Yankees face a decision with Brandon Laird
TRENTON – With seven years and $174 million left on the record-setting contract Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees in 2007, it is fairly safe to say that unless Derek Jeter retires and A-Rod moves back to shortstop, Brandon Laird will never be the every day third baseman in the Bronx.
However, the Yankees will need to protect Laird on the 40-man roster following this season or risk exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft in December.
The July 31 trade deadline also will be here before long, and Laird is creating plenty of value for both himself and the Yankees.
With Rodriguez locked in through 2017, a change of scenery may not be such a bad thing.
“I think about it,’’ said Laird, who became just the second Thunder player to hit for the cycle Wednesday after his walk-off, two-run home run gave Trenton a come-from-behind, 7-6 victory.
“Whatever happens is going to be a good thing. If they protect me, that will be awesome. If they don’t, there is nothing I can do about it. As long as I get a chance to play in the major leagues that’s really my only concern. It’s all up to them. I am not trying to worry about any of that right now. When the time comes I will. Right now, I am just going to keep playing ball and hopefully keep driving in runs.’’
Because the Yankees have Rodriguez, they could afford to focus their energy elsewhere in the draft and, subsequently, at other positions in the minor leagues.
That has been painfully obvious at Double-A, as the parent club has sent Trenton the likes of Bryan Myrow, J.T. Stotts, first-round bust Eric Duncan, Kevin Howard, Marcos Vechionacci and the immortal Aarom Baldiris since 2003.
Laird went 4-for-5 Wednesday to lift his batting average to a season-high .305 and missed another home run by just a few feet in his first at bat when he flied out to the wall in straightaway center field.
Incredibly, Laird managed to trump the night enjoyed by Erie center fielder Wilkin Ramirez, who cracked three home runs to mark another Waterfront Park first.
“It hit me when I jumped on home plate after hitting the home run,’’ Laird said. “I was excited we won the game, and then I realized I had just hit for the cycle. I called my Dad right after the game and was getting text messages all night. It was a great feeling and very exciting.’’
Shawn Garrett is the only other Trenton player to hit a single, double, triple and a home run in the same game, accomplishing the feat on April 28, 2007 at Harrisburg.
Strangely, the popular Garrett was released by the Yankees a short time later.
That will not happen with the 22-year-old Laird, a 27th round draft pick whose 43 RBIs entering last night’s series finale led all EL hitters.
The all-star first half had by Laird has kept him on the Yankees’ radar after first opening the eyes of manager Joe Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long during spring training.
Laird hit .267 in 13 games and remained with the big club until the final week of camp before being reassigned to the minors.
“I was there a lot longer than I thought and they were impressed by how I played,’’ Laird said. “I swung the bat well, but they said they were more impressed with my defense. I knew my bat would be there, so I just focused on playing a good third base; just showing them what I can do and putting it in their head that whether it’s this year or some time in the future I can play in the big leagues.’’