Earlier in the week, the Yankees acquired outfielder Justin Maxwell from the Washington Nationals in exchange for minor league righty Adam Olbrychowski.  Just yesterday, the team signed veterans Ronnie Belliard and Eric Chavez to minor league deals with invitations to spring training. 

Now that GM Brian Cashman is likely done bringing in possible bench options, I’ll predict how helpful each of the aforementioned players can be to the Yankees in 2011.

Maxwell is a very, very big boy.  He’s listed at 6’5” and 235 pounds, but he may very well be a little bigger.  He’s always been considered a superior athlete, and that athleticism could translate well into a reserve outfield spot on the Yankees.

Once a top prospect in the Nationals organization, Maxwell broke into the bigs in 2007 in grand fashion.  In his third pinch-hit appearance, just six days after being called up to the club for his debut, he smacked a grand slam off of an 0-2 pitch against the Florida Marlins.

The promising talent missed just about all of the 2008 season with a fractured wrist that he suffered while diving for a fly ball.

Most of Maxwell’s 2009 season was spent at AAA Syracuse, but he was called up late in the season to cover for the injured Nyjer Morgan.  The highlight of his 2009 season was a walk-off grand slam that he hit off of Francisco Rodriguez to give the Nationals the win on Fan Appreciation Day.

He again spent a significant amount of time in AAA Syracuse in 2010, but returned to the majors later in the season to hit yet another grand slam, this time off of the Braves’ Mike Minor.  That gave him three career grand slams in four at-bats with the bases loaded.

Maxwell is currently recovering from an October Tommy John surgery, but he’ll be given every opportunity to make the club out of spring training.  Who knows?  He might regain his top prospect form in the Bronx.

Infielder Ronnie Belliard has been a journeyman of sorts throughout his major league career.  He has had stints with the Brewers, Rockies, Indians, Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers. 

He has been very inconsistent throughout his career, and has always battled constant issues with his weight.  The one-year, $850,000 deal he signed with the Dodgers last January had a clause in it that Belliard could be given his official release if he failed to report to camp under 215 pounds.

Hopefully weight won’t be an issue this season with the Yankees.  Even if he comes into camp at 230 pounds, the Yankees won’t care as long as he produces.  Realistically, he’ll be battling with Eric Chavez for a bench spot this season.

Speaking of Chavez, he’s finally healthy.  Or, so he says.  It’s hard not to feel sympathy for this guy.  A lifetime Oakland Athletic up until yesterday, Chavez has battled his fair share of injuries throughout his career.

His most recent string of injuries began in 2008, when he hit the disabled list due to pack pain.  That same season, he found himself on the disabled list again with right shoulder inflammation.  In Jun. 2009 he was placed on the disabled list due to back pain, effectively ending his season.  Chavez played in just 33 games in 2010.

When healthy, Chavez was one of the best third basemen in the league.  He won six consecutive Gold Glove awards from 2001-2006 and he won a Silver Slugger award in 2002.

Chavez will be competing with Belliard, as well as Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez, for a reserve role this year for the Yankees.  Although both Pena and Nunez are superior fielders (at this point in his career, it’s hard to know the kind of defense you’ll get from Chavez), Belliard and Chavez are superior bats.

It should be interesting this spring to see who gets the call.  Chavez is only useful as a corner infielder, while Belliard can play all over the infield.  Pena and Nunez are best suited for up the middle, but they both can play third base as well.

The acquisitions of Maxwell, Belliard and Chavez could very well help the team this season, but we’ll have to wait and see as to what capacity they actually will.

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