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Is the Yankees third base job Kelly Johnson’s to lose?

Jan 13, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Miami Marlins  v Tampa Bay Rays Getty Images

Could be. He’s certainly a strong candidate, as Bryan Hoch of MLB.com explains in his latest. Hoch notes that Johnson didn’t play third base in the bigs until last year, but he did play a little in the minors — and a lot of shortstop in the minors — so it’s not totally foreign ground. And, of course, he’s been all over the field in the past and has never really embarrassed himself anywhere.

The key, though, is his bat, as that’s probably the best shot he has at distinguishing himself from his competition in Yankees camp this spring. He has some plate discipline issues, but he does have a bit of pop. He’s a .253/.335/.427 career hitter at the major league level and he averages 19 homers per 162 games. Scott Sizemore is something of a wild card, but Johnson is better than Eduardo Nunez.

In any event, it should be an interesting competition.

 

 

 

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    This should be a fun game… FILL IN THE BLANKS:

    “but _________ is better than Eduardo Nunez.”

    I start with: a concrete wall

    • sdelmonte - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      “That cat on my lawn every morning who runs hides at the sight of a dog.”

    • chacochicken - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Super Fun Ball

    • bobulated - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      “the potted tree in my home office with a softball glove propped against it.”

    • deathmonkey41 - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      …the third base bag deflecting balls to other players in the infield…

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 13, 2014 at 4:21 PM

      “Derek Jeter’s Bobblehead” ***

      ***upon mature reflection I’m not at all certain that his bobblehead doesn’t have more range than Mr. Jeter at this point

    • cackalackyank - Jan 13, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      A snowman on a summers day in Houston?

    • kevinbnyc - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      what I left in the toilet this morning

  2. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Please don’t light me on fire here, but is it at all possible that the Yankees use this opportunity to slide Derek Jeter over to third?

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Derek can’t slide to his right (or left) due to lack of range.

      Also, Derek doesn’t do what Derek doesn’t want to do.

      I love Jeter, as a fan, but his unflinching stubbornness and whatnot is a real pain in the backside. He’s not treated like an employee; he’s treated as a “partner” and an that’s the issue.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        Isn’t his lack of range precisely why third may be a better fit? Cal Ripken moved over to third at the tail end of his career when they determined they had a better defensive shortstop, so as far as I’m concerned, if it’s good enough for Cal, it should be good enough for Derek. Incidentally, the move also helped prolong Cal’s career as third is a bit less physically demanding than short stop.

      • Old Gator - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        Cal Ripken was significantly more magnanimous by nature than BeepBeep. He represents everything that is good and wholesome about America. That’s why they picked Cal for the “Got Milk” ads.

      • dan1111 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:06 PM

        It would have been good to move him to third a few years ago, or better yet, when they acquired A-Rod. But it seems to me that it is too late now.

        It is not clear that he is even going to be a useful player going forward. Having him go through the effort of learning a new position, and making him unhappy in the process, is unlikely to be worth it. It could turn into a real debacle if it doesn’t go well, and both the Yankees and Jeter have too much invested in his legacy to risk that.

      • nbjays - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:02 PM

        Can’t hurt to move Jeter to 3rd. Look what being a 3rd baseman with zero range did to Miguel Cabrera’s value.

    • cackalackyank - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      It’s not entirely out of the question, but I really do not think Jeter has the arm for it.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        I actually think third is less demanding on the arm than short stop. Now, I certainly could be wrong, but follow my logic here. At third you are usually able to move in closer, and tend to throw from a set position, where at short, you are deeper in the hole, and usually have to throw while on the move, often times while moving away from first. The more I think about it, the more I think moving to third is the best thing for both Jeter’s career and for the Yankees. You can understand why I’m suddenly overcome with sickness.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 13, 2014 at 9:05 PM

        Given the historical precedent set by Ripken, you might have a point. But here is an image to cheer you: ‘Jeter…guarding the line at third…and Markakis…BUNTS!’

  3. eshine76 - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    I heard an interview on MLB radio yesterday with Billy Eppler of the Yankess front office and he said that when they signed Johnson that some time at 3rd was a possibility, so he should prepare for it.

