With a lack of production coming from first base, should the New York Yankees look elsewhere to buy time before injuries subside?
Thanks to an injury to Greg Bird, Tyler Austin and a 37.8 percent strikeout rate for Chris Carter, Yankee first basemen own a combined .164/.276/.295 slash line with a wRC+ of 59 — the worst in the Majors.
Carter, who was signed primarily to be an insurance policy for Bird, has slashed .209/.296/.360 with an OPS (.656) that ranks as the fourth-worst among major league first baseman with at least 90 plate appearances. Production from this spot is one of the very few offensive obstacles New York needs to fix until Greg Bird or Tyler Austin return to action.
The good news is that Austin began his rehab assignment last week and Bird is starting baseball activities this week. Since the former missed all of spring training, however, his rehab stint will be quite lengthy. Turning to Carter, who is also posting a defensive rating of -1.3 (sixth-worst), is the short-term plan.
But should it be?
First baseman James Loney, who was signed to a minor league deal by the Atlanta Braves but released shortly after they received Matt Adams from the St. Louis Cardinals, is available via free agency and can be inked for a mere minor league deal.
The 33-year-old opened the year at Triple-A in the Tigers organization after being released by the Texas Rangers on March 27 and struggled to a .200/.351/.222 slash line in 57 plate appearances before he was released on May 7.
In 2016, he slashed a respectable .265/.307/.397 in 366 plate appearances with the New York Mets. The lefty also ripped nine home runs while posting his best wRC+ (89) since his 2014 season with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Loney has also grown to love the short porch at Yankee Stadium, as he owns a .385/.426/.523 slash line with four home runs in 32 games in the Bronx.
It’s not an ideal scenario the Yankees would want, but Loney could provide them with a much better glove — sixth-most defensive runs saved (36) at first base since 2004 — with some vast major league experience. Worst case scenario?
Worst case scenario? Simply cut him if things don’t work out or when Bird and Austin return to action. Best case scenario? He produces like he did in the pitcher-friendly Citi Field for the Yankees and makes the absence of Bird/Austin go unfelt.
Realistically, however, it might not be an option the Yankees would pursue at this moment. They did it with Ike Davis last year, but I’m sure they will continue to hope Carter pokes one out of the ballpark here and there for a couple of weeks before making any moves.
Plus, Rob Refsnyder, Matt Holliday and Austin Romine can all play first. Even Aaron Hicks has taken grounders at the spot in an emergency situation. The conversation with Loney made sense in 2016 as Mark Teixeira insurance but as of now, adding past-their-prime players in hopes to catch lightning in a bottle isn’t something the youth-driven Bombers should dive into when they’re 10 games over .500 despite treacherous first base production.