COMMENTARY | Brian Cashman likes home runs … a lot.
And apparently the New York Yankees general manager is worried about where the power is going to come from next season.
"I know a lot of people have told me they think home runs are bad," Cashman told the New York Post's Dan Martin on Thursday. "I'm not one of them. Well, those people are going to get a chance to see what it looks like."
The Yankees set a franchise record in 2012 with 245 home runs en route to finishing second in the American League with 804 runs scored, four behind the 808 tallied by the Texas Rangers.
But Nick Swisher and his 24 home runs have gone to the Cleveland Indians. Russell Martin's 21 home runs left for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 19 home runs from Raul Ibanez are now with the Seattle Mariners. Andruw Jones went international with the 14 home runs he contributed last season, signing a deal to play in Japan.
That's 78 homers that won't be-to paraphrase former Boston Celtics boss Rick Pitino-walking through that door when the Yankees report for spring training next month in Tampa, Fla. Put another way, it's 32 percent of the total from a year ago.
Alex Rodriguez missed 40 games with injuries a year ago and hit just 18 home runs, the second-lowest total of his career.
Rodriguez is scheduled to undergo hip surgery sometime this month, but the Post reported Thursday that the procedure won't be performed until the middle of January at the earliest. Cashman had nary a guess as to a timetable for the slugger's return.
That's not to say all is lost on the long-ball front. Mark Teixeira hit just 24 homers last season, the lowest total of his career, but missed 39 games due to ailments ranging from a chronic cough to a sore wrist to an injured calf. If he's healthy, Teixeira should be able to produce more along the lines of the 37 homers he averaged in his first three years in the Bronx.
Kevin Youkilis is the likely fill-in for Rodriguez at third base and actually outslugged Rodriguez last season, 19-18.
And, heck, if Curtis Granderson's career continues on the path it's been on the past couple of years, he might threaten the 60-homer mark … provided Cashman is willing to live with 250 strikeouts and a .185 batting average.
That's only partially in jest.
One factor to consider is that even though Ichiro Suzuki-penciled in to replace Swisher in right field-doesn't have Swisher's power, he did hit homers at a much more prodigious clip once he came to Yankee Stadium.
Five of the nine home runs Suzuki hit in 2012 came after he donned pinstripes in late July and came in nearly 180 fewer plate appearances than he had with the Seattle Mariners. Projecting that out over a full season (using the average of 727 plate appearances he's accumulated in his career), that would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 long balls for Suzuki.
That would match the career high he set in 2005.
"I do believe power is big in an offense and we lost a lot of home runs, but our pitching is stronger," Cashman said. "You play in a certain sandbox and that sandbox isn't producing a lot of choices right now for power guys."
The Yankees added outfielder Matt Diaz on a minor-league contract late last month. Diaz is a guy who has traditionally demolished left-handed pitching, but struggled with a wrist injury the last two seasons.
New York is still interested in free agent Scott Hairston, as well, but there are several other clubs in the market for Hairston, one of the only right-handed hitting outfielders left on the market.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now a freelance sports journalist and commentator based in Upper Michigan.