  4. cackalackyank - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    I still think there has to be another move coming. I really do not see a back up for Teixeira at 1B on the roster. There really needs to be another infield move, and some pitching transactions before Spring Training starts.

    • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      This issue becomes roster spots. With the 3 starting outfielders, plus Ichiro, and Soriano as DH. Adding another position player to compliment Texeria is prohibited with an existing Jeter/Ryan, Johnson/Roberts, and Nunez/Sizemore mix that would only leave room for 10 pitchers, and that is problematic; even 11 is less than many teams employ, although is DHland, somewhat easier achieved.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        Keep in mind Sizemore hasn’t made the big league club yet he’s been signed to a minor league deal. And as for Nunez he still has one more minor league option left so he may or may not head north the end of March with the big league club. And guys like Roberts and even Johnson who are signed to one year deals for basically “chump change” can easily be cut during spring training if one or more better options present themselves.

        Lastly, lets also remember that the Yankees have been trying to move Ichiro while they have been unsuccessful so far that doesn’t mean that will be unsuccessful in the future if they need to eat a portion of his $6.5MM salary.

        I think most teams rosters are in a state of flux at this time of the year, what you see now isn’t necessarily what you will see on March 31st.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        No matter what, the Yankees have to have another outfielder. Counting on Soriano/Johnson/Sizemore as a 4th outfielder would be disastrous. My guess is Ichiro is kept.

        But I just do not believe Johnson could be an everyday third baseman, at best a platoon guy. A sub-.700 OPS for a corner infielder isn’t going to cut it.

        Maybe you are correct about Nunez, because if he cannot be counted on to hold down any infield position defensively, then he is a liability, and he becomes a weak DH or pinch-hit option.

        But wouldn’t the Yankees be better to move Nunez, than send him back to AAA, and help secure other needs?

      • uyf1950 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        @ spudchukar, Ichiro may or may not be kept. I’m not sure it’s a forgone conclusion that he stays. I think an outfield of: Gardner/Ellsbury/Beltran and Soriano with Almonte or maybe even Heathcott from the minors are every bit as good of an option as keeping Ichiro and they can be available with just a phone call to the SWB RailRaiders at virtually no cost.

        As for you comment about Nunez, if it were my decision I certainly would explore a trade and who knows Cashman may very well be doing that. Cashman generally doesn’t conduct his trade talks in the media. But I wouldn’t pull the trigger on a trade for Nunez until I was 100% sure of the makeup of the infield and like I’ve already said I think that’s in flux right now.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        The issue, of course is that if Nunez can’t find an infield position on the already defensively challenged Yankees, what team could he interest?

      • uyf1950 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        @ spudchukar, a couple of days back I believe you referred to me a “Karnak”. About you question above, I have no clue, the only thing I seem to be able to recall was a while back I believe the Braves expressed some interest in him. Whether or not it was real or still exist I couldn’t tell you. And that’s the God’s honest truth.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:46 PM

        It wasn’t you I was referring to. It was 18thStreet, who was touting his call of ???. One of those times when all the reply buttons were used.

        What I meant, but didn’t explain in depth, is that Nunez by himself probably cannot help the Yankees fill needs in their rotation or bull pen, but would have to be part of a package if he cannot be counted on to hold down an infield position due to his defensive acumen.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        No matter what, the Yankees have to have another outfielder. Counting on Soriano/Johnson/Sizemore as a 4th outfielder would be disastrous. My guess is Ichiro is kept.

        The Yanks have plenty of AAAA OF stashed in the minors that can replace Ichiro’s [non]production. However, there is a 25 man roster crunch.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        My thinking is more about defense, and defensive replacement. Ichiro is still a good outfielder who can play center if necessary, although so can Gardner. But Beltran is going to need spelling, particularly in late innings, and while Rochester is fairly close, it is tough to get to the Bronx between innings.

        And who knows maybe Ichiro can regain some offense. About as good a bet as any of those AAAA guys.

