yankees need massive bench help.
Yet with all these problems, the Yankees are still in first place with the best record in baseball.
But do they really need bench help? And if they get someone, how many games is the outcome going to be affected by their presence? What needs will they fill?
What most Yankee fans want is someone who is versatile (like Ramiro Pena) and can hit the ball with some regularity and a little pop (not like Pena).
Let's say the Yankees go out and get bench help. Supposedly, they need a right-handed bat to boost their presence against lefties. Isn't that what Thames was signed for? Anyway, with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and switch hitters Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada, aren't there already five really good right-handed hitters in the lineup?
And Robinson Cano does pretty well against left-handed pitchers, as does Brett Gardner, when he is not getting tossed.
So if the Yankees get a bench player, they want a player like Jerry Hairston Jr., who can play infield and outfield. Versatility is key.
Heck, the Rays are chock full of those type with Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, and Reid Brignac.
Let's create this "perfect fit" for the New York Yankees with a made up subject.
Our made up guy is a veteran, playing for a lowly, second division team. He has a season line of .247 BA/.325 OBP/.432 SLG/.757 OPS thus far, with 15 HR and 46 RBI. But let's just say our made up guy has only hit .176/.234/.282/.513 OPS, with two HR and seven RBI over the last month, and just as bad over the last two months.
And our guy is hitting against lefties. He is .247/.340/.344/.684 OPS with a single HR and eight RBI's.
Now how about our versatile guy, despite his versatility, is really below average at every defensive position he plays?
He was hot early in the season, hasn't hit lately, and is inept at every defensive position he plays.
I wouldn't think you'd want that type of guy.
Then why would the Yankees even entertain the thought of trading for Baltimore Orioles player Ty Wigginton?
Now, there may be better examples of versatile players who can hit a little bit. Recent mentions include Wes Helms (puhleeze!), Willie Bloomquist, Adam Kennedy, and Jhonny Peralta.
None if those guys, except for Peralta, will actually make any team better. The Yankees seem intent on getting a guy who could play third base, giving Alex Rodriguez a break here and there down the stretch. When Rodriguez sits, it is usually the weak-hitting Pena who gets the start.
My first choice for another bench player would be an in-house option, AAA right-handed power-hitter Jorge Vazquez. I have been saying since Spring Training that Vazquez will have an impact on the major league Yankee team by the season's end.
Vazquez is hitting .266/.287/.531/.818 OPS, with eight home runs, and 30 RBI in 33 games at Triple-A. This was after devastating in Double-A Trenton to start the year, which began in May after an appendectomy sidelined him in Spring Training.
He plays both first and third base, and I saw him play both positions this season in Trenton. For a stocky guy, he has pretty good footwork in going after ground balls at third base and around first base. Forget about his low OBP, for he does not take pitches and is very aggressive at the plate.
Or how about in-house option Eduardo Nunez, who is a steady contact hitter, with some light power, who has played short and third this season in Triple-A?
But if that does not thrill you, then for many reasons, this is the guy I believe is the best fit for the Yankees: Adam Rosales of the Oakland A's.
First, the A's are out of the race, and Billy Beane will gladly trade for a young pitcher or two. Second, Rosales has played all four infield positions this season—many very well—and also has played left field*.
*Although with the big three-run home run hit by Colin Curtis today, I don't think he will go anywhere anytime soon. He also plays good defense, runs well, and is a great kid. By the way, Curtis was also on my Baby Bomber list, with Vazquez, as kids who made a show in Spring Training .
Third, Rosales can hit. He has a line of .283/.336/.429/.765 OPS, with seven home runs, and 31 RBI in only 72 games. He filled in admirably when A's second baseman Mark Ellis was out with an injury. He has also hit very well throughout his minor league career after being selected in the 12th round of the 2005 draft.
Rosales has mashed lefties this year with an OPS of over .900.
A combination along the likes of Sean Black in Low-A Charleston and Noel Castillo at High-A Tampa MIGHT do the trick. But the Yankees can even go higher than these guys if they need to (like a Shaeffer Hall), but in trading a higher-end guy, you would limit your trading to one higher-end player even up.
Black is a good starting pitcher, but the depth of the Yankees starting pitchers in Charleston (Jose Ramirez, Brett Marshall) and above him in Tampa, Trenton, and Scranton, there is no way Black will ever get a decent shot with the Yankees. Castillo, who I saw throw 97 MPH two weeks ago in Tampa, is blocked by much power-armed relief talent as well.
And if they do not like that, throw in another position prospect among anyone in the middle not named Eduardo Nunez or Corban Joseph.
The Yankees might need a versatile player down the stretch, and it would not be a bad idea to replace Dustin Moseley's roster spot with another position player. Then Ramiro Pena can be put back into his usual role of defensive replacement for second base, third base, and shortstop.
The only issue I see is that with Rosales' limited service time is that he is still under team control for four more seasons. This could mean the A's would want much more than what I am offering here.
That would necessitate the Yankees going up the ladder in terms of prospects. Keep offering a little more until you are not willing to go any higher. I would not, however, break the bank with a Graham Stoneburner, Adam Warren, or the like for even a good utility guy.
In-house appears fine for that overall cost, and remember that the Yankees still have the best record in baseball. When Teixeira, Cano, Swisher, Posada, and Alex are hitting the ball, what is really needed on the bench?
But Rosales fits the bill, and I like him much better than Ty Wigginton or any of that other ilk. With only two seasons of major league service time, Rosales would be an inexpensive Yankee for a few more seasons.
That is, if the Yankees are willing to afford him.