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Examining the Yankees' backup options at second base

What are the backup options at second base once Brian Roberts gets hurt?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees had to try their best to come up with some sort of replacement at second base once Robinson Cano dashed to the Pacific Northwest. First, the team wisely turned down a Brett Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips swap, then passed on giving Omar Infante a four-year contract, and finally watched Mark Ellis sign with the Cardinals. Once the dust settled, New York found themselves with Brian Roberts as their new everyday second baseman. Well, at least that's the plan right now. Brian Roberts is sure to get hurt sometime, thus testing New York's depth at the second base position.

Fortunately, along with the Roberts signing, the Yankees brought in a few players through trade and free agency to help shore up their second base depth, starting with Dean Anna. Anna was acquired in a trade with the Padres, in which the Yankees sent Low-A reliever Ben Paullus to San Diego. I have no idea what Paullus will ever amount to, but on the surface, it appears as though New York got the best of this minor trade. Anna can play all three non-first base infield positions, but is mainly a second baseman and shortstop, where he is known as a quality defender. Anna has also shown very good on-base skills, as evident by his minor-league-career .386 OBP and 12.5% walk-rate. Anna will surely start the year in Scranton, but once Roberts gets hurt, the "Dean of Swing" could get his first taste of the big leagues.

After acquiring Anna, the Yankees signed Scott Sizemore off the scrap-heap to a minor-league deal. Sizemore tore his ACL twice in each of the last two seasons and is currently trying to make his way back as a utility man for the Yankees. I personally wouldn't be surprised one bit if Sizemore ends up being Kelly Johnson's platoon partner at third base come Opening Day, but, at the same time, he could very well be sent to Triple-A to help make up for lost time. In addition to third base, Sizemore can play second base, and, barring further injury, could certainly be a Roberts backup plan at second.

In between the Anna and Sizemore acquisitions was another scrap-heap pickup in Yangervis Solarte. Solarte, a career minor leaguer, has taken the Grapefruit League by storm, hitting .517/.563/.724 through two weeks' worth of games. He is versatile, seeing time mainly at second (his most primary position) and third, with stops at left field, shortstop, and right field. "Versatile" can mean two different things, however; he can be versatile in that he can play well at multiple positions, or he can be versatile in that he's pretty bad wherever he plays, so teams just move him around when a better player comes around. I'm thinking Solarte's more of the latter than he is the former.

Anyway, since his primary position is second, Solarte could be given a chance in the Bronx once Roberts gets hurt, assuming all else fails. The smart money, however, is Solarte getting sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he'll most likely repeat his past Triple-A performances (~91 wRC+ in 263 career Triple-A games) and never be heard from again.

In terms of in-house solutions at second, there's Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan. We all know the story with Nunez by now: almost everyone hates him as a player, yet he continues to get chance after chance. Nunez might end up being Kelly Johnson's platoon partner at third come Opening Day, partly because he's hit well this spring (.285/.310/.500). Once Roberts gets hurt, Nunez could slide over to second base full-time in what'd surely create a disaster outcome. (Johnson could also move to his normal position at second with Nunez moving to third, not that the thought of Nunez at third is much more comforting.) Ryan, on the other hand, is set to be Derek Jeter's caddie at shortstop, but could see time at second if need be.

How about in-house options at the minor league level? Well, there just isn't that much, unfortunately. There's Jose Pirela, who has some shiny stats at the Double-A level over the last two seasons (123 wRC+, 118 wRC+ in 2012 and 2013, respectively), but it took him three seasons to finally advance to the next minor-league level. There's also Corban Joseph, who has hit pretty well almost wherever he's been in the minors, but he's coming off of shoulder surgery. He also has had plenty of trouble at second base, to the point where he's seen most of his time at first base this spring and may have to settle there long-term.

Sadly, the respective Brian Roberts backup plans aren't that attractive at all. Even the two more intriguing options, Anna and Sizemore, certainly don't come without their faults. The Yankees could always turn to the trade market if need be, but of course it takes two (or sometimes three) to tango. The second base situation is basically a ticking-time bomb this year, given Roberts' recent health history and the so-so backup options that follow him. For now, the Yankees will just have to cross their fingers and hope for the best; it's all they can do until something unexpectedly goes right.