Monday, December 28, 2015

Yankees Bench: What About Chris Johnson?

The New York Yankees have built a team around youth, defense and versatility recently and the plan is finally starting to come to fruition. The additions of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro up the middle with the veteran stalwarts Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira at the corners has given the Yankees potentially one of the best defensive infields in recent memory but what about the Yankees bench? At this point it looks like Aaron Hicks will be there as the fourth outfielder, Gary Sanchez will back up Brian McCann and give Alex Rodriguez an occasional day off at the DH position and Dustin Ackley will play all over the infield and the outfield. New York may have room for one more guy on the bench, assuming Pete Kozma doesn't win a job out of spring training, and that job may go to Chris Johnson.

If you look at the most glaring hole on the Yankees bench right now it is the fact that the team lacks a true third base option. Chase Headley led the team in games played last season for that very reason, the Yankees lack serious third base options. Castro is the current backup at third base although he hasn't played more than seven games at the position and those were all in the minors. Brendan Ryan was an option but he was traded to the Chicago Cubs as a player to be named later in the Castro deal and has not been re-signed since the Cubs let him go a mere week later. Johnson is an option for New York after the Cleveland Indians designated him for assignment and released him before working out a deal with another team on a trade. What would Johnson bring to the table?

Johnson is listed as a third baseman and first baseman according to Baseball Reference and he hits from the right side, three checks on the Yankees want list. While New York lacks a true backup at third base the team also lacks a true backup at first as well with Greg Bird in the minor leagues and Johnson could fill both those holes. It would also allow Headley to get more rest, especially against left-handed pitching, keeping him fresh longer throughout the season. Johnson hit .326/.354/.391 against left-handed pitching last year while Headley hit just .283/.335/.408 in almost double the at bats.

Johnson hit much better with the Indians in 2015 than he did with the Braves suggesting that maybe a change of scenery could help the third baseman harness whatever he had during his good 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons. Something about putting on the Yankees pinstripes can revitalize a guy, even if he's just 31 years old like Johnson. You would think since Johnson passed through waivers and was not traded after his DFA that many teams aren't knocking down his doors so maybe the Yankees can find lightning in a bottle with him. Or maybe they will just bring Brendan Ryan back....

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