While all the attention this past off-season has been on the return of Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees made some quality moves since the end of their disappointing 2014 season that should benefit the team greatly. The team added shortstop Didi Gregorius, who will have big shoes to fill as he takes over for Derek Jeter. The Bronx Bombers also re-signed second baseman Stephen Drew, who the team is hoping will have a bounce back season with a full Spring Training under his belt. Drew hit a disappointing .162 in 46 games last season. Turning to the bullpen, the Yankees signed lefty flame-thrower Andrew Miller to a four-year deal worth $36 million. General manager Brian Cashman also was able to acquire relievers David Carpenter, Justin Wilson, and Chasen Shreve to add to an already strong bullpen. While all of these signings and acquisitions were needed for the Yankees, in my opinion, the biggest acquisition flew under the radar.
In a deal with the Miami Marlins, the Yankees agreed to trade utility man Martin Prado, and right handed pitcher David Phelps in exchange for pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Domingo German, as well as first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones. Eovaldi will be a big part of the Yankees pitching staff, which has its share of question marks, but if you ask me, the biggest piece of this deal is Garrett Jones.
Jones brings something to the Yankees that the team has not had in years: a true backup first baseman for Mark Teixeira. The former All-Star has not been able to stay healthy and only played in 123 games last season, hitting just .216. When he reported to spring training, Teixeira said that he felt he was in the best shape of his life. While the Yankees certainly hope this is the case, the team cannot expect Tex to play in over 150 games, a mark he has not been able to accomplish since the 2011 season. This is why Garrett Jones is so important to the Yankees.
In all likelihood, at some point during the 2015 season, Teixeira is going to find himself on the disabled list. In recent years, the Yankees have not had a backup first baseman to fill in while he is gone. At times, the team was forced to play third baseman Chase Headley at first base, or even catcher Fransisco Cervelli, which neither was very comfortable with. Jones gives the Yankees a true backup at 1B for the first time in years.
In 2014, Jones was able to hit .246 while hitting 15 home runs along with 53 RBI’s. In 2015, I expect Jones’ home run total to increase as he plays in a much friendlier ballpark for hitters, especially lefties. Jones should be able to take advantage of the short porch in right field with relative ease. Jones will also be valuable to the Yankees as a designated hitter. At this point, Jones may be the Yankees DH against right handed pitchers, with Alex Rodriguez filling in at DH against lefties. This role is yet to be determined, though.
While Garrett Jones was far from a big name acquisition for Cashman and the Yankees, he may turn into one of the most important players on the entire roster, especially if Mark Teixiera goes down at some point. Yankees fans may want to get familiar with new #33, as he may have a big role on the 2015 New York Yankees.