Logjammin': A Yankee roster conundrum

Maude Lebowski is a Yankee fan? - Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

What happens next to the Yankees' roster? Do they fix the cable?

Karl Hungus: "Hello. Meine dispatcher says there ist something wrong mit deine kable?"

Bunny La Joya: "Yeah, come on in. I'm not really sure exactly what's really wrong with the cable."

Karl Hungus: "Zat's why zey sent me. I'm an expert."

Bunny La Joya: "The TV's in here...oh that's my friend, Sherry. She's just here to use the shower."

Karl Hungus: "Mein nam ist Karl. Ich bin expert!"

The Yankees have a problem - a problem not even Karl Hungus could solve. They are locked into some truly onerous contracts for the next few years. What's worse, they have several needs to fill, and some of the better options - both on the free agent market and in the farm system - play many of the same positions blocked by those bad contracts.

It's become impossible to ignore the gluts at certain positions, and their impact on the roster going forward. I call this phenomenon "Logjammin'", after the finest film ever produced by the legendary Jackie Treehorn (who treats objects like women, man!).

In the outfield, the Yankees have four of their five outfielders under contract for next season...and not necessarily the four best ones. Here's a breakdown of their value:

Name G PA OPS+ bWAR Age
Brett Gardner 125 530 101 2.9 29
Ichiro Suzuki 120 456 85 2.2 39
Alfonso Soriano (w/ NY) 25 105 140 1.2 37
Curtis Granderson 27 107 133 0.9 32
Vernon Wells 108 395 81 0.6 34

Of course, Granderson will be a free agent after this season - which begs the question as to whether of not the Yankees should bother pursuing him. Personally, I'd like to see the Yankees at least kick the tires, despite the logjam in the outfield. Extrapolate Granderson's 2013 numbers out over 500 at bats, and he'd be close to a four-win player - right in line with what he's been during his Yankee career (4.5 WAR in 2010, 5.4 WAR in 2011, 3.0 WAR in 2012). Wells has been useless overall, and most of Ichiro's value is tied to his glove. We saw in the middle of the year the danger of having to rely too heavily on Ichiro's bat. And, as we must always do with these logjammin' quandaries - we must take age into account. Soriano and Ichiro will be ancient next season - I know both guys are athletic freaks (especially Ichiro), but the Yankees should always remember that they are one injury away from another year of nothin' but Vern. If the market for Granderson fails to develop, and he can be resigned on the cheap, then the Yankees should plug him into their outfield next season.

As for the infield, the Yankees front office (and many fans) seem wary of pursuing a big bat for one of the corner spots. I've already expounded at length on Cuban defector Jose Abreu, and why the Yankees should look into what could be a rare offensive talent in his prime, but the consensus seems to be that the Yankees won't pursue another first baseman/DH while Mark Teixeira is under contract. If we turn the clock back ten years, we'll find that the Yankees have had tremendous success with such an arrangement - 690 plate appearances for Jason Giambi (148 OPS+) , 406 for Nick Johnson (138 OPS+). That team managed to overcome its logjam and win the AL pennant.

Ah yes, but what about the two old codgers at third and short - Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter? I, for one, hope this appeal process doesn't drag too far into the off-season so that team knows where it stands. If that appeals process drags on, would it really be wise to hold off on signing talent based on the chance that their 37-year-old third baseman, coming off major hip surgery, whittles his appeal down significantly from 211 games? And, as sad as I am to say it, Jeter can no longer be depended on to play a full season. But as long as he is healthy, he might as well play shortstop - he had a -1.4 dWAR in 152 games last year which, as bad as it looks, compares favorably to Eduardo Nunez's astonishing -2.3 dWAR in 65 games this year.

Long gone are the days when this club had a perfectly-constructed roster. The choice becomes whether to roll out inferior players at some positions for the sake of convenience, or to shoe-horn in some superior players in places they might not otherwise go. The Yankees seem quite willing to keep roster spots reserved for under-contract players who either can't be counted on to play a full season or shouldn't be counted on to play at all, and it cost them dearly in this year's playoff race. Here's hoping they don't repeat the same mistake in 2014.

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