With the New York Yankees’ focus being primarily to bolster pitching, one main component could turn their offensive unit into a dangerous one.
You already know that the 2017 New York Yankees‘ team is way more than one or two pieces away from being a legitimate contender.
Just last week, general manager Brian Cashman mentioned that starting and relief pitching is priority No. 1, which is ideal given the predicament within the pitching unit. But, it’s not the only hole in need of filling.
Even though they will get Greg Bird back from his season-ending shoulder injury, the offense could use at least one more addition to further improve their American League-worst .228 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Better yet, they could use a right-handed bat to coincide with designated hitter (and backup catcher) Brian McCann. Why? The simple answer is that right-handed DH’s struck out 71 times against left-handers in 2016, good enough for second-most in the AL.
On the flip side, (lefty-hitting DH’s facing RHP) their overall batting average and on-base percentage ranked seventh in the AL while having the third-fewest K’s, third-highest batting average and sixth in OBP.
With a full season of the man that joined Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza as the only catchers in history to have more than 20 home runs in 10 straight seasons, a DH from the right side could help make that lineup slot pose a great threat.
Now, for starters, Cashman doesn’t necessarily have to spend anything to have an effective bat to supplement McCann’s mere .662 OPS against southpaws.
Tyler Austin, despite striking out in 43% of his 83 at-bats, went 6-for-12 with two home runs in his last five games of his first cup of coffee and owned a .348/.444/.652 overall slash line with a 1.097 OPS against lefties.
What made Austin unique was his clutch gene along with all five of his home runs were smashed to the opposite field — at an average of 375.8 feet, according to ESPN home run tracker.
As mentioned, though, he did strikeout in 43% of his at-bats and while he has a track record of perseverance, he is an unproven kid who is, by no means, a given to provide the pop from the right side that will drive New York’s offense into a sturdy one.
On the market, there are some names Brian Cashman could perform a bid for in order to fulfill that spot and again, bring his lineup back into perhaps the Top-10 of baseball.
One of those names is Matt Holliday, who contract with the St. Louis Cardinals has come to an end after they did not pick up his option and chose to administer a $1 million buyout. The slugger with just under 300 career home runs is now a free agent.
Despite hitting 20 home runs a year ago, his career-low .782 OPS poses as a question mark as deterioration is evidently having an effect on the 36-year old, so perhaps he isn’t the archetypical option.
Another possible addition could be Billy Butler. You know, the big guy New York brought along on Sept. 15 to strengthen their efforts against left-handers and boy did they enjoy their portion of country breakfast.
Through 12 games in the Bronx, the 30-year old went 10-for-29 (.354) with one home run as the team’s designated hitter and even spent three games over at first base.
Small sample size, sure, but to have his bat in the lineup (as a DH) against left-handers could be profitable for the long haul of 162 games.
In his career against left-handed pitching, Butler owns a career slash line of .300/.382/.492 with an OPS of .874 and 55 home runs.
Additionally, among right-handed hitting first basemen and designated hitters since 2007, Butler is in the top-20 in home runs, OPS, and in the top-10 in batting average, hits, and RBI.
For comparison, his batting average (.290) is behind the likes of Miguel Cabrera (.325), Albert Pujols (.295), and Paul Goldschmidt (.299), but ahead of Alex Rodriguez (.276), Edwin Encarnacion (.267), Jose Bautista (.258).
No, he’s not the most dangerous bat but he is a solid right-handed contact-driven hitter with some pop, a history of success against southpaws, and a perfect compliment for the left-handed McCann.
Again, we’ll go ahead and mention that a move to compliment McCann with a right-handed DH isn’t necessarily essential nor should it be on the top of Cashman’s to-do list.
If Butler is seeking a multi-year contract, then moving on is justifiable. Yet, if you can bring him to the Bronx on a one-year deal (which could be possible given his clubhouse dispute in Oakland), no one can fight the risk especially when it bolsters an offense that desperately needs to be reinforced from the right side.