Now that a White Sox – Nationals trade sending Adam Dunn to Chicago’s South Side seems more likely than ever (the White Sox just landed Edwin Jackson, who Nat’s GM Mike Rizzo is said to covet and have included him in their offer), it’s time to look for alternatives for the slugging southpaw. Mind you, I never thought Dunn (or any 1B/DH types, for that matter) are really needed in the South Bronx and I think the team needs help in the bullpen and a bench IF more than a lefty bat. But, it seems the Yankees front office has decided to find a left-handed bat they can plug into the DH role.
Option 1: Adam LaRoche, Arizona – Call him “Dunn-lite.” A left-handed first baseman, LaRoche currently sports a slash line of .254/.330/.446 and a career slash line of .271/.341/.487. Over seven seasons, he averages 1 HR every 21.4 AB’s, 1 K every 4 – and is a notorious second-half hitter. Although the rumor mill is quiet about him, it would make sense for Arizona to move him. The team is on obvious salary-dump mode and LaRoche is on a one-year, $4.5M deal with a mutual $7.5M option for next year (or a buy-out for $1.5M). One drawback for the Yankees is that option increases to $9.5M if traded. Still, it represents a way for the D’backs to shed about $4M from their anticipated payroll if they have no plans to keep him next year.
Option 2: Lance Berkman, Houston – Trades with the Astros are notoriously difficult, unless you happen to be the Phillies. However, the Roy Oswalt trade yesterday may signal that owner Drayton McClane is finally waving the white flag. The former all-star should be familiar to most fans, but here’s the upside: Berkman is a veteran switch hitter with power (1 HR every 17 AB) and one of those high-quality clubhouse types. Unlike Dunn and LaRoche, nobody has ever questioned this guy’s work ethic or desire. But he is having a down year in terms of production and has missed significant portions of the last two seasons with injuries. Although on the production side of the equation, he is walking more than ever – a sure sign that pitchers are avoiding the one true threat in an anemic Astros line-up. The money is also going to be difficult for the Yankees. Berkman is owed around $7M for the remainder of this year and he has made it clear he wants his $15M option for next year guaranteed in order to not exercise his no-trade clause. $22M for an injury plagued 1B on the downside of his career should be too much for Cashman & Co. to swallow.
Option 3: Derrek Lee, Cubs – The Cubs are rumored to be looking to shed payroll, although they have yet to make any deals. Lee is owed around $6.5M this year before hitting free agency. This would be a bit of a reach, since Lee is having a really bad year after a bounce-back type season a year ago. If you take 2009 out of the equation, then his last three seasons work to a .290/362/.408 line. While his HR production would probably increase some at Yankee Stadium (1 for every 29.5 AB over the past 3 years), you have to wonder how he would handle NYC and the post-season. In 23 career post-season games, Lee is a .263 hitter. On the plus side, Lee is considered an A+ type guy in the clubhouse. I’d consider this a real “Hail Mary” play if the Yanks were to pursue it.
Again, I don’t think the Yankees should really go hard after any of these guys, but if they happen to fall into Brian Cashman’s lap, then they might be worth it for the 2010 stretch run. Another thing to keep in mind is that these guys will almost certainly clear waivers because of the money involved, so if the Yankees still find themselves in need in mid-August odds are one or all three will be available. That leaves us…
Option 4: Nick Johnson, DL – Yes, you heard that one right. Mike Axisa reports that Johnson is resuming baseball activities in Tampa, though they’re limited to fielding grounders and soft-tossed fungoes for now. Still, if Johnson can make it back by September then he at least has a chance to redeem himself somewhat.
Author’s note – I checked the wires just before posting this. Joel Sherman tweeted the Yankees “are definitely in for Lance Berkman, considering him seriously.” Sherman also broke the news the Yankees had landed Cliff Lee, so take it for what it’s worth.
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