The Yankees have been searching the trade market all season long for a veteran backup who can play third base so they could occasionally rest Alex Rodriguez. They even went as far as nearly making a deal with the Boston Red Sox for Mike Lowell.
However, it appears that it is possible, admittedly a longshot, that they already have a more than capable backup in their minor league system: Brandon Laird.
Laird, 22, is a minor league third base prospect who was recently promoted to Triple-A Scranton after spending most of 2010 with Double-A Trenton. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 27th round in the 2007 draft and up until this year he was a decent prospects, but he came with some question marks.
This season he has broken out. He had nearly as many RBI’s, 90, as games played, 107, at the Double-A level. He also hit .291 with a .878 OPS at that level. He’s only played in two games since his promotion, but he’s already taken to mashing Triple-A pitching. In two games he is 6-for-8 with 2 doubles and 2 home runs, good for a 2.500 OPS.
Obviously that is unsustainable, but if he can stay hot through August the Yankees will have a tough choice on their hands. Do they continue to stick with the defensively slick, but light hitting Ramiro Pena to backup A-Rod or do they call-up Laird even though it would be nearly a year premature.
One of the bigger factors that would keep the Yankees from making this move is the fact that Laird is not on the 40-man roster. This can be adjusted though, but the Yankees would risk losing one of their other minor leaguers currently on the 40-man. Chad Huffman or Greg Golson are a pair that they could risk though, so it could be done. Working in Laird’s favor is that he will have to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason anyways, or risk getting plucked in the Rule 5 draft. So they have to add him eventually.
Another problem in calling up Laird is that he’s not exactly ready. He’s actually come up through the system pretty quickly and only has 1490 minor league at bats so far. He certainly could use a full season at Triple-A before he gets called up. Like the 40-man roster, this is not necessarily a deal breaker though. He probably only becomes a viable callup option if he hits through August. By September the rosters are expanded and the minor league season ends. So Laird wouldn’t be losing at bats sitting on the Yankees bench and he could make a difference when it comes playoff time.
If he was called up, it likely wouldn’t be for good. In the most likely scenario he is called up when the rosters expand in September, play off the bench and hopefully contributes in the playoffs. Then next season he would start in the minors and probably end up playing there all season.
Some people will say that this is too early and usually I would agree. However we are only talking one month, September a month when the minor leaguers aren’t even playing (although they do have playoffs). The 40-man roster is an issue, but like I said, he has to get protected eventually and there are expendable players on the roster. The active roster won’t be an issue at all anyways as that will be expanded to 40 players in September anyways.
The only thing the Yankees have to lose is a month of service time and they could gain some big hits off the bench in the playoffs. To me it seems worth it, really the only reason this might not happen is because unlike Pena, Laird can’t play second or short, but Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are likely to play every inning in the playoffs anyways, A-Rod is the one we are worried about keeping rested.