As the Yankees begin their final descent into spring training, the reality of owner Hal Steinbrenner's edict for reduced payroll has become more and more prevalent. While the importance of resigning starting pitchers Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda and closer Mariano Rivera cannot be discounted, as well as the the importance of signing free-agent third baseman Kevin Youkilis, it has mostly been a quiet offseason.
With the resounding silence of this offseason, a glaring void of a right-handed bat in an outfield occupied by all left-handed batters has developed. The trade talks for Arizona Diamondbacks star Justin Upton and then-Washington Nationals masher Michael Morse? Never to barely matriculated, as other teams currently vie for Upton and Morse is now a Seattle Mariner. Free-agent Scott Hairston? While the Yankees are interested, Hairston is holding out hope for an everyday role, possibly with the crosstown New York Mets.
Needless to say, it is becoming more and more of a reality that recently claimed Russ Canzler and free-agent signee Matt Diaz might be vying for that right-handed role. Further fortifying this reality are comments made by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in a recent article written by ESPNNewYork.com senior writer Wallace Matthews,
“I know it’s getting late, but we’re still looking," GM Brian Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday. “We’re open for business, but we’re not going to do something just to do something. If we have to, we’ll go to Tampa with what we’ve got."
While it's tough to prognosticate their production in a more visible situation as the Bronx, looking at the splits for Canzler and Diaz from 2012, there is a strong possibility they could be serviceable in what they would be called upon to do; face left-handed pitching.
In 93 at-bats last season for the Cleveland Indians (28 of those against left-handed pitching), Canzler batted .269 with three home-runs and 11 RBIs. Two of those home runs came off of left-handed pitching and additionally, Canzler carried a .393 average and a .414 on-base percentage against southpaws.
As for Diaz, his 2012 season with the Atlanta Braves saw him hit two home-runs and drive in 13 runs in 108 at-bats, with 78 of those at-bats coming against left-handed pitching. Facing lefties, Diaz finished with a .269 batting average and a .329 on-base percentage. Furthermore, both of his home runs and 10 of his 13 RBIs came off of left-handers.
In summary, these aren't exactly the prominent names you think of when thinking of players who can fill a void. However, in a lineup with professional hitters such as Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Ichiro Suzuki, and the aforementioned Youkilis, the task of having to face a left-handed pitcher a few times a week should not be overwhelming for Canzler or Diaz. Their task wouldn't be to carry a lineup, it would be to get on base and give fits to a left-hander.
While it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for Cashman to pull a rabbit out of the hat this late in the game (see the simultaneous signing of Kuroda and trade for starter Michael Pineda in January of last year), the reality is that Canzler and Diaz might be called upon as right-handed batting depth. If so, a projection of "serviceable" for their play might not be too far off.
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