With Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran under contract next season and expected to constitute the starting Yankee outfield, New York seems pretty set. Still, after injuries hampered Beltran's ability to play the field last year, they must feel they need some insurance policy in the outfield. Enter Chris Young, who they've signed to a one-year deal and who performed admirably in his short stint with New York at the end of last season. But is Young really enough of a backup that the Yankees shouldn't worry about adding any more outfield help this offseason?
Beltran's bone spur issues limited him to 109 games in 2014. To make matters worse, he only played the outfield in 32 of them, leaving Ichiro Suzuki to man right field for 133 games last season. Needless to say, the Ichiro experiment didn't work out in the Yankees favor over the past two seasons - his defense wasn't bad, but he couldn't hit a lick (71 wRC+ in 2013, 86 wRC+ in 2014).
However, Young is likely to be at least a bit better than Ichiro next season, especially at the plate. While Young hasn't had a great season since 2011 (when he posted a 102 wRC+ and a 4.5 fWAR, boosted mainly by his great defense in centerfield), he did impress during his stay with the Yankees last fall. In 79 plate appearances, he hit .282/.354/.521 with a 146 wRC+. While it's clearly a small sample size, he does have a 94 wRC+ for his career with a .427 slugging percentage, showing that he will bring some right-handed power to the lineup - something the Yankees desperately need. Steamer has projected him to have a 97 wRC+ with a 1.3 fWAR in 105 games in 2015, and while that's not earth-shattering, if he can hit about that well while spelling Beltran in the field (hopefully boosting Beltran's batting numbers in turn), the Yankees should be in good shape.
In Young, the Yankees have a decent backup who didn't break the bank. And that's really where the rub lies. There are a few more talented options out there (Melky Cabrera and Nick Markakis come to mind) but, even if they were willing to forego a guaranteed starting spot, they'd still cost a lot more than Young in both years and money. The Yankees will more than likely need that money to fill infield and rotational holes, and even if they didn't, there is still value to be considered. Spending tens of millions of dollars for a fourth outfielder that may not even play that much is just not an efficient way to spend money. While we may think the Steinbrenners are just printing money in some back room, they're not just going to throw away cash when they don't need to.
Other than signing a bigger name to a bloated contract to be an insurance policy, there aren't a whole lot of options. Nick Swisher's name has been floated in trade rumors, but he's still owed $30 million over the next two years and is coming off the worst year of his career in which he hit .208 with a 75 wRC+. Torii Hunter's probably going to retire, and will just be another near-DH type on a team full of them. Alex Rios has been in steady decline over the past few seasons. The minor league outfielders certainly don't offer a whole lot to be hopeful about.
While it would be nice if the Yankees had a bit more certainty in their outfield, Chris Young's a decent rebound candidate whose cheap contract offers a lot more value than any multi-year deal for a more desirable free agent. His right-handed bat and potential to slug around .400 with 15 homers makes Young about the best fit behind Beltran the Yankees could hope for. While Beltran going down could significantly hurt the Yankee lineup again in 2015, Young is about the best available bet to mitigate that risk.