The Yankees acquired a left-handed bench bat today, picking up 2002 Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske from the Pirates for minor leaguers Casey Erickson and Eric Fryer. The move comes on the same day that Xavier Nady is visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum to determine if he does indeed need a second Tommy John surgery.
Hinske is a decent addition to the bench, but before we get to how he fits on the team, lets take a quick look at what the Yankees gave up to get him.
Eric Fryer was the catcher/outfielder obtained from the Brewers for lefty Chase Wright. A tenth-round pick out of Ohio State in 2007, the righty-hitting Fryer, now 23, was hitting .250/.333/.344 with 11 steals in 16 attempts for High-A Tampa, spending most of his time in left field. This is just his third professional season
Pitcher Casey Erickson is also right-handed, 23, and a former tenth-round pick (the Yankees’ in 2006). He’s bounced between starting and relieving in his brief professional career. Though he made a strong showing in short-season Staten Island’s rotation last year (2.76 ERA, 4.6 K/BB), he has pitched primarily in relief for Charleston of the Sally League this year. A groundballer in his first full-season in a full-season league at age 23, he’s nothing special, particularly in the Yankees’ pitching-rich organization.
That’s not much to lose, a pair of 23-year-old A-ballers with very little projection, one a mid-round draft pick and another the bounty for a player who had been designated for assignment. That’s certainly a price worth paying for an immediate upgrade to the major league team’s 25-man roster.
So, is Hinske an upgrade? An if so, how much of one? That partially depends on who he replaces on the roster, which we likely won’t know until just before game time tonight. Here’s my guess.
With Jose Molina set to return from his quad strain, the Yankees are likely on the verge of sending both Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña down to Triple-A to get regular playing time. Cervelli and Peña are both 23, and neither has played a game at Triple-A. Cervelli may yet prove to be a viable starting catcher in the major leagues, but will need more development time to achieve that potential. Peña still seems more like a reserve infielder to me, but the Yankees will never find out if he could be more without letting him play every day at Triple-A.
As much of a revelation as Cervelli has been, he’s still only hitting a Molina-like .269/.290/.343 and has made just eight starts in the last month. Peña’s line is a near match at .267/.308/.349, and he’s started just five games in the last month. In Peña’s case, that line is simultaneously impressively and alarmingly close to his career minor league line of .258/.316/.319.
Replacing Peña, Hinske will be a clear upgrade at the plate. He arrives in New York hitting .255/.373/.368 on the season and is coming off a season in which he hit 20 home runs for the AL Champion Rays. Hinske’s worst major league season came for the Red Sox in 2007, and even that .204/.317/.398 would be an upgrade on Peña, as would Hinske’s career line of .254/.337/.436. The one catch is that the left-handed Hinske flat-out cannot hit left-handed pitching (.221/.298/.363 career), though even that line rivals what Peña has done at the plate in the major leagues. The flip side of that split, of course, is that Hinske’s career line against right-handed pitching is a solidly league-average .264/.347/.456.
The acquisition of Hinske is above all else a smart solution to the Yankees’ need to have an extra infielder on hand to back up Alex Rodriguez. Hinske isn’t a great defender, but he can play the four corners (third, first, left and right) well enough to spot start against right-handed pitching. Though he’s played just 21 games at third base over the last four seasons, only 11 of which have been starts, he hasn’t made an error in any of them.
Playing for his fourth AL East team, Hinske is familiar with the pitchers in the league and the division and unlikely to suffer from a return to the harder league, where he spent his entire career prior to this year. The only real complaint I have about the move is that Hinske is left-handed. Yes, pairing the lefty-swinging Hinske with the right-handed Cody Ransom will allow Joe Girardi to play matchups at third base on Rodriguez’s weekly days off, but the only other exclusively right-handed hitters on the team are Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, leaving Hinske little value as a pinch-hitter when Ransom’s not in the game. A right-handed bench bat could be used to hit for Brett Gardner or Hideki Matsui against a tough lefty. I suppose Hinske could also hit for Molina after his return, but since such a move would require inserting Jorge Posada for defense, there’s no reason not to simply use Posada’s superior bat in those circumstances.
Nonetheless, Hinske is a valuable and versitile reserve. He’s also been on the last two American League pennant winners. Here’s hoping he extends that streak with the Yankees.
