Yesterday we learned that talks between the Astros and Yankees about Jeff Keppinger didn't get very far. The 30-year-old utility player appeared to be a fine fit for a team in need of bench help, but New York could instead turn to rookie Eduardo Nunez to fill the role. That, however, seems like a Plan B more than anything right now.
If the Yankees want to sift through other options on the open market they'll find that there isn't much left to choose from. Former Yankee prospect Cristian Guzman is still available after posting a less-than-stellar .648 OPS with the Nationals and Rangers. Despite a solid body of work throughout his career, Julio Lugo disappointed in Baltimore last season, hitting .249/.298/.282 in 93 games. Both players offer average defense at shortstop (-0.2 and -0.4 career UZR/150, respectively) but Lugo has more experience playing second base. Those two are essentially the cream of the free agent utility infielder crop.
The Yankees have had trouble signing bench players in recent years in part because no free agent in their right mind would join the Yanks only to sit on the bench behind their impressive cast of regulars. They've had to trade for bench help as a result, grabbing the likes of Wilson Betemit, Jerry Hairston Jr., Eric Hinske, and Austin Kearns at the deadline in recent years. John Hickey of Sportspress Northwest writes that the Mariners need to make a deal if they hope to free up spending cash this winter, so perhaps a deal involving Jack Wilson and the $5MM left on his contract deal could make sense for both sides.
GM Brian Cashman has started each of the last two seasons with young gloveman Ramiro Pena on his bench, so the team could go with him again if they feel Nunez needs more minor league seasoning. The Yankees have money to spend after missing out on Cliff Lee, but quality reserve players are tough to find these days. Overpaying for bench players is a good way to waste money, so don't be surprised if New York starts the season with Pena before making yet another in-season trade. What do MLBTR's readers think the Yankees will do with their bench during before Spring Training?
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.