SLIME-ROD COULD CAUSE SAME FIRST BASE PROBLEM AS ICHIRO

A-Rod can cause same first-base problem that Ichiro did

PHOENIX — Somewhere at the intersection of Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki in The Bronx, you can find the Yankees’ need for a Mark Teixeira insurance policy in 2015.

The presence of Ichiro this past season hindered the Yankees’ roster flexibility, and the possible presence of Rodriguez next season could do the same. But Teixeira’s steady absences from the Yankees’ lineup would seem to make a suitable backup imperative.

“I think there was an area of vulnerability for us last year that was really predicated because of the outfield alignment that we had,” general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday, as the General Managers’ meetings wound down. “We had more outfielders than necessary because the guaranteed commitments that we had kicked in, so I couldn’t get a backup first baseman situation. But hopefully we can alleviate that this year.”

The pool of veteran backup first basemen in the free-agent market is far from spectacular. It includes former Yankee Mark Reynolds, who spent 2014 with Milwaukee, and former Mets prospect Mike Carp, who started this past season with Boston and finished it with Texas. Kyle Roller, a Yankees 2010 draft pick, hit 26 home runs while playing first base in the organization’s high minor leagues last season and is a candidate to be added to the team’s 40-man roster.

While Cashman didn’t name names regarding the Yankees’ 2014 outfield surplus, everyone — including Ichiro — knew the Japanese icon was a spare part, on the roster by virtue of his $6.5 million salary and the reality no team would take him off the Yankees’ hands. As Teixeira struggled to return to everyday play after missing nearly all of 2013 with a right wrist injury, starting just 120 games, the Yankees went with players ill-suited for first base (Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan and Scott Sizemore), veterans who would have rather been elsewhere (Chase Headley, Brian McCann and, one time, Carlos Beltran) and the chronically injured Francisco Cervelli, whom the Yankees traded to Pittsburgh Wednesday for reliever Justin Wilson.

The fact the Yankees were unsettled at second base and third base, and had the aging Derek Jeter returning (and retiring) following a disastrous 2013, further compromised the Yankees’ ability to give Teixeira the help he wound up needing.

The Yankees want to re-sign Headley as a free agent, but to work as the everyday third baseman, sliding across the diamond only in the rarest of circumstances. And then there’s A-Rod, whom the Yankees have asked to try first base as he tries to come back from a year-long suspension.

“We’re going to get him exposed to [first base],” Cashman said of Rodriguez. “It doesn’t mean he’ll be a viable option. But we just want to test the waters on it.”

The Yankees hope the re-signed Chris Young can team with Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to make up the outfield unit, with the versatile Martin Prado aiding if necessary. Prado will primarily anchor the infield along with Teixeira and, probably, two players to be acquired — a shortstop and either a second baseman or a third baseman; CBS Sports.com reported Thursday the Yankees inquired about Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who is unlikely to be traded. Brendan Ryan returns as a backup.

Throw in Brian McCann and his backup — Cashman named John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine as the top candidates, now that Cervelli is gone — and a possibly healthy A-Rod, and there still exists room for a bona fide reserve first baseman if the Yankees go with 12 pitchers.

Cashman said he has been trying to acquire Wilson, 27, from Pittsburgh for years and in fact proposed a Cervelli-for-Wilson swap a while back.

“I look at him like Boone Logan. He can get lefties and righties out,” Cashman said. “He can pitch a full inning.”

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