 Cliff, there is a surprisingly spiriting discussion of this move in the combox from a couple posts back. I have one question (well, two related questions)--
Do you think that the Yankees actually see developmental potential in Pena? I ask, because I agree with you that he looks like a reserve player at best to me. In that case, would not a potentially better move be to swap Hinske for Ransom, and keep Pena for his glove and speed?
I think the fact that Peña hasn't looked completely overmatched at the plate in the majors suggests there might be more there than I think. The Yankees are clearly high on him. Given the strength of his glove, it's worth finding out if there's more development left in his bat. Ransom isn't as bad as he looked in April. He was hurt coming out of camp and didn't tell anybody because he was finally going to get his shot. I think Ransom's a perfectly acceptable utility infielder. He's a solid glove (again, he was hurt in April, thus his poor play in the field), works the count, and has some pop. I'd rather have a healthy Ransom than Peña right now given that neither will start.
Why should they start Hinske against RHP when both Matsui and Damon are better hitters?
Woo-hoo! Hinske, the human good luck charm. I'm gonna start saving up for my 2009 WS tickets now!
 Well, because:
1. Matsui and Damon don't play 3B
2. Matsui and Damon could use a day off now and again, and Hinske is a credible bat v. RHP (more credible than Melky Cabrera).
 That makes sense. It comes down to Ransom's defense. I had the feeling or impression that it was bad But if can adequately stand at SS or 2B with a glove in his had, then demoting Peña makes perfect sense.
1. At -13.4 UZR, Hinske doesn't either.
2. The time to rest them is against LHP and they've had a bat in the system to do exactly that.
 You relish either/or v. both/and arguments. Shelly can't play 3B. The team obviously felt that their greater need was at BU IF than BU OF. They have room for, effectively, one player. Hinkske gives them a BU 3B plus the bonus of corner OF, even if that sacrifices some offense at OF during the odd start. Duncan gives them only corner OF.
In my world, I would carry 11 pitchers and have both Hinske and Duncan.
Go away for a bit, and the Hinskeberg Thread is still in the sky!
I think, still, that this is amazingly much ado about next to nothing. It says zip about Cash, about the team, it is a minor tweak, like plucking, I dunno, an eyebrow hair. (No, never done it.)
I have two bits of illumination from the discussion.
1. A lot of people kind of assume 5.5 million dollar players (DeRosa) are just dying to play 2 games a week for the Yankees or anyone AND that in those 2 games, they'll perform at their level of established full-time performance.
2. People also here seem to be thrashing whether playing Hinske is BETTER than playing Damon or Matsui. This is silliness to the nth degree. If any bench player is better than the starters ... he's ... he's ... the starter! (Whew, figured it out!) It is a GIVEN that the give-Damon-a-rest guy will not be as good as Damon. The idea is that when people need to rest a day (or if they get DLed for two weeks) you have big league savvy (and in this case AL East savvy) people to plug in and not be hopeless. I also think he'll be playing 3rd as often as anything. Would Ransom be just as good? Maybe. As I keep saying, minor, minor, minor.
Oh. And point # 3:
3. Shelley Duncan still gets a lot of hearts beating round here. Not bad for a 30 year old who has never really done much of anything in the Show. More 'aesthetics' (more WEIRD aesthetics!), more pluck and grit and forearm smashes? Hell, even I like ol' Shelley's moxie, though I did have nightmares of his hurting a teammate in a celebration.
  I third the motion.
Non sequitur, but relates back to an earlier debate.
Fangraphs piece on Ichiro, the conclusion:
Not satisfied with just decimating the calls for decline at the plate, Ichiro has stepped up his defensive game as well. Long praised for his great arm, Ichiro is putting up the best Range numbers of his career.
Adding it all up and Ichiro is on pace to eclipse even his 2004 season in terms of win value. Worth three wins already, Ichiro's projected playing time would have him worth just under seven wins were he to maintain his lofty rates.
Bum Rush, -11.9 of that UZR came from one season (2003). I'm not saying he's a quality glove, but he's sufficient for spot starts.
Horace, I agree it's minor, but a minor upgrade don't hurt.
 Communism was just a red herring.
And UZR, in small samples, such as just part of a season, is inherently unreliable data, according to UZR's own creator.Aw heck, sometimes there's just no getting through.
Whether you like it or not, a RH almost-power hitter helps this club more than a not-3B, not-power hitter. That's been true all season. If they're willing to make a roster move now, they should have been two months ago.
