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Yankees vs. ex-Yankees: Who has the edge?

Cleveland Indians outfielder Nick Swisher gestures as he

Cleveland Indians outfielder Nick Swisher gestures as he answers questions during a news conference in Cleveland. (Jan. 3, 2013) Credit: AP

The Yankees were faced with five key personnel decisions heading into the 2013 season. In each case they let the incumbent walk and replaced him via free agency or from within. Here’s a look at how, three weeks in, the decisions have worked out:

CATCHER: Russell Martin vs. “Stew-velli” (Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli)

Stewart and Cervelli have combined to hit .322 while sharing time behind the plate (about a 67-33 split in favor of Cervelli). The pairing has produced three home runs, 15 runs and eight RBIs. Cervelli had struck out six times and walked eight times while Stewart only has two strikeouts.

Martin has struggled in his new gig with Pittsburgh. He’s hitting just .216 with a .333 on-base percentage. While his hitting was an issue last season with New York, he always brought power to the table. He only has one home run so far this season, however, and has driven in just three runners.

Edge: Stew-velli

CLOSER: Rafael Soriano vs. Mariano Rivera

Rivera has been Rivera, which is to say “great,” saving five games with a 1.50 ERA in six appearances. Batters are hitting .217 against him and he has a 1.00 WHIP.

Soriano has struggled some as the Nationals’ new closer. He has a 4.50 ERA and six saves in seven opportunities. He’s already given up two home runs.

Edge: Rivera

RIGHT FIELD: Ichiro Suzuki vs. Nick Swisher

Ichiro has had a rough start to his season, hitting .200 with a .250 OBP. He has one home run, three RBIs and just four runs scored. He hasn’t stolen a base and has struck out (7) more than he’s walked (4).

Swisher took his talents to Cleveland and has been one of the few bright spots for the Indians so far. He’s batting .302 with a .413 OBP. He has two home runs, eight RBIs and 11 runs. Swisher’s already racked up 10 walks and is versatile enough to play right field and first base.

Edge: Swisher

DESIGNATED HITTER: Travis Hafner vs. Raul Ibanez

“Pronk” has come on in a big way for the Yankees. He’s batting .319 with a .418 OBP and .702 slugging percentage, which leads the team. Hafner has five home runs (tied for the team lead), 10 RBIs and 10 runs. He’s even slipped in a stolen base.

Ibanez was a playoff hero in New York, which made his exit to Seattle so painful. But some of that sting is eased by his pitiful performance early on. Ibanez is batting .174 with a .224 OBP and two home runs. He has five RBIs and five runs as part of an awful Mariners offense. He’s struck out (13) more than four times more than he’s walked (3).

Edge: Hafner

CORNER INFIELDER: Eric Chavez vs. Lyle Overbay

Overbay, a late spring pickup, has been a solid addition to the lineup, though he’s no replacement for Mark Teixeira. Overbay’s hitting .273 but with just a .298 OBP. He has two home runs and eight RBIs and has struck out 11 times.

Given the injury to Alex Rodriguez, it was an odd choice that the Yankees didn’t attempt to retain Chavez, particularly since he signed a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks for just $3 million. But he hasn’t done anything earth shattering in Arizona yet, hitting .222 with a .282 OBP and one home run. He’s versatile on defense, able to play both infield corners, but his bat hasn’t shown the pop that made him such a valuable Yankee in 2012.

Edge: Overbay

It’s still early and the small-sample-size tag applies to each of these cases, of course. But three weeks into the season, it looks like the Yankees made the right decision on four out of the five, with Swisher the only regrettable exit thus far.

New York Sports