With shortstop Derek Jeter turning 37 and third baseman Alex Rodriguez 36 this season, the Yankees might need their utility infielders more than most clubs.
By signing third baseman Eric Chavez and infielder Ron Belliard to minor-league contracts, the team is trying to create a spirited competition for its two utility jobs.
Six players are in the mix for those positions – Ramiro Pena, the incumbent backup shortstop; Eduardo Nunez, Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo, all of whom are products of the Yankees’ farm system; plus Chavez and Belliard.
Pena and Nunez are the only members of the group who play shortstop, so at least one of them figures to make the club. The others will compete for a corner-infield spot and serve as the primary backup to Rodriguez at third base.
Chavez, 33, appeared in only 64 games for the A’s the past three seasons due to a variety of injuries. Belliard, 35, spent last season with the Dodgers, batting only .216/.295/.327 in 185 plate appearances.
Nunez, 23, could ultimately become a super-utility man; he also played second and third last season, and the Yankees experimented with him in the outfield in the Instructional League.
Laird, 23, hit 25 home runs in the minors last season, but has only 122 at-bats above Class AA. Russo, 25, appeared in 31 games with the Yankees last season, batting only .184/.245/.224.
— Ken Rosenthal