The Yankees have had some of the best infielders this millennium. From ‘90s holdovers at the end of their careers to homegrown stars to splashy acquisitions, the Yankees have had some elite infield units.
Earlier this week, our Pinstripe Alley social media team put out this hypothetical: in a world where you only have $12, which four of these Yankees would you choose to fill out your infield?
It’s key to note that this is the Millennium Yankees infield, so for guys like Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Brosious, you’d be getting whatever they contributed after 2000, not their ‘90s peaks. The one thing this exercise did for me is realize how glad I am that baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, and how fortunate Yankees fans are to have had all this talent over the last 20 years.
What are the best ways to assemble a squad of 2000s Yankees infielders? Here are a few combinations:
The Nuclear Option: 1B: Andy Phillips, 2B: Robinson Cano, SS: Erick Almonte, 3B: Alex Rodriguez
It’s easy: stars win championships. If you just look at the board and want to get the two best players, bar none, this is the infield you’d wind up with. Prime Rodriguez and Cano cost a total of $10, but are both yearly MVP candidates. The lefty-righty duo terrorizes opposing pitchers back to back in the order, and the sluggers also provide solid defense.
Of course, the downside comes in filling out the rest of the infield. Phillips is serviceable at first as long as there is major pop coming elsewhere, but having to start Almonte at shortstop would be a disaster. He filled in for Derek Jeter when he was injured in 2003, but didn't do much and only played 55 major league games. Is having a duo of Rodriguez and Cano worth starting Phillips and Almonte? For me, it’s not.
The Budget Option: 1B: Jason Giambi, 2B: Alfonso Soriano, SS: Enrique Wilson, 3B: Aaron Boone
Unlike the strategy above, which involved getting as many $5 players as possible, this infield features no $5 players, but still has massive potential. Soriano was a viable 40-40 threat at his prime, and few batters instilled more fear with their power or discipline as Giambi.
It’s almost as good a combo as Cano and Rodriguez, but with far less downside on the rest of the unit: Boone is an average third baseman with a knack for the clutch, and although Wilson was a weak hitter, he started three playoff games in 2003 and slashed .364/.382/.485 for his career against Pedro Martinez, including a 7-8 showing in 2003. It’s not the flashiest group around, but it might just be the best under the circumstances.
The Up-the-Middle Choice: 1B: Andy Phillips, 2B: Robinson Cano, SS: Derek Jeter, 3B: Eric Chavez
It’s often said in scouting that championship cores are built up the middle. If that’s the case, a core of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano is as dynamic as they come. Jeter’s legacy needs no introduction, while Cano is the perfect lineup and double-play partner. Yankees fans should feel fortunate to have had that combo for nine years.
But, just like with the “Nuclear Option,” the corner infield spots suffer due to a lack of funds. Phillips brings this unit down, and although Chavez was productive for the Yankees, they also had him from ages 33-34, when his career was winding down. He was better as a complimentary player, not a full-time starter.
The Corner Strong Choice: 1B: Jason Giambi, 2B: Tony Womack, SS: Enrique Wilson, 3B: Alex Rodriguez
The corner infield positions are where the powerful bats lie, and a duo of Giambi at first and Rodriguez at third is a legendary pairing. They played together for five years and hit a combined 335 home runs in that span, but never made a World Series together.
If you’re paying big bucks for Giambi and Rodriguez, the middle infield is going to be light, and it doesn’t get much lighter than a combo of Womack and Wilson. Womack lost his starting job to Cano in 2005, and although Wilson had Pedro Martinez’s number, he only hit .216 with a 56 OPS+ in four years as a Yankee. They could field, but their poor hitting over a full season might undo some of the impact of Giambi and Rodriguez.
The Balanced Choice: 1B: Tino Martinez, 2B: Chuck Knoblauch, SS: Derek Jeter, 3B: Aaron Boone
This option is the one that has the least overall power, but would probably hit for the highest average. Jeter is the big name here, and although Tino did his best work in the ‘90s, he had some huge moments in the 2001 World Series and had that home run binge in 2005.
Boone would be steady but unspectacular at third, and Knoblauch could still be a dynamic leadoff guy, but would hurt the team in the field.
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What do you say, Yankees fans? I’d either go with the Budget Infield of Giambi, Soriano, Wilson and Boone, or the Up-the-Middle Choice of Phillips, Cano, Jeter and Chavez. As long as you got at least one of the $5 guys (or two of the $4 guys), your infield is probably going to be in pretty good shape.
Which $12 Infield do you prefer?
This poll is closed
The Nuclear Option: Phillips, Cano, Almonte, Rodriguez
The Budget Option: Giambi, Soriano, Wilson, Boone
The Up-the-Middle Choice: Phillips, Cano, Jeter, Chavez
The Corner Strong Choice: Giambi, Womack, Wilson, Rodriguez
The Balanced Choice: Martinez, Knoblauch, Jeter, Boone
Other – Comment below!