After big swap, Yanks may look to add a DH
New York has contacted former Bomber Damon, slugger Pena
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com | 01/16/12 10:52 AM EST
NEW YORK -- At the crux of the old-fashioned baseball trade, though still not official, that the Yankees and Mariners pulled off last week, New York chose a young pitcher over a young hitter, importing promising right-hander Michael Pineda for its rotation.
No one in the Yankees' organization doubts that power-hitting prospect Jesus Montero will hit; in fact, they expect him to provide middle-of-the-order offense in a Seattle uniform, and will cross their fingers that he doesn't wind up hurting them.
Now, as part of that ripple effect, the Yankees must figure out who will replace Montero -- dealt with right-hander Hector Noesi for Pineda and Class A hurler Jose Campos -- as their designated hitter for the 2012 season.
While the Yankees internally are touting a combination of Minor League slugger Jorge Vazquez and veteran Andruw Jones, two veteran options may be emerging on the free-agent market, as the Yankees have made contact with the representatives for both Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena.
"I think we have enough [for the DH role], but I also think there could be an opportunity to complement some things," a person with knowledge of the Yankees' thinking said.
Damon, 38, spent four years in pinstripes, from 2006-09, but the Yankees did not pursue him after the World Series-winning season because they imported Curtis Granderson for the outfield, which also featured Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner.
The left-handed hitting Damon had interest in returning to the Rays, for whom he hit .261 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs last season. But the Florida native was displeased when Tampa Bay agreed to a contract with Luke Scott, formerly of the Orioles.
Pena, 33, drew the Yankees' interest last season in the form of an August waiver claim, but New York and the Cubs were unable to work out a trade.
The left-handed hitting Pena batted .225 with 28 home runs and 80 RBIs in 153 games last season. He has averaged 34 home runs per season over the last five years with the Rays and Cubs, which could make his power stroke very attractive with Yankee Stadium's right-field porch.
Pena told MLB Network Radio on Sunday that the Yankees have contacted him, but he continues to explore other options, including those which would permit him to play first base.
Along with Damon, the Yankees could always consider another former Yankee from the 2009 World Series-winning club, as 37-year-old Hideki Matsui looks for his next home after hitting .251 with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs in 141 games for the Athletics last year. And while 40-year-old Jorge Posada has reportedly decided to retire, there has not been an official announcement yet.
It is worth noting that after authorizing a $10 million contract for free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, it is unlikely that Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner will agree to spend lavishly on a DH, squashing fantasies of a run at a player like Prince Fielder.
For now, the Yankees are interested in the idea of seeing what Vazquez -- a right-handed hitting Mexican standout nicknamed "Chato" -- may be able to offer this spring.
Vazquez, 29, hit .262 with 32 home runs and 93 RBIs in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, after impressing the Yankees with a red-hot Grapefruit League. A corner infielder, Vazquez's defense may be suspect, but thus far his bat has not been.
"Until he proves he doesn't hit, he can hit," a person with knowledge of the Yankees' thinking said. "I would imagine he'll be given the opportunity to compete. We'll see. Andruw will probably take some of those at-bats, too. I don't think there's a defined one person to occupy that role."
Deleting Montero from the Yankees' DH mix could also allow manager Joe Girardi more chances to give half-days to veterans like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, something that Girardi has spoken about wanting to do.
"It allows Joe a little bit more flexibility with moving some guys into a spot for a day or two days," the person said. "It also allows the opportunity to look around and do some platoon-oriented things, too."