On paper, the New York Yankees have one of the most imposing lineups in baseball after the signing of Giancarlo Stanton earlier this winter. Adding to an already stacked order that contains Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, these maturing Baby Bombers are one of the early favorites to win the World Series in 2018.
There are still some corners of the team that need to be addressed, though. One of them is the plan at second base as the team is clearly looking for other options, whether it be temporary or not.
The Yankees and veteran Danny Espinosa agreed to a deal on Monday that will see the second baseman brought to camp as a non-roster invitee where he will compete for the starting job.
Over his eight years in the big leagues, the 30-year-old Espinosa has been wildly inconsistent offensively. While he has never hit for average, holding a .221 career mark, Espinosa answered a 2016 season with the Washington Nationals in which he hit a career-high 24 home runs with 72 RBI with a nomadic, anemic 2017.
Espinosa appeared in regular-season games for three different teams last year, the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays, batting .173 with six home runs and 31 RBI in a combined 93 games. He was just one of four players in Major League Baseball last year who had over 200 plate appearances with an OPS+ of 50 or lower (43).
Then comes the strikeout problem.
Espinosa has a 162-game average of 175 strikeouts, including a league-leading 189 punchouts in 2012 with the Nationals. This is a Yankees lineup that already contains Judge, the only player in the majors who struck out over 200 times. Adding a player with similar strikeout rates would prove incredibly problematic.
Regardless, his name will be put into the mix at second alongside Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres this spring.
Torreyes performed admirably last year during Starlin Castro's injury absence and later as a utility infielder. While he doesn't provide much power, he hit .292 in 108 games while committing just a pair of errors in almost 200 chances at second base.
Wade struggled to impress in his limited stint in the majors last year after making his big-league debut in late June. He batted just .155 with a pair of runs batted in in 30 games and should be expected to play the utility-man role if he makes the roster at all.
Torres, the Yankees top prospect, is expected to take over at either second or third once he gets his call-up to the majors. The 21-year-old is the fifth-rated prospect in all of baseball despite currently recovering from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. Even if he is healthy and excels at spring training, the Yankees might not include Torres on the Opening Day roster.
If the Yankees hold Torres in the minors for the first 16 days of the season, they would ensure that he does not accumulate a year of service in the majors for this season. This would all but ensure that Torres remains under Yankees control until 2025 instead of 2024. Meaning that whoever gets the nod at second to start the season might not be there for long.