Last offseason, as the eager Yankees splurged on free agents in an effort to avoid missing the postseason for a second consecutive year, they signed who they thought would be their right fielder for the next few seasons: Carlos Beltran. However, Beltran's time in pinstripes has been quite disappointing so far (to say the least). While he did make it into 109 games last season, not even a third of them saw him patrolling the field. Still, the Yankees have shown little interest in the free agent outfielders this offseason, apparently content to head into the season with Beltran penciled in to right. With it relatively unlikely that he will be able to play the field for the majority of games in 2015, what happens when the injury bug rears its ugly head yet again? The Yankees have a few different options:
The Yankees have a few ways to fill the hole in right with the players they already have. First, there's Martin Prado, who played 12 games in the outfield for the Yankees last year. Prado's a perfectly capable outfielder, but with the way the roster is currently constructed, he'll likely be needed at either second base or third. If Chase Headley returns, the Yankees will have some flexibility and Prado could find his way back into the outfield.
The Yankees also have Chris Young (who I've written about previously). Signed in the offseason to be the fourth outfielder, Young should be able to hold down right for a bit if Beltran goes down. Still, if he's a part of the everyday lineup for long, the Yankees will likely be in trouble–his career triple slash of .234/.313/.427 won't really help a team that is likely to struggle offensively. He'll be good for some temporary duty, but anything long term will do little to help New York's cause.
As far as the farm is concerned, Jose Pirela and Adonis Garcia could provide decent options. Pirela has played right field in winter ball, and last year showed quite a bit of promise with the bat, hitting .305/.351/.441 in Triple A. Garcia has hit well in winter ball and played well last season, hitting .319/.353/.474 in Scranton. Pirela probably profiles as a better major leaguer, but Garcia's performance last year and this winter have shown that he should at least be considered. They could even consider Rob Refsnyder if they're desperate, as he played outfield in college. This seems unlikely, though, as they've worked hard to transition him to the infield so that he can build some decent defensive tools to pair with his bat.
While the Yankees aren't likely to sign any of the free agent outfielders this offseason, they could look to swing a trade for an outfielder if Beltran can't play the outfield everyday and none of the internal options pan out. The Braves are probably looking to get something out of Justin Upton before he leaves next offseason, and the Dodgers still have a glut of outfielders on their roster (Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier all seem expendable, especially with Joc Pederson waiting in the wings). Any of the Dodgers outfielders would cost quite a bit in prospects and all will be significantly overpaid for the next three seasons, so the Yankees probably will shy away from those (as they should, especially with a lot of money already tied up in the outfield between Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner). Upton will be a free agent after this year and should probably cost less than it took to get Jason Heyward. If the Yankees had to part with a few decent prospects to get him, they should do it and get another big bat for the lineup. Still, there's no sense in mortgaging the farm for one year of Upton, especially if the Yankees aren't that close to contention when Beltran's issues arise.
Marlon Byrd (who posted a 109 wRC+ just last year) would be a cheaper option, except Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has been notoriously difficult in trade talks in recent years, consistently overvaluing his own players. While a few other trade options exist, few realistic ones would significantly improve the team without costing the farm system too dearly. There will be little point sacrificing future potential just for a middling replacement for Beltran in right. If Upton could be had at the right price, Cashman should pull the trigger. Otherwise, Prado and Young should be able to hold down the fort for a time, or they could use a Beltran injury to give Jose Pirela some real experience in the majors.
We could also always hope that the Beltran of 2013 shows up, he of the 131 wRC+ and 137 games in the outfield. Hey, who knows–maybe he won't get injured after all (furiously knocking on wood).