Yankees GM Brian Cashman was willing to use Brian McCann as the club's full-time designated hitter if it came to it. But a deal came along that the Yankees and McCann did not want to pass up, leaving a fairly large void to fill. Fortunately for Cashman, he can sort through a multitude of options that sit on what will be a buyers' market, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
A reunion with the 40-year-old switch-hitter is certainly an option. Beltran was traded to the Texas Rangers for prospects including Dillon Tate, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 First Year Player Draft, before last season's trade deadline.
After two seasons serving primarily as the Yankees' right fielder, Beltran was thrust into the DH role as Alex Rodriguez deteriorated at the plate. Beltran acclimated to the role quite well, posting an .838 OPS as the Yankees and Rangers' DH across 314 plate appearances. The Yankees were keen on Beltran handling DH duties as his defense has been failing since signing with New York before the 2014 season. He finished the 2016 season with 29 home runs, 93 RBI and an .850 OPS.
The Yankees are in need of left-handed pop and Beltran continues to prove he has enough in the tank to provide it. They could certainly use Beltran's presence in the clubhouse, especially to aid youngsters Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin in the outfield and anyone who wants to learn thr fine art of hitting.
While Beltran has lost a step, he knows how to play the field, which makes him an asset to inexperienced major leaguers. Of course, he can help any hitter who wants to learn from a player who has cranked 421 home runs and owns a .845 career OPS.
Another plus for the Yankees is Beltran will not cost them much in terms of salary or years. Beltran likely wants to take things year by year, making a one-year deal in the $15 million range an affordable option. He was not tagged with a qualifying offer because he was traded during the season, so any team that signs him won't have to surrender a draft pick.
The one word of caution I would have for the Yankees is that Beltran cannot be an option to play in the outfield no matter how badly things get. While the investment in terms of salary might not be extreme, the Yankees would need to keep Beltran healthy and put him in the best situation to contribute, which means no time in the outfield.
Encarnacion is the top power hitter on the free agent market, but with that comes a large investment in salary, years and the loss of a draft pick as he was tagged with a qualifying offer. The latest report from FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman stated that the Toronto Blue Jays had offered Encarnacion a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $80 million.
This means that a contract for the soon to be 34-year-old could finish in his age-38 season for about nine figures. Even if Encarnacion, a right-handed hitter, could be persuaded to take a four-year deal for a higher average annual salary, the allure might not be enough for a Yankees squad that is not considered a major threat in 2017.
Encarnacion might remain a magnificent power source in the first two seasons of his next contract, but what happens in his age-36 season and beyond is less certain.
Encarnacion does have the ability to play first base, something that might spur the Yankees' curiosity, with Greg Bird and Austin set to battle for the role full-time or to create a platoon. The Yankees would surely prefer to receive contributions from their young players, but having Encarnacion as an insurance policy is something the club has to consider when making their decision.
Napoli, 35, signed a team-friendly one-year deal in 2016 and surprised many with a 34 home run season. He profiles mostly as a DH, but he too can play some first base.
Napoli's potential salary and commitment (think two years, $26-to-30 million) will be much less than Encarnacion's due in part to the seasons that preceded his career-year in 2016. It would not be shocking for Napoli to fall back offensively and there is no reason to put much stock in gaining any versatility from him as a fielder for extended periods.
Napoli would be a nice addition to the clubhouse as he is recognized throughout the game as a good teammate. Another positive for Napoli's case is that he does not have a qualifying offer attached to signing him.
There are some other choices available -- Brandon Moss, Pedro Alvarez and Matt Holliday to name a few -- who might be able to be signed for one-year deals much less than even Beltran's. However, the anticipated production that comes with them seems limited.
Moss, 33, can play the corner outfield spots and first base, while Alvarez, who turns 30 years old in January, is not a viable first base option in my opinion. More importantly to the DH role, each is best suited to hit against right-handed pitchers only. I do not believe the Yankees want a platoon situation in the DH role and that's what it would become with Moss or Alvarez.
Concerning Holliday, who turns 37 years old in January, he has had a difficult time staying on the field, which makes him an interesting designated hitter candidate. The right-hander hitter has been productive when on the field (107 OPS+ in 426 plate appearances in 2016), but he has played just 183 games over the last two seasons. The cost would be small, but the bust factor, simply based on Holliday's health, is high.
I strike down the Encarnacion possibility straight out because of the contract he is seeking combined with his advancing age. Such a signing would be a complete reversal from the way the Yankees have handled their business of late, so it makes little sense to me as a long-term option. Things could get interesting if the term drops to three years, but I do not see that happening.
Napoli, Moss, Alvarez and Holliday are question marks for me as initial pursuits. I do not fully buy into Napoli's resurgence. Moss and Alvarez would have to be part of a platoon in my opinion, which limits their value. I would not want to invest in Holliday considering the recent injury history. I see these players as fallback options.
I view Beltran as the best fit. He hits well from both sides of the plate and fills a gap in the middle of the lineup. Beltran can begin the season as the player most likely to hit behind Gary Sanchez to ensure the slugger sees as many good pitches as possible.
The familiarity with the club and the impact Beltran can have on some of the younger players cannot be understated. So long as the Yankees keep him in the DH spot, a one-year deal can aid a club still in transition.