The holiday season is upon us, but the Yankees haven’t finished all of their shopping just yet. While Andy Pettitte was the big gift for the upcoming season, the Yanks are still in the market for a first baseman, a utility infielder and possibly a fifth outfielder and another reliever. They also must come to terms with Kei Igawa, who has until Dec. 28 to sign with the Yankees before he must return to Japan for another year.
First base: Andy Phillips and Josh Phelps are the internal candidates as of now. If Phillips is given a shot, I think he could do a tremendous job. Phelps was taken in the Rule 5 draft, and while he was a nice prospect with Toronto a few years back, I’d be surprised if he made a push for the job in New York.
Doug Mientkiewicz’s name keeps popping up, and I think this would be a good move for the Yankees. He might not be an All-Star hitter, but he can hold his own well enough to get the job done in the No. 9 spot in the lineup. His glove is among the best in baseball, and with Chien-Ming Wang and Pettitte in the rotation, defense is going to be even more important for the 2007 Yankees.
Utility infielder: I’m a bit surprised that the Yankees haven’t signed Miguel Cairo yet, and it still could happen before Christmas. But don’t be surprised to see New York go in another direction. If they liked Cairo as much as it seemed they did, why is he still unsigned?
Nick Green is still looking for a job, and the Yankees liked him during his brief stay in New York last season. Marcus Giles was non-tendered, but I don’t think he’s going to sign a deal to be a backup player anywhere. Jose Vizcaino and Chris Woodward are also on the market. The best bet is that either Cairo or Green will return next year.
Fifth outfielder: The first four spots are solidified with Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu and Melky Cabrera. That doesn’t leave much playing time for the fifth guy, who may or may not be Bernie Williams.
I think Bernie should retire. I’d hate to see him come back, only to be designated for assignment in May or June when the Yankees need to make room on the roster for another pitcher or something. Even if Bernie comes back, how much playing time will he actually get? Not much. Ride off into the sunset, let the Yankees hang No. 51 in Monument Park and enjoy your second career as a musician.
Kevin Thompson would be the leading candidate to serve as the fifth outfielder if Williams does not return. He can play all three positions and can be a pinch-runner off the bench.
Reliever: I still think there’s a chance that Ron Villone returns for another year in the Bronx, but if he doesn’t, there are several internal candidates that can fill the final spot in the bullpen. With Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney and Mike Myers in the pen right now, they could use another southpaw who was more than a specialist like Myers.
If the Yanks are looking for a lefty, Ray King and Scott Schoeneweis seem like the best options on the market. If they want another righty, Chris Reitsma would be an intriguing option.