      • cackalackyank - Jan 13, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        I’m thinking that 2 of the 6 guys you mentioned are probably not coming north in April. It is an absolute fact that Teixeira is NOT going to play 162 games in the field so it is not a question of wanting a complementary player to back him up, its a fact of having to have one. I see 2 catchers, 5 of/dh, 5 starters, 7 relievers, and 6 inf being on the 25 man roster. Keep in mind that Jeter, Teixeira, and McCann figure to get DH at bats.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        It is hard for me to see how some combination of Ryan, Johnson, Jeter, Roberts, Texeira, somebody else for first, and either Nunez/Sizemore, won’t be necessary. If the unidentified first base option is also capable of handling at least third, then maybe the Yanks get by with just 6 infield options, but if not then they will be forced to carry 11 pitchers, and 7 infielders.

  5. sdelmonte - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Hey, are we actually talking about what will be happening on the field? Oh thank goodness.

    • Old Gator - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Good grief, we are! Well, we’ll nip that one in the bud toot sweet!

      So, when do you think Brian Cashman is going to go on 60 Minutes to respond to A-Roid’s inevitable accusations about him and Carmen Diaz?

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Kind of hard to talk about things on the field when no one is playing any games.

  6. spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Kelly Johnson has played more games in the Majors at 3B, than in the minors. True that he played a couple of seasons as a SS in the minors, but not significantly in over 10 years. The Rays weren’t satisfied with his infield play and relegated him to corner outfielder.

    And the notion that today’s Kelly Johnson is an upgrade offensively over Eduardo Nunez is debatable.

    Johnson 2011-.222/.304/.717, 2012-.225/.313/.678, 2013-.235/.305/.715
    Nunez 2011- .265/.313/.698, 2012-.292/.330/.723, 2013-.260/.307/.679

    • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      He’s only better for hitting HRs. But if you add the defensive value where Johnson is average or almost average and Nunez is god awful (even though I rooted for him because he does hit well) Johnson is an obvious upgrade all around. Nunez bobbles and drops and over throws the ball constantly and he’s terrifying watching go for a grounder. Johnson will be OK at third and still have some pop in the bottom of the line up so I agree it’s his job to lose.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        You “hope” Johnson will be OK at third, and a corner infielder with a sub-.700 OPS is problematic. Nunez certainly has defensive woes, but if Nunez is so poor defensively, then he becomes merely a deficient DH and pinch-hitter, and shouldn’t be retained. Might as well have kept a cheaper Wells.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        And God no on the Wells part…from mid May till the end of the season Wells batted 199 with one HR. He was atrocious

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        It’s not that they want a sub 700. OPS Infielder with average defense. It’s simply that the Yankees don’t have much more options then Johnson who has some pop. Or Nunez who is a defensive liability. That simple

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        What is simple is that if you leave yourself lousy options you aren’t very prescient and you aren’t going to beat your opposition more than they beat you.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        You “hope” Johnson will be OK at third, and a corner infielder with a sub-.700 OPS is problematic

        He has over 1000 games played with a .765 OPS. Why do you keep saying he’s a sub .700 OPS corner infielder?

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        It started with the last 3 years comparisons to Nunez. Agree he was an above .700 OPS career hitter but not in the past three years, and that is where I believe he is trending.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Also, I could see the Yanks platooning Johnson and Sizemore, but then the 25-man roster issue arises, and it leaves Tex as the lone first baseman with any experience. Mostly, I was trying to accent the box the Yanks are in with their infield choices.

    • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      I’m not “hoping” I’m merely making an assumption. Nunez is a defensive liability and would fit perfectly as a DH except he doesn’t have alot of pop. Yankees have kept him around trying to improve his defense but by now it’s a lost cause. So yes I think it’s Johnsons job to lose

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        Why would anybody want a sub-.700 OPS, corner infielder, who is average at best defensively?

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        @ church. I think because he really wants to sell his point lol

  7. oldschoolnflman - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    What’s betancourt doing? He would love to get 400+ abs as a yanks 3b.

  8. holleywood9 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Bring in big dean Anna!!!!!

