Saturday, December 29, 2012

Juan Rivera to Yankees only makes sense

With Nick Swisher's defection to Cleveland via free agency this week, the New York Yankees have a hole to fill in the outfield.

But rather than repeat what the Yankees have done so often over the years--offer an overpriced, multi-year deal to a free agent and then lament their diminishing returns at the back end of the contract--the Bronx baseball braintrust should extend a modest, two-year contract to Juan Rivera.

Rivera, who will be 34 on opening day, played the outfield for the Yankees from 2001-2003. He has never been an All-Star and will never be one. But he is a righthanded hitter with a good arm, a good glove and some pop in his bat--just the kind of bench player and occasional starter the 2013 club needs.

In today's free-agent market, Rivera could be had for $8 million over two years. Or the Yankees could offer a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2014 season.

Rivera made $4 million for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. He hit .244 with 9 home runs and 47 RBI. He can also play first base, which means the Yanks could give starter Mark Teixeira a day off once in a while.

The Yankees are likely to open 2013 with a starting outfield of Brett Gardner in left, Curtis Granderson in center and Ichiro Suzuki in right. That trio should cover plenty of ground in the outfield and steal a ton of bases.

But Granderson, Gardner and Ichiro are all lefthanded hitters. That would leave the Yankees especially vulnerable to lefthanded pitching.

Signing Rivera would allow Yankees manager Joe Girardi to sit the strike zone-challenged Granderson against a particularly tough southpaw; Gardner could move to center when Granderson sits.

Rivera could also fill in for Ichiro, no spring chicken at age 38, or be a righthanded DH--a role in which Andruw Jones struggled in 2012. (Jones has signed a free-agent contract with a team in Japan.)

Admittedly, the Yankees won't make major headlines by signing Rivera. They won't break out the carving board and serve roast beef at a Yankee Stadium news conference to re-introduce Rivera to New York.

However, Rivera can help the 2013 Yankees. The club should not wait any longer to sign him.

No comments:

Post a Comment