As for 3B, Ransom or Pena are no worse than Hinske (stick and glove).
It's a move that cost nothing because it means nothing. But it hurts more than helps, especially if they sit Matsui or Damon against RHP for Hinkse. No surprise from GM that gave us Angel Berroa.
You're missing my real point though: Hinske glove plus bat is no upgrapde from Ransom or Pena.
I like it. Maybe this means they're getting serious about resting A-Rod periodically. Whether he likes it or not.
Here's a photo I took of Hinske at spring training this year. He's gonna have to shave...
 Yes, Ichiro is trying to make me eat my "overrated good player" claim. On this off-topic, I had to laugh at this from Sliding Into Home's preview of the Seattle Series:
"Solid year"? Branyan is crushing the ball this season , to the tune of 1.000+ OPS/166 OPS+ in a full-time role. Can he keep it up at age 33, without getting exposed? Who knows.
Shelley Duncan still gets a lot of hearts beating round here. Not bad for a 30 year old who has never really done much of anything in the Show.
To be fair, Duncan had shoulder problems last year.
15. Bum, no, I really do get your point, you make them early and often.
What I'm saying by way of rejoinder is that
a) this is a dumb stick (NOT a ref to Ally McBeal!) to beat Cashman with, it is too, er, small.
2. Some of us are suggesting, in a muted voice (Cliff, william, me, others) that maybe it IS a small bit of a slight sort of kinda uptick over Ransom. But if that is as far as your real point goes, why not just call it a trivial event instead of being so agitated about it? Pena? Many of us also think it is at least worth giving him regular at-bats till September in AAA.
 In BU 3B platoon with either, he doesn't need to be better--only better v. RHP. And neither Peña nor Ransom play the OF.
Again, not everything need be either/or.
Hinske glove plus bat is no upgrapde from Ransom or Pena.
Fangraphs' value ranking disagrees with you.
 The Duncan case intrigues and frustrates me. In my heart of hearts, I see him as sort of Andy Phillips Mach II. He has done everything in MiL to prove that he should be promoted; the creative baseball thinker in my reckons that there MUST be a way to get value out of him, in a platoon role of some sort. But my gut tells me that he is one of the truly AAAA players who does not translate to MLB. I think this is probably true about Gardner as well, but at least he has speed, which can always earn him a bench spot at least.
My real hope for Duncan is that they trade him to a bad team so that he gets a chance to start, get a bunch of ABs under his belt, and show if he really is a legit late bloomer.
 I'd rather he go to Japan. I think he'd be big there.
 Shelley Duncan still gets a lot of hearts beating round here. Not bad for a 30 year old who has never really done much of anything in the Show.
There is something attractive about criticizing a team for "shoulda" moves--they shoulda promoted Duncan, they shoulda started the back up QB, etc. I think because they are largely un-refutable (and largely un-provable). I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to this.
If Duncan is never promoted by the Yanks, his legend will only grow as we all speculate on what woulda happened if he got a legit shot at age 28 or 29 or 30 (if he hadn't been blocked by Cahman or Torre's loyalty to veterans, or whatever villain we so choose).
If Hinkse is a worse glove but a slightly better bat, I don't see the uptick over Ransom. If he could legitmately be inserted over Matsui or Damon, that would be a different story. He can't be.
What is galling to me is that we're even having this discussion.
1) The bench was horrid to start the year. It's still horrid.
2) They've needed a RH bat all year. They still do.
It's nothing new from Cashman. But it doesn' t make it any easier to swallow.
From me it's simple: Duncan has a skillset that this team could use. Whether he can help is debateable, but there's no reason they couldn't try if they were going to bring in someone like Hinske. What he's done is worth at least 50 ABs.
 The bench was not, I would argue, "horrid" at the start of the year, given that Swisher and Melky were on that bench. When Nady went down, the best bench player became a starter and this seriously weakened the bench.
With a standard 12 man staff, a team can only carry four bench players. The Yankees had Swisher, Melky, Molina, and Ransom to start the season. The only player one could seriously gripe about is Ransom.
 I just don't see where Duncan fits on the roster, so long as they go with 1) a twelve man staff (typical), and 2) two BU IF (almost certain, given A-Rod's condition).
I really do like the idea of Duncan, but he is unfortunately blocked on this roster, largely by circumstances--they are simply not going to keep only one BU IF.
