Breaking Down the 4 DH Candidates for the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have chosen to fill their designated hitter slot in the lineup with a combination of several low cost options in 2013, and who gets the bulk of at-bats will likely be decided in spring training.
General manager Brian Cashman brought in two left-handed bats—Travis Hafner and Dan Johnson—as well as two right-handed bats—Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz—to compete for at-bats.
A platoon of one left-handed hitter and one right-handed hitter seems like the most likely scenario at this point, as either right-handed bat will also be the fourth outfielder.
Cashman has succeeded in the past with low-risk, high-reward contracts (Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon first come to mind). With an entire spring to prove themselves, the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi are sure to find at this one diamond in the rough.
The four candidates haven't exactly had the most success in the majors over the past few seasons, so it's a near guarantee that it will be a fierce battle for a role on the team.
Travis Hafner has seen the most success of the foursome in his major league career.
In 11 seasons, he has smashed 201 home runs and has two top-10 MVP finishes in the American League.
His best season came back in 2006 with the Cleveland Indians. He hit 42 home runs and drove in 117 while putting together a stellar line of .308/.439/.659. He led the league with an OPS of 1.097.
Injuries have since derailed his career, and the Yankees are hoping that he can at least perform at half the level of his 2006 season.
Hafner could find his power stroke yet again in Yankee Stadium, though, as his left-handed bat is a perfect match for the short right field porch.
Even if the power isn't there, the Yankees can rest assured knowing that they'll have someone in the lineup that consistently gets on base. His career OBP is .381 and he hasn't posted less than a .346 mark since 2009.
Hafner's likely the favorite to win the job out of spring training, so long as he proves his health.
Dan Johnson hasn't been a regular player since 2007 with the Oakland A's, a season in which he hit 18 home runs and primarily played first base.
He's actually hit just 14 home runs since then, so the Yankees are hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle with this move.
Johnson has always had ridiculous amounts of power and, similarly to Hafner, his left-handed swing fits nicely in Yankee Stadium.
The problem with Johnson is that he's never hit for a high average, nor does he offer much versatility at the plate.
His career batting average of .237 leaves much to be desired. He hit .275 in his rookie season, but that's the highest mark of his career for a season in which he played regularly.
Another discouraging part of Johnson's game is that he has just three more career doubles (59) than home runs (56). The game's best sluggers—say Albert Pujols, for example—can get away with a ratio like that. Guys like Johnson need to offer their teams with a little more versatility.
Johnson does have a small advantage in that he can still play first base if need be. Hafner, on the other hand, hasn't played the field since 2007.
Matt Diaz made a name for himself in 2007 with the Atlanta Braves when he posted a ridiculous line of .338/.368/.497 in 135 games. He hit 12 home runs and drove in 45.
That season, he even hit .356 against left-handers.
If you're a Yankees fan, you should be saying "bingo!" Diaz is the perfect complement to a guy like Hafner, as he can crush the left-handed pitchers that have plagued Hafner in the past.
For his career, he's hit 31 home runs and put together a line of .324/.364/.498 against lefties.
He's been inconsistent over the past three seasons with the Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates, but Joe Girardi needs to give him a shot if he's healthy during the spring.
Andruw Jones was the lefty-masher for the past two seasons, but Diaz's previous production trumps even Jones'.
He's capable of holding his own in either corner outfield position as well, and he'd be a great guy to put in the lineup when either Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki are set to face a tough left-handed pitcher.
Diaz should be the right-handed portion of this platoon if he's healthy, end of story.
Juan Rivera, a former Yankee, has begun to digress since his strong 2009 season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
He drove in 88 runs and compiled 25 home runs that season, all while hitting a respectable .287.
Since then, he's hit just 35 home runs in three seasons.
Rivera has hit .285 in his career against left-handers. That's a very solid number, but nowhere near Diaz's dominance of southpaws.
Rivera also trails Diaz defensively. While neither are considered top-notch outfielders, Diaz is the better option in the field.
At 34 years old, we may have already seen the best of Rivera. He may not be able to come out of the three-year slump that has put his future in the majors in question.
If he accepts a demotion to Triple-A, he's a great guy to have as a back up plan. You can never have too much depth, especially in a 162-game season.
I just don't think he's the best option for the Yankees heading into Opening Day.