The phrase “they’re dropping like flies” comes to mind when we think about the New York Yankees. Mark Teixeira was the latest victim in this disaster after straining his right hand while swinging off of a batting tee. The prognosis is that will put him out for at least eight weeks.
Teixeira joins a list consisting of players who are out indefinitely, or questionable for Opening Day. Specifically: Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Phil Hughes
New York figured that they could probably absorb Granderson’s injury until early May. Yes, a reliable power-hitter is a tough bullet to dodge, but the Yanks have internal options that can fill in until Granderson returns. Ideally, Brett Gardener would slide over to center field, while Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera spilt time in left field. It’s just a matter of who will step up, if anyone.
With Teixeira’s injury, however, the Yankees don’t have a viable replacement. Kevin Youkilis could move from third base to first base to give general manager Brian Cashman a deeper player pool to pick from, should he decide to explore trades. But doing so would leave a hole at third, and first base is generally an easier position to fill than third base.
So, Cashman might have to test the market for corner infielders. That is, if he wants to avoid a slow start that hinders the Yankees’ playoff hopes. Carlos Lee and Aubrey Huff are two names that have been tossed around in the wake of Teixeira’s injury, but New York could do better in a trade. Much, much better.
So, Justin Morneau, anyone?
If the Yanks wanted to make a big splash, acquiring Morneau would be the ensuing move. He isn’t your run-of-the-mill, two-month replacement that will fade once Teixeira returns. He’d probably be used as a designated hitter and get some occasional action at first base as well.
Yankee Stadium’s short right porch is one thing to like about Morneau potentially being in a Yankees’ uniform. He had a HR/FB (Home-run to fly ball ratio) of 35 percent to right field in 2012, and 14 of his 19 home runs were to right field.
Morneau’s current stadium, Target Field, isn’t all that kind to hitters, specifically home-run hitters. It was middle of the pack in home-run factor, according to ESPN.com, and there isn’t much carry during the day or night. Morneau still managed to compile 19 home runs (seven at home) despite having what is considered a down year, for him at least.
So, it would be safe to predict a spike in his home-run numbers if the Yankees acquired him. He wasn’t what he used to be as a power-hitter–he probably isn’t going to hit 30-plus home runs again–but he can provide more than a scrap-heap addition would.
Defensively, Morneau is now an uncovered mystery thanks to a concussion he suffered in 2010, which has had its many lingering effects. He posted a -2.5 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) last year, which could be an indication that his defensive abilities may be on the decline, or because of the aforementioned concussion.
This might have more of an effect on the Yankees than one might think.
Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia all fall under the category of ground ball pitchers, and the Yankees’ defense might not be the best fit for their styles–Derek Jeter’s range is and will be even more limited after having ankle surgery this offseason. Kevin Youkilis had a -4.5 UZR in 2012, and he’s not getting any younger. Then, there’s the lone competent infielder, Robinson Cano.
With those factors in mind, the Yankees wouldn’t trade for Morneau with expectations of Gold Glove-esque defense, though. He would simply be expected to outhit a cheap free agent that New York can sign for minimum wage.
As for the specifics…
Let’s make this clear: Morneau isn’t worth the $14 million he will make this upcoming season. That’s obvious, and there’s simply no going around the topic.
With that out-of-the-way, there are a couple of areas to examine. One, Morneau is a free agent after the season, which should appeal to the Yankees because they want to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014. Morneau doesn’t have a long-term contract that would further constrict the Yankees’ payroll.
Given that Morneau’s value is nowhere close to where it used to be, New York likely wouldn’t have to unload much. The Twins could opt to wait until the trade deadline to put Morneau on the block, but that would be risky.
The match is seemingly perfect. The Yankees need someone who can fill-in for Teixeira while not losing much production. They certainly aren’t going to find that guy on the free agent market, so Morneau makes sense.