The Corner Outfield Conundrum

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Thus far this season, injuries have been what the New York Yankees have lived, as well as died by. Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Shawn Kelley, David Robertson, and Masahiro Tanaka have all had stints on the disabled list, either on short term notice, or for the foreseeable future.

Due to all these injuries, the Yankees have been forced into using “fill-ins”, and while some showed initial promise, most have not had much success and have either found themselves out of the lineup/rotation or even designated for assignment. Consistency has clearly not been the Yankees forte, either, but with the trade deadline approaching, holes must be filled for a significant, last gasp, push for a playoff spot is possible.

One of the biggest issues for the Yankees this season has been filling the right field void. Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have been successful and consistent at center field and left field, respectively, but Beltran has suffered a bone spur in his right elbow, as well as a concussion recently. While signs point to Beltran being able to hit the field in a few games time, he is a variable with his status uncertain, meaning he may still be the designated hitter up until mid-August.

Throughout the various stints Beltran has been on the disabled list, Ichiro has been his replacement. Thus far this season, Ichiro has displayed a clear regression in talent, as well as showing his true age (40) with his plate vision, discipline, and consistency having lost their touch. For the season, Ichiro has a .269/.320/.316 slash line to go along with 1 home run and 14 RBI.

The past week has not boded well for Ichiro as he has gone 2-17 (.118), with 1 home run and 3 RBI’s. This holds true for July as well as Ichiro has been hitting .224 over the course of the month. Though Ichiro started the season hitting hitting .300 from April, through till the end of June, July has proven to be disastrous for the veteran outfielder, calling for a more powerful, consistent bat in the lineup. Here are some of the options the Yankees could look to pursue in order to bolster their outfield, ahead of the playoff face in August and September.

Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham has been the player that fans, and journalists alike see being the primary target for the Yankees in the build up to the deadline. Though Willingham is clearly a shell of his former shelf, and showing regression over the course of each season, he could very well be the exactly what the Yankees need:

A power bat.

Thus far this season, Willingham has been an inconsistent hitter at the plate as he has posted a .222/.363/.422 slash line to go along with 10 home runs and 30 RBI, but the Yankees aren’t looking for contact hitters. Between Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, Chase Headley, and Brian Roberts (to some extent), there are enough contact hitters in the lineup, but with Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira all in rough stretches in terms of power production, the Yankees need to acquire a power bat. Willingham can fill that role.

Willingham’s .421 slugging percentage would be a significant improvement over Ichiro’s .316 slugging percentage. There is also some belief that Willingham can bring up his average, with his slash line currently sitting at .276/.371/.483 post All-Star Break. That slash line was put up in one of the exteremely pitcher friendly parks in Target Field, and with Yankee Stadium being one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball, signs only point towards Willingham’s contact going up, and his power production continuing at the current pace it is at.

Alex Rios

Due to the fact that the Texas Rangers have effectively been eliminated from the playoff race in both the American League West, and the the Wild Card race in the American League, a fire sale might be on the horizon. Alex Rios is one of the best hitters at getting on base, while also producing consistent, power numbers.

Thus far this season, Rios has appeared in 103 games for the Rangers, and has posted a .305/.334/.431 slash line, while also contributing 4 home runs, and 43 RBI’s. Perhaps the most attractive quality of Rios is that he fins a way to get the ball out of the infield, as indicated by his 22 doubles, 8 triples, and a .431 slugging percentage.

Coming in as a significant upgrade over Ichiro, Rios will not be cheap considering hitters with talent like his are hard to come by on a trade deadline. Minor league talents such as Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, or Peter O’Brien might have to be included if the Yankees anticipate other teams can offer better packages for the right fielder, Rios.

One of the other advantages of trading for Rios is if he shines, his contract comes with a team option. If he disappoints, well then he hits the market to test waters. One of the complications of Rios’ contract is that it takes its toll on the payroll as his contract pays him $9.97 million if the Yankees were to take the team option.

According to RealGM.com, the Rangers attempts to deal Alex Rios seem to be gaining traction with the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals having all been linked to Rios recently.

While the Yankees have not yet been linked to him, Rios would likely be the best option for the Yankees, but whether or not Brian Cashman and the Yankees are willing to part with the prospects necessary is another story.

Marlon Byrd

To me, if the Yankees were to acquire Marlon Byrd, they would become a team to worry about in the American League, as well as moving past goals of a wild card finish, and instead thinking of a division title. Byrd, 36, seems to be in the midsts of a renaissance period in his career, and could be a viable contributor in the Yankees pursuit of October baseball.

Thus far this season, Byrd has posted a .270/.318/.477 slash line, while also accounting for 20 home runs, and 60 RBI’s over 106 games (415 at-bats). Byrd has been on a tear post All-Star break as he has posted a .340/.365/.500 slash line, while also posting 2 home runs and 6 RBI’s over 50 at bats. His value as a power hitters is currently unprecedented in comparison to other hitters on the team.

Currently, Mark Teixeira leads the Yankees with 18 home runs, so the arrival of a player with the power, as well as consistent bat of Byrd could prove to be a turning point in a season, as well as being a move that changes the direction of the team as a whole in the lead up to the post season.

According to the New York Post, the Yankees have the means to acquire Byrd.

If the Yankees want Marlon Byrd, they have prospects the Phillies like enough to get a deal done. However, the fact Byrd remains a Phillie is an indication the Yankees are looking elsewhere for a much-needed right-handed hitting outfielder as Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

Clearly that exceprt from the New York Post shows the Yankees have intentions to scour the market for potentially younger talent, but the interest in Byrd is there. This could mean that the Yankees are potentially reserving Byrd as a second choice, or have given up interest due to others talks unfolding.

No one knows who the Yankees are talking to, but it is clear that if the Yankees want to make a playoff push, a power bat in the outfield is required.

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