For obvious reasons, the Yankees’ offseason actions, or lack thereof, have centered on pitching. Considering the team’s offense led the American League in runs, OBP and OPS+ in 2010, the focus on pitching makes perfect sense. That’s not to suggest, however, that a smaller move can’t later prove to be significant (last year’s little noticed acquisition of Marcus Thames is a perfect example).
With Thames expected to seek more playing time elsewhere, and Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns already signed elsewhere, the Yankees’ bench has been seriously depleted. A utility infielder would make a nice addition, as would a backup first baseman, but above all else, the team’s biggest need in terms of depth is a right handed hitter capable of playing at least adequate defense.
Although two potent right handed bats, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, remain on the market, their inability to play the outfield makes them an unlikely fit. Similarly, Johnny Damon’s rapidly declining defense, not to mention being left handed, also makes him somewhat of a square peg. What’s more, all three of those players would likely demand regular playing time, and with Jorge Posada scheduled to be a full-time DH, that’s not something the Yankees can offer. There is, however, one remaining free agent who fits the profile: Andruw Jones.
Despite being only 33, Jones is really a shell of the player he once was. Nonetheless, he remains a decent outfielder who can still hit left handed pitchers. In other words, he’d be the perfect compliment to a Yankee outfield that features two left handed hitters. Because both Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson can play centerfield, Jones could be used as a part-time replacement in left as well as an occasional DH when Posada either needs a rest or makes a rare start behind the plate. What’s more, in each of the past two seasons, Jones has had just over 300 plate appearances, so he seems to have willingly accepted a part-time role.
Just because the Yankees have two gaping holes in the rotation doesn’t mean they should ignore the opportunity to make a minor improvement to the offense. Signing Jones won’t close the gap in the A.L. East, but it would address a need with an ideal solution. At some point, the Yankees may need to make a bigger move, but in the meantime, a couple of incremental improvements could mitigate this larger concern.