Despite having attempted to put Plan 189 into place, the Yankees spent a lot of money on the offseason to improve the outfield, pitching, and the position of catcher. The rest of the infield did not receive the attention that it should have, thus leaving a lack of depth and a vast array of question marks. The current game plan for first base seems to be that of throwing Mark Teixeira out there and hoping that it works out okay. The scariest part about that strategy is that Tex only played 15 games last season, and has yet to fully recover from his season-ending wrist surgery. Tex has admitted to continued wrist tightness, particularly when swinging left-handed.
In a recent interview, Tex said that he's expecting to play 150-plus games this season, and that he's also expecting to bat in the middle of the lineup, hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. That would be great, but we all want things (right, Greg?). Tex hasn't produced like that since 2011 though, and those might not be realistic expectations, especially considering that Jose Bautista and David Ortiz both experienced a decrease in power upon their returns from the same wrist injury.
Tex went on to say:
"Everyone can go out after major surgery and go, 'I'm fine, I'm going to be good as ever,' but you don't really know that until you go out there...For me, it's just kind of two steps: make sure I'm healthy, and that means taking full swings at a 95-mph fastball in a Spring Training game."
This begs the question: If Tex can't stay healthy, who exactly is going to play first base?
Kelly Johnson played some games at first base for the Rays last season, but his glove is already needed over at third base. Brian McCann is open to transitioning to first base, but that would surely be years down the road. There are very few players on the 40-man roster who could realistically serve as Tex's backup, unless the Yankees want to force someone to learn the position. Perhaps Eduardo Nunez could secretly be an amazing first baseman, if only he were given the opportunity?
Of the Non-Roster Invitees, Russ Canzler is really the only player with any experience at first base. He played 492 games there at the minor league level, while the likes of Corban Joseph and Yangervis Solarte have played five games total at first base between them. Canzler has only played 29 games at the major league level, however, and most of those occurred during 2012. He split time in the minor leagues between the Pirates and the Orioles last season, batting .194/.277/.240 through 39 games on the Pirates Triple-A team. He performed much better through 86 games with the Orioles Triple-A team, hitting .276/.369/.430. As Jason wrote, there's only one open spot on the roster for a position player, and it remains to be seen if Canzler could snag that spot.
The fact that there is no real backup for Tex at this point is quite worrisome at best, and at worst, makes me feel like I need to breathe into a paper bag. The infield only works right now if every single person stays healthy, and half of the infield is old and/or coming off of major injuries and/or very injury-prone. I'm not a fan of the "let's hope for the best and not get any backup players who are actually good both offensively and defensively" plan.
Who do you think is going to backup Tex? Do you think Canzler stands a chance, or that it'll be someone already on the 40-man? Or do you think that there are more pressing issues than who will be the backup first baseman?