Eric Chavez agreed to a minor-league contract with the Yankees last week and today the deal (and its details) became official.
Chavez will get $1.5 million if he makes the team out of spring training and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he can opt out of the contract and become a free agent again if he’s not added to the roster by March 26.
If he does make the team, Chavez can then earn an additional $4 million in bonuses based on playing time and days spent on the roster, which is basically a way for the Yankees to avoid paying the oft-injured infielder if he’s on the disabled list.
Even if Chavez is healthy he won’t play much for the Yankees with Alex Rodriguez at third base and Mark Teixeira at first base, so while the contract is worth up to $5.5 million that’s sort of like saying a lottery ticket is worth up to $100 million. On the other hand, even the $1.5 million he’d get for making the Opening Day roster is a significant chunk of change for a guy who hasn’t been healthy and productive since 2007, so he’ll definitely have to prove he’s worth keeping prior to March 26.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.