Interesting, maybe subliminal, that monkey's good points about hoping good things for Duncan, and the 'Legend of Shelley' (who does the music?) growing as he never quite makes it ... occur just downthread from, er, monkey's also vg point about Branyan doing amazing things this year - his first real everyday shot ... at 33!
(monkey's having a good day)
I did mention Branyan a week or so ago, as someone it was easy to feel both good about this year, and a little sorry for. Never got a shot, defined as a platoon player early, and that was all she wrote - till this year when an offensively challenged team had no one to platoon him with. Yes, maybe Shelley wishes for the same.
Of course if Branyan goes yard on us into our shortshort porch tonight, no feeling sorry lingers.
Nady being a starter over Swisher is horrid.
Molina, at 34 years old, being a backup to a 37 year old is horrid.
Ransom, at 33 years old, being a backup to a 33 year old and a 35 year old is horrid.
Melky and Gardner occupying two roster spots is horrid b/c of how they handled Melky's options.
they are simply not going to keep only one BU IF.
Except that's exactly what they're about to do. Hinske is a 3B only because he once played there. At that experience why not call Teixeira a backup at 3B?
 I was living in Ohio when the Indians were good and Branyan was first coming up as a stud prospect. He really is a three-true-outcomes guy, and the Ks turned a lot of people off. Didn't he crush a HR off the facing of the upper deck against the Yankees in one of his first games? Maybe this game:
 Because Teix will never see any time at 3B, while Hinske will. Thus, as I posited, the Yankees will not carry on their roster fewer BU IF to cover 3B, SS and 2B.
Of course, having Angel Berroa on the roster for two months is...well, worse than horrid. Carrying him, over something useful, was plain awful. I mean, they make this move for Hinkse but not a move because of Berroa?
 Then make Swisher your starter and Nady your bencher. How many teams carry a better OF on the bench? Molina is a BUC. How many teams carry a producting BUC? Melky and Gardner occupying two roster spots is an irrelevant complaint: there is no way the team wanted Damon as the only option at BU CF on the roster.
So again, it comes down to Ransom as the only real complaint.
The only reason to carry two BIFs is for emergencies - witness how often Berroa and Pena played simultaneously. If they're sitting A-Rod voluntary, there's no reason they can't bring him in in case of an emergency. If A-Rod or another infielder has to miss a few days, you swap Duncan out.
Of course, the 40 man is full. But that's because it's been terribly managed.
 I mean, they make this move for Hinkse but not a move because of Berroa?
How do you know the team made no move because of Berroa. I suspect that they made no move because no player became available at the right trading price.
Otherwise, most everyone here agreed that Berroa was not good. Still, he was the *third* BU IF (after Ransom, who got hurt, and Peña). So point well taken, that the team should have better options at the third tier of depth.
 I'm not saying I agree with the decision to have two BU IF, but that is the reality, especially given A-Rod's hip.
What? How many teams have two backup CFs? The only reason they're carrying both Melky and Gardner is because they couldn't option Melky.
Molina by himself isn't a problem. How many teams have a 37 year old starting catcher?
Nady was a complete waste. How many championship teams have not one OF that can slug .500?
No, you're missing my point. Instead of carrying Berroa, that was chance to see what Duncan could offer, especially as a legit chance to rest Matsui and Damon.
How many times did Berroa and Pena play together but not in a blow out?
 The Yankees do not have two BU CF, they have one. Damon will not see time in CF unless there is an emergency. Thus, the team was likely to carry someone besides Damon or Swisher to back up CF. This is why, I suspect, they went with five OFs instead of four: Swisher/Nady as the primary corner BU OF, and Melky/Gardner as the BU CF.
As for how many teams have a 37 y.o. starting catcher, I'm not sure that's relevant. I would counter by asking how any teams are carrying a near HOF catcher on their roster.
Nady was a complete waste.
As the rhetoric ratchets up, the arguments slide more into irrationality.
 I agree with the gist of what you're saying about Hinske the left-handed bat. But outfield slugging isn't that big of an issue when your infield has A Rod and Teixeira, plus Posada at C.
 "As the rhetoric ratchets up, the arguments slide more into irrationality"
Or the converse.
How many emergencies do you need to plan for? Damon as the backup CF was more than enough. And if they could have optioned Melky, they would have.
As for Nady, tell me one thing he does well.
