In 2016, ten different players started at least one game as the designated hitter for the Yankees. The position was Alex Rodriguez's to hold down in 2015, but in 2014 it was more of the same as sixteen players started at least one game there. That number was fourteen in 2013, fifteen in 2012, and ... well ... you get the point. Joe Girardi likes to use the designated hitter slot as a rotating means to give players a "half day," of sorts, which often leads to interesting machinations. That was not the case in 2015, due to Rodriguez's awesomeness, and it appeared as though it would not be the case in 2017 with Brian McCann in tow.
It is difficult to argue that Girardi has been right or wrong in his management of the position (particularly given the way that the rosters have been composed), but having a steady presence there, in the form of a player capable of playing regularly, would work wonders for a paltry offense. An offense that, as E.J. pointed out in last night's podcast, has become very right-handed. With Greg Bird still working his way back from shoulder surgery, the team's best left-handed power hitter may well be Didi Gregorius. I love Sir Didi as much as anyone, but that's not good.
With that in mind, and with an extra $11.5 MM trimmed from the books for next year, the team should splurge on a designated hitter. Ideally, he would be a left-handed or switch hitter with a bit of positional flexibility (lest we forget that Bird may be the team's DH, given his shoulder injury). And, thankfully, there are plenty of solid options available - none of which are dragged down by a qualifying offer. Working in alphabetical order (2016 numbers in parentheses):
Pedro Alvarez (.249/.322/.504, 22 HR, 117 wRC+ in 376 PA)
Alvarez is generally considered a disappointment, given that he was the second overall pick in 2008 - but he has been a fairly consistent (if limited) player throughout his career, with prodigious power. He's a career .246/.321/.480 hitter (118 wRC+) against RHP, and can fake it at first base if needed (though he's definitely the worst defensive player on this list, and one of the worst in the Majors).
Carlos Beltran (.295/.337/.513, 29 HR, 124 wRC+ in 593 PA)
Do I really need to write about Beltran? His numbers tailed off a bit with the Rangers, but he still managed a 103 wRC+ with his new team, including a full return to form in September, when he hit .309/.363/.511.
Matt Holliday (.246/.322/.461, 20 HR, 109 wRC+ in 426 PA)
You'll undoubtedly note that Holliday is not a left-handed hitter - but I have to include him, if only because I wanted the Yankees to sign him this time seven years ago. The 36-year-old had virtually no platoon split this year (107 wRC+ vs. LHP, 109 vs. RHP), which has been the case throughout his career. And he garnered praise for learning first base on the fly last year, to boot.
Matt Joyce (.242/.403/.463, 13 HR, 137 wRC+ in 293 PA)
Joyce has made a career of being a platoon outfielder, boasting an overall slash line of .252/.353/.449 (123 wRC+) against RHP, and an atrocious 62 wRC+ against LHP. His defensive numbers cratered this season, but he was regarded as a passable corner outfielder in the past.
Adam Lind (.239/.286/.431, 20 HR, 92 wRC+ in 430 PA)
Lind is coming off of what may be the worst full season of his career, so this may be something of a buy-low opportunity. He was a quality starting 1B as recently as 2015, and is a career .287/.347/.502 hitter (126 wRC+) against RHP.
Mitch Moreland (.233/.298/.422, 22 HR, 87 wRC+ in 503 PA)
Moreland is an excellent defensive first baseman, and has a bit of experience in the outfield (where he is essentially the opposite of excellent). He has had an up and down career as a hitter, posting wRC+ totals of 95, 78, 117, and 87 over the last four years, but he's been steadier against RHP (with a career 105 wRC+ against them for his career).
Brandon Moss (.225/.300/.484, 28 HR, 105 wRC+ in 464 PA)
Moss may have the most positional flexibility of the group thus far, as a not unplayable first baseman and corner outfielder. He's a career .240/.318/.472 hitter (114 wRC+) against righties, and is just about league-average against lefties (96 wRC+). Last year's numbers are a bit deceiving, as he was batting a robust .261/.333/.562 (134 wRC+) prior to playing through an injury in September.
Chase Utley (.252/.319/.396, 14 HR, 97 wRC+ in 565 PA)
Utley is not the hitter that he once was, but he still managed a rock solid .273/.343/.425 (111 wRC+) against RHP last year. He remains an above-average defender at second, and can also play first base in a pinch. He doesn't have the power that one wants from the DH slot, but he could be reinvigorated by a hitter's park and less stress on his body.
Luis Valbuena (.260/.357/.459, 13 HR, 123 wRC+ in 342 PA)
I wrote a fair bit Valbuena last week, and he's an even more attractive option now that the Yankees have a vacancy at DH.
While none of these players is likely to be a genuine middle of the order presence, all nine offer something of value to a team that is sorely lacking a LHH presence. Alvarez, Joyce, Lind, Moreland, Moss, and Valbuena could all be penciled in as the starting DH against RHP, at the very least, and Beltran and Holliday could fill the role against all comers. Even if I'm being too bullish about a few of these gentlemen, it's clear that there are plenty of options available to the Yankees.