Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who is the opening day 3B for the Yankees?

With Alex Rodriguez out for at least the month of April and the Yankees lacking a proven replacement on their roster it would seem that an acquisition would be in order. There has been a lot of talk from the Yankees front office that they will use Cody Ransom as their starter until Rodriguez is healthy. Ransom is a 33 year old journeyman minor leaguer, who has never had a regular starting role. The Yankees can't possibly believe that Ransom is the answer, he isn't a good defender and hasn't shown that he can hit major league pitching. With no free agent third basemen available, trade seems like the only option for filling the hole at third.

While there are plenty of players that the Yankees could trade for most of them don't make sense for one reason or another. Big names like Adrian Beltre (Mariners) or Garrett Atkins (Rockies) don't make sense for a short term solution, as they'd cost too much in terms of prospects and would be on the bench once Rodriquez returns. Players like Chad Tracy (Diamondbacks), Blake Dewitt (Dodgers), and Brandon Wood (Angels) will all be without a starting job come opening day, but are unlikely to be traded. All three are considered valuable back-ups on playoff teams and would only be dealt for major league talent. Mark Teahen doesn't make much sense either since he's not a good defensive third baseman and doesn't offer much in positional flexibility. One player who the Yankees should be considering is Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez.

Why Sanchez makes sense for the Yankees? Sanchez at 31 is two years younger than Cody Ransom and has had some success in the major leagues (2006 NL Batting Champion). Though Sanchez hasn't played third in two years he was an above-average defender while he was there. That is something that can't be said of other options like Ransom, Teahen, or Atkins who have all been below average defensively. Though he wouldn't come close to replacing A-Rod's bat, Sanchez does offer some offensive upside. In 2006 he hit .344 with a .378 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. He followed that up in 2007 with a .304/.343/.442 line, and salvaged a bad year last year by hitting .346/.378/.483 after the All-Star break. Sanchez also offers the Yankees positional flexibility, he can play shortstop and second in addition to third base. The Yankees don't have anyone behind Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano and could use a utility player. Sanchez also makes sense for the Yankees because he won't cost much in terms of a trade given his contract and performance last season.

Why Sanchez doesn't make sense for the Yankees? Sanchez is not a perfect solution for the Yankees and there are some reasons why they might look elsewhere. While he has shown some ability to hit, Sanchez lacks power and isn't a threat on the base paths. Also Sanchez is coming off a career worst season in which he hit .271/.298/.371. Sanchez hasn't played third base in two years so he may not be as good defensively as he once was. Sanchez also has a pretty big contract ($6.1 million), for a guy who after the first month will be strictly a utility player.

My Take: Sanchez may not return to his 2006 form but he likely won't be as bad as he was in 2008 either. Sanchez offers a great insurance policy in case Rodriguez misses more time this season or if one of the middle infielders gets injured. As for his contract while Sanchez is the third highest paid Pirate he'd only be the 11th highest paid Yankee. Look at it this way the Yankees had to pay Jason Giambi $5 million dollars not to be on the team, why not pay Sanchez $1 million more to get 300-400 at bats. Sanchez is a low risk player who has some upside and can help bridge the gap until Rodriguez is healthy.

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