The Yankees have spent the entire offseason avoiding the free agent market, but that hasn't stopped them from doing their due diligence on potential free agents that could help the team. Just a few weeks ago it was reported that the Yankees would send scouts to Tim Lincecum's showcase, whenever that happens. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are also one of the thirteen teams that attended Alexei Bell's showcase yesterday.
Bell is a 32-year-old outfielder who spent ten of the last eleven seasons playing for the Cuban National Series. He never wanted to defect from Cuba, instead opting to wait until he could leave the country legally. It was a long wait, but Bell recently left Cuba with the permission of the government, and he has applied for MLB free agency. Since he is an older player with quite a bit of experience, Bell will not be subject to international bonus pool limits.
Although Bell is of a smaller stature (just 5'7"), he has shown the ability to hit for power. During his career in Cuba he hit .319/.417/.547 with over 130 home runs. Notably, Bell's walk and strikeout numbers have been roughly identical throughout his career (445 BB, 463 K).
Last year Bell gained experience outside of Cuba when he played in the Canadian-American Association. He did have a bit of a drop off in performance, batting just .317/.363/.424 with two home runs through 241 plate appearances. Supposedly, Bell did not want to play in Canada, and ended up there only as a result of a dispute with one of his Cuban coaches, and his agent attributed his results to that. Although he is primarily a right fielder, Bell can play anywhere in the outfield and has been said to have a plus arm.
The Yankees' outfield is seemingly full with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran set to be the Opening Day starters. Last year's backup outfielder, Chris Young, left via free agency and signed with the Red Sox. However, the vacancy did not last very long as the Yankees quickly traded John Ryan Murphy to the Twins in exchange for Aaron Hicks. With Hicks filling the role of fourth outfielder, the team doesn't necessarily have the need to add Bell as an additional outfielder.
On the other hand, there is a spot remaining on the 25-man roster, and Bell could be a good insurance plan. After all, there are injury concerns regarding all three of the starting outfielders. Last season Ellsbury spent weeks on the disabled list with a knee sprain then struggled after he returned. After an excellent first half, Gardner fell off a cliff during the last few months of the season, and it was later reported that he dealt with wrist pain for much of the season. Beltran put together a strong season at the plate, but the 38-year-old also spent time on the disabled list with an oblique strain.
While the Yankees have several minor leaguers who could fill in as fifth outfielders if necessary, including Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, it wouldn't hurt to have another backup plan in place. There's no word yet on what kind of deal Bell could command, but it shouldn't be too outrageous given his age.
Do you think the Yankees should pursue Bell?