  9. ctony1216 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    I think the Yankees are also interested in Mark Reynolds, who could platoon with Johnson at third, and back up Teixeira at first. Nunez has minor league options, and the Yankees may keep him there as insurance. I actually like Nunez but he doesn’t have the offensive pop a corner infielder should have. That’s why I think he’ll end up in the minors, as insurance if Jeter or some other infielder gets hurt.

    Dark horse for 3b: Ronnier Mustelier, the Cuban defector. He plays bad D, and had a bad year offensively last year due to injuries. But he has some pop in his bat too.

    • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      If Sizemore makes the club they do not have room for another position player.

      • 18thstreet - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        I don’t expect the Yankees to be any different, but there would be room on the position-player portion of the roster if the Yankees (like all other teams) didn’t carry SO MANY relievers. I don’t get it at all. I’m not a doctor or anything, but I believe there’s no reason why almost every reliever couldn’t pitch two out of every three days and occasionally three out of four.

        Teams, I believe, would also be well served to have a position player who is capable of throwing an inning in blowout games to save the relievers for another day. A LOT of these guys pitched in high school and probably are capable of going one inning and giving up one run. Probably once a week, every team either wins or loses a game by seven runs — send in the utility infielder.

        And in exchange, you’d be able to carry a pure pinch runner or an extra hitter who can only handle left-handed pitching. It seems like a bigger advantage than the platoon splits some of these pitchers carry. I guess I’m confused why everyone carries such enormous bullpens.

  10. uyf1950 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Guys lets step back from counting the assumed infield players on the Yankees 25 man roster at this point. Because as of today the ONLY players on the roster that play the infield and are pretty much guaranteed a spot on the 25 man roster are:
    Jeter: because he’s Jeter
    Tex: because he’s still one of the best defensively at his position in the league and the Yankees owe him a bunch of money through 2016.
    Ryan: because defensively he’s 2 times the player Jeter is and he’s to a 2 year deal.
    That’s probably the extent of the players anyone can say are guaranteed a spot on the 25 man roster that play the infield.
    Everyone else is either signed for “chump change” or has minor league option(s) left and can be replaced if or weeded out if there is a better option. Guys like:
    Johnson: signed to a one year deal for $3MM
    Roberts: signed to a one year deal for $2MM guaranteed
    Nunez: has a minor league option left
    Sizemore: signed to a minor league deal
    I think we all know the Yankees aren’t going to carry 7 infielders on their 25 man roster. Probably at least 2 of these guys won’t break camp with the Yankees on March 31. My guess is Nunez goes to Triple A and the other is either Roberts who can be released for a minimal cost of $2MM OR Sizemore depending on his health will be sent to the minors at least until May 1st when he has his first opt-out option that he can exercise, his second and final opt-out comes on Aug.1st.

    • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      Agreed it’s still too early to jump the gun on who’s playing where

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        My comments are meant to illuminate the current issues for the Yanks. It is what the Hot Stove League is all about. Of course, no teams’ existing roster is permanent. But suggesting areas of concern and possible solutions, is what makes the off-season tolerable. Unless, you prefer HOF, PED, and PMS.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        I also agree with spud. But I will say I enjoy the hot stove season. It’s fun seeing where free agents sign and every team or atleast most have a good amount of hope for contending. It’s a time where a fan can dream of their team winning 100 games their favorite players hitting 300 or getting 20 wins. It’s a beautiful time for alot of fans I must say.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        @ spudchukar my friend I agree with you almost 100%. I would just amend the beginning of your comment by saying, your comment(s) are meant to illuminate “what you believe” the current issues for the Yankees to be. Just like others can comment/reply on what they believe are non issues with 11 weeks to go until the regular season begins.

        I just think sometimes we all tend to make mountain out of molehills, myself included. BTW, I agree I’ve read far to much about HOF, PED’s and a bunch of other acronyms. Time to move on from those topics.

