According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, in an effort to salvage even a little bit of the $46 million they invested in him, the Yankees will use Kei Igawa strictly as a left-handed reliever in spring training and could even use him in that spot once the season starts, even if he’s in the minor leagues.
The Yankees have to do something with Igawa. After paying a $26 million posting fee, the Yankees signed him to a five-year, $20 million contract and so far they’ve only gotten 71.2 bad innings out of him. They either need to trade him for something or figure out a role that works for him.
A role as a lefty reliever could be right up his alley, too, especially if he’s used only against lefties.
In his brief time in the majors, he never really established himself as someone who does better against lefties than righties, but last year his splits in the minors were pretty impressive.
In 45 innings' worth of at-bats against left-handers in 2009, Igawa had a 0.80 WHIP and a 2.54 FIP. He also did an exceptional job in holding them to only two home runs.
The problem is that it’s only a small sample size and it is hard to extend it beyond last season because in 2008 he was actually better against right-handed hitters, but in 2007 he did alright against lefties.
So he has flip-flopped, and that makes it hard to be certain that if the Yankees use him as a lefty-on-lefty reliever he would be effective.
My guess is that even as a strict lefty reliever, Igawa still won’t make the roster out of spring training. There really is no guarantee that he’s going to be successful in this role, and both the manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman are smart enough to realize that spring stats are deceiving.
Both are going to want to see him have some sustained success in the role before they drink the Kool-Aid.
The thing in his favor is that Girardi likes carrying two lefty relievers on the roster and has said that his preference would be to do so again. That likely means that Boone Logan has the edge, but if there is an injury, Igawa could be in a position to take advantage.
One thing is for certain, though: The Yankees have to get something out of Igawa. Whether that is as an effective lefty reliever or even the rights to keep outfielder Jamie Hoffmann, who would have to go back to the Dodgers if they don’t keep him on the 25-man roster, they have to get something.
Where do the readers stand? Give Igawa a chance as a reliever or trade him for a bucket of balls?