Since the recent trade of Brian McCann, it has been obviously assumed that the Yankees will be in the market for a designated hitter for 2017. There is no doubt there is a need for a bat not only for production sake, but also as protection behind Gary Sanchez. Even though all eyes have been focused on bringing Edwin Encarnacion on board, there are a number of options that would keep a flexible roster and keep them pointed toward getting below the luxury tax threshold.
To provide a little context, let’s take a look at the statistics that the Yankees put up at the DH position in 2016 to get an idea of what they will be replacing:
Split PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB sOPS+ as DH 642 587 72 153 27 0 28 87 44 145 .261 .312 .450 .761 264 96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Now, just for comparison’s sake, here is a look at the league average for the designated hitter position in the AL in 2016:
Split PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB sOPS+ as DH 646 588 75 145 29 2 27 87 60 140 .254 .328 .452 .780 259 101
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
These numbers surprised me just a little bit because I had it in my head that the Yankees got much less production than this from the DH position, especially with the way things started in 2016. The only real position where more power was supplied was not surprisingly, catcher. Which only goes to reinforce the idea that the team will need to look to add a bat during the offseason.
The main bat that would be an improvement over these numbers would belong to Mr. Encarnacion. However, i’m not sure the team will want to take on the length of contract that it will require to get him to the Bronx. There is no doubting that he is the premium bat here in this situation and would give them a boost in 2017. I just don’t think anyone is going to want to be paying him $20-25 million in 2020. Unless the Yankees go against what they have talked and shown for the last six months, I don’t see him in New York without working out a high AAV contract in the neighborhood of 2-3 years/$75+ million. It is also important to note that there is still the matter of losing a draft pick since the Blue Jays extended a qualifying offer to Encarnacion.
A reunion with Carlos Beltran has been rumored since he was sent to the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline. Beltran had a solid start to the 2016 season, but slipped a bit after the trade. He will also turn 40 just after the season begins. I don’t see where the Yankees will want him playing the outfield, so he will more than likely be a full-time DH. The main issue to me is whether or not Beltran wants to play after the coming season. If so, he will probably get a 2-year deal if he wants it, which to me should take him off the Yanks radar. Nonetheless, I have no problem with a year of Beltran as DH. I mean the man did hit 29 home runs and drive in 95 runs last year.
Mark Trumbo is another option that is available. Trumbo led the league in home runs with 47 in 2016, so he would definitely add a little thump and some RBIs possibly, but that might be about all. He doesn’t hit for a really high average (career .251) and doesn’t get on base at all (career .303). I have seen a lot of predictions of him getting a 4 year deal in the $60 million range, but with a draft pick still tied to him, I think that is a definite pass on him. He also doesn’t seem very likely to put up another season like 2016, either.
Now, back to the bargain bin for a look see. There are a couple of intriguing options that could give at least similar production to what the Yankees received from the DH position last year. One of those is Matt Holliday. I realize he lost some time to injuries and he turns 37 in January, but he still managed a respectable .782 OPS with 20 home runs in 110 games for St. Louis in 2016. He also still barrels up the ball well with the 3rd highest exit velocity in the majors at 95.3 miles per hour. My biggest concern about Holliday is his career low .322 OBP in 2016. He can still play just enough outfield to give regular days off in left field as well. He certainly isn’t the worst option out there and if he could be had for something like 1 year at $10 million with maybe an option for 2018, I could live with that.
Brandon Moss is another intriguing option at this level. Moss is in a similar position as Holliday with very similar stats for 2016 even with a horribly awful month of September. He can still provide respectable defense at first base and could possibly give the occasional off day in right field. He has just enough value in the field that he will probably be able to get a 2-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million.
It gets a little more dicey once you move past the aforementioned options. Steve Pearce had a decent season in 2016, can still play the field regularly at multiple positions, and he still hit lefties to the tune of .309/.411/.617 last year. He will probably come cheap with a price tag somewhere around 2 years and $10 million. His biggest drawback will be whether or not he is ready for the start of the season as he is recovering from flexor tendon surgery on his right forearm. A move to keep Billy Butler or sign Pedro Alvarez would seem to be out of desperation at this point as neither would be an improvement from last season’s roster.
There are some options available after the top guns in the market that won’t have quite the price tag or draft picks attached. The Yankees certainly need another bat in their lineup and it will be interesting to see if they stick to their recent plan with a look at getting younger and/or more flexible with an eye toward the 2018/19 free agent class.