Nooooooo! Just because some unexpected positions are above average doesn't mean you can afford mediocrity elsewhere. Decent corner OF bats are easy to find. Look at the market this off-season.
 I'm not missing your point at all. I'm stating the simple fact that the organization was going to carry one BU IF--especially given A-Rod's condition--in order to give a 30 y.o. MiL a trial run. Frankly, as rarely as Berroa and Pena played together, I'm not sure Duncan would have seen that much more playing time. Probably some PH appearances...but for whom? If he pinch hit for the BU IF, then A-Rod has to go back in the game anyway. If he PH for one of the weaker OFs (Melky, Gardner), then you have to swap in the other to take over in CF, or go with Damon in CF and Duncan in the corner.
He *could* have gotten some playing time at DH, I suppose, on days when Matsui rested. Or perhaps in LF (yikes) when Damon rested. But then, he would be largely displacing Melky/Gardner to the bench.
Sorry, I just don't see the grave injustice here.
You seem really angry that Duncan has not gotten more of a shot--I agree with you to apoint. You seem cheesed off about Ransom. Neither one of these issues seems to have much to do with Hinske, who appears to improve the roster ever so slightly.
 given that there are only 11 outfielders in the AL with .500 slugging or better and 14 teams, I'd say there are at least three without a .500 slugging outfielder. The Yankees are not one of them.
The converse would be: "as the arguments slide more into irrationality, the rhetoric ratchets up." If you prefer that your posts be characterized as such, I will not argue.
In fact, I'm done with this. Off to make dinner. Enjoy the game.
 I should have noted that two of those .500 slugging outfielders are Yankees and two are Angels so there are five teams without a .500 slugging outfielder.
 that was Hawk, not Bum Rush, who made that observation. I wasn't sure if you realized that.
 For what it's worth, the 2006 Cardinals won the Ws with the following starting OF: Taguchi, Edmonds, and Encarnacion. I'll let you look up their slugging stats.
 Cripes, I did not!
Now seriously, I have to make dinner.
 I'm just saying, chicken; egg.
 I see. Well there you have it!
But how many times did Pena and Berroa play together? Just explaining the idiocy doesn't make it any better. Carrying two BIFs, even with A-Rod, is idiocy.
And yeah, Duncan could have played two or three times a week subbing Damon and Matsui. That's almost 100 ABs by now. That doesn't mean he would have done anything with those ABs. Just that have a need and a solution. Instead they traded for another lefty bat.
Damon's not legit. Not for the first time at 35.
I still like the move, but it would have been a whole lot better when there were still interleague games remaining. Having to chose among Cervelli, Ransom and Pena as pinch-hitting options was exacerbating.
And there you have it. That was also a place for Duncan.
If they scored 10 more runs from his 100 ABs, that's two games in the standings.
Instead they've had a horrid bench. For $200 million.
Great, three years. The time before that?
2003 Marlins, over a 2003 Yankees team without a single .500+ SLG OF.
 So not only do the Yankees need to have a .500 slugging OF (never mind that they have two .500 OF sluggers and two of the best hitters in the game playing at the infield corners), but they need one that meets the super secret criteria of "legit" or they aren't a "championship team." When a team bats, it doesn't matter what position they play. What matters is what position in the lineup they take up.
well, at least there's only 1/2 hour to go until game time ...
Q: How did using Posada and Molina sharing time at catcher work out for the Yankees earlier this season again?
A: Four words...
[Francisco Cervelli and Kevin Cash]
I hope Hinske can catch, because the "paper boys" didn't last two months prior to a lengthy trip to the DL for both of them. And they didn't get hurt catching. They got hurt running! And now they are expected to catch for the last three months of the season splitting time the way they did this spring during the hottest time of the year and into the stretch run?
Sure... if you say so...
Q: How tragic will it be if their three best catchers get hurt between now and September, if they send Cervelli down to "play full time in AAA?"
Great, so once every four years there's a championship club with a weak OF. Those aren't odds I want, especially not with a $200 million payroll.
Since neither Damon nor Swisher have ever slugged .500, I don't consider that legit, no, especially not when their career average is .438 and .456 respectively.
The weak OF is a horrible way to give back runs after getting them from the infield. esp when outfield bats are so cheap.
And what's funny about that 2003 team - their weak hitters came up empty. Exactly as they did in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.
Nah, this is all new to Cashman.