Thursday, April 19, 2018

Yankees Sign Lind, Which Could Ultimately Benefit Walker Most

Adam Lind with Washington in 2017.

The Yankees signed 1B/OF Adam Lind to a minor league contract on Wednesday, the second time they have done so this season, as they brought him in for a couple weeks of spring training.

Lind was signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent on March 2 and released on March 14. In five spring games with the Yankees, he batted .200 (3-for-15) with 1 RBI and 1 walk.

On Thursday, Lind reported to the Yankees’ Player Development Complex in Tampa, Florida, for extended spring training.

The Yankees have always filled their lineup with left-handed hitters who have plate discipline, and Lind, 34, fits that mold, as he hit .303 (81-for-267) with 39 runs, 14 doubles, 14HR and 59 RBI, with 28 walks and just 47 strikeouts in 116 games last season. 

Lind made 30 starts at first base, 25 in left field and six as a designated hitter. In 48 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, he batted .356/.396/.644 (16-for-45) and tied for the Major League-lead with four pinch-hit home runs.

In his 12 years in the majors, which Lind spent most of with the Toronto Blue Jays, from 2006 until 2014, he has a career batting average of .272 and on-base percentage of .330, with 24 home runs and 87 RBI. 

The fact he was with the Jays for nine years and spent 2016 with Seattle, in which he had 20 home runs and 58 RBI, shows he's no stranger to the American League, so coming back to the East won't faze him.

The Yankees released Lind in mid-March when it looked like they would have depth at the first base position with Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, and Neil Walker able to jump over from second base when needed.

Instead, Bird was sidelined by a right ankle injury in the last week of spring training. On March 26, he had surgery and was ruled out for the next six to eight weeks, meaning he basically will be out until June.

So, the Yankees were left at first base with Austin, technically in his third season, with brief stints the past two years, with 12 games in 2016 and 20 in 2017; and Walker, who has largely played second base his whole career.

Austin has hit decently, with a .262 average, .354 on-base percentage, and .500 slugging percentage, with two home runs and seven RBIs.

Austin's defense has been an issue, including making an error in Tuesday night's 9-1 loss to Miami, and that might have necessitated the move to give Lind another shot.

Bringing in Lind could help Walker, who was signed by the Yankees on March 12, so he did not complete a full spring training with the team in Tampa. He spent the month before in the camp that the MLB Players Association held for unsigned players.

In addition to getting used to a new team and the American League (Walker spent his career with the Pirates, Mets, and Brewers), he has had to adjust to playing an entirely new position, first base, which is a challenge to those who haven't done it. Just ask Alex Rodriguez what it was like trying to play over there.

Walker has platooned with with Austin at first and rookie Tyler Wade at second.

A seven-year veteran, Walker has a .274 career average and is good for 15-25 home runs a year, as he had 23 with the Mets in 2016 and 14 last season with the Mets and Milwaukee.

In 13 games with the Yankees, Walker is hitting .173 with nine hits in 52 at-bats, with no home runs and three RBI, partly affected by having to focus on defense.

Walker has been desperate to get some going, so he has quick to make contact, so he has only drawn five walks so far, leaving his on-base percentage at ,246, which is 95 points below his career average of .341.

The hope for the Yankees is if they can get Lind in here within a week, or May 1 at the latest, he can take over first base, with Walker focusing on second full time.

The Yankees need those veterans to anchor the left side, as their slow start (8-8 through Tuesday) does not afford them the luxury to have at least two (maybe three) infield spots on a given night filled by Austin, Wade, and Miguel Andujar at third.

These are all talented prospects, but the Yankees entered this season with an anticipation that has made these games a lot more intense than other Aprils.

Part of that was that they came within one game of the World Series last season, and then when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton on December 9, coupled with the disappointing New York winter sport teams (only the New Jersey Devils made the playoffs), that really brought the 2018 Yankees season into a fever pitch from the second they arrived at spring training.

Lind is primarily a first baseman, but he also played 25 games in left field, so he can provide flexibility in the outfield when needed.

The Yankees should have held on to Lind in spring training, and they should be thankful for the fact that he was still available now, at a critical juncture in their season.

As much as Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, and Giancarlo Stanton will get the headlines, the Yankees have always won with guys like Adam Lind and Neil Walker.

No comments:

Post a Comment