    • chip56 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      My guess on the position players:

      C – McCann
      1b – Tex
      2b – Roberts
      3b – Johnson
      SS – Jeter
      LF – Gardner
      CF – Ellsbury
      RF – Beltran
      DH – Soriano

      Bench: Ryan, Cervelli, Sizemore, Ichiro

      That said, they could deal Ichiro and put Nunez on the bench or someone with a little more pop (Mark Reynolds, a minor leaguer like Ronnier Mustellier). Johnson can play the OF corners as can Soriano and Gardner can back up at CF so in theory they don’t need a fourth OF on the bench.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        No way the Yanks don’t either acquire a 4th outfielder or keep Ichiro, they aren’t foolish enough to rely on a Soriano/Johnson/Sizemore outfield alternative.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        I wonder why no one’s talked about Overbay atleast try and give him a minor league deal he can be a back up for tex if he’s not ready to go in april. Ryan can cover 2nd S’S and 3rd since Johnson can do the same. So that leaves sizemore out in my book.

      • chip56 - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        Likely it’s because when you have a 4 person bench you need versatility that Overbay can’t provide.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        Ryan has great range, but expecting him to hold down SS, and 2nd, and 3rd is a bit much even for him.

        Michael Young still makes the most sense to me. Adding him and dumping Nunez would give a right-handed alternative to both Tex and Johnson. The one thing that Young offers that the Yankees are most deficient in is durability. Having a guy who always answers the bell would be especially desirable for the Bombers.

      • chip56 - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        I was a big fan of Young, but he’s not a good player any more. His hitting is diminished and he’s become a fielding liability. So yes, he could be on the field every day, but would you really want him there?

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Oh Jesus nothing against you spud but Micheal young as an option. Scares me…(throws salt behind shoulder) I rather take Nunez if That’s the choice. And though I do think it’s alot to ask for, being a super utility is helpful and we also have Johnson as another “super utility” if need be. Overbay is a solid back up with good D. And some pop but I’m biased. Since I’ve always liked overbay.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        But nobody believes Nunez is capable defensively, at least that is what I read here. Plus Young has first base experience and even a fully recovered Tex cannot play there everyday.

        Maybe a Nunez/Johnson/Sizemore rotation at third, and a Jeter/Ryan combo at SS, and a Nunez/Roberts/Sizemore trio at second would work, assuming Sizemore/Nunez/Johnson acquire a first baseman’s mitt early in Spring Training.

        But no matter what “infield” isn’t going to be an asset, regardless of the combination.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:51 PM

        @Spud. True young can spell Tex. at first and also true Nunez isn’t a strong defensive candidate but Young is one of the worst defensive liabilities out there and this is coming from a long time Young supporter. If overbay won’t get a look at again then I’m with you at signing Young and letting him spell first whenever tex needs a breather. Though at that point we will have a very shaky infield which is something I don’t look forward too.

  11. chip56 - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Place holder until the inevitable Chase Headley deal

  12. greymares - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    this may be the worst fielding team in all of baseball how many 10-8 games can they win ?

    • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      I don’t think it’s the worst out there. Tex is one of the better defensive 1st basemen. Ryan is an above average defensive SS. Roberts Adds good D ass well and Johnson is about average on the diamond. Jeter is really the only liability and who knows how much he will be at Short this year. Throw in that the outfield consist of Gardner and Elsbury with a back up of Ichiro who still runs well and has a decent arm I don’t really see alot of 10-8 finishes. So To say the worst his a big jump.

      • spudchukar - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        Sure, but those days when it is Jeter, Nunez, and Johnson, my hope is a sinker baller isn’t starting. And those days Gardner, Elsbury, Ichiro, Ryan, Roberts, and Cervelli, 8-10 runs is going to be a reach.

    • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Lmao agreed with cerveli, Ichiro, Ryan, and Roberts offense is not gonna come big. But good D will help that day. I Also hope not to see alot of Nunez and Jeter team up. That will be rough

  13. pisano - Jan 13, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    The last sentence of this blog kinda of says it all : ” but Johnson is better than Eduardo Nunez ” Ray Charles in his present state is better than Nunez at fielding.

  14. braxtonrob - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me just how THIN the Yankees infield really is.

    NONE of these 2B/3B options can get on base, and their fielding is suspect.

    They don’t even look like a playoff team. Real smart letting Cano go (lol), idiots.

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