More questions than answers in the outfield

TO THE MATS WITH READER MAIL

1: GODS AND GODDESES OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
I enjoy reading the Pinstriped Blog. An interesting thought came to
mind after the Teixeira signing, which I love. Who do you think is
the most powerful person in baseball — Bud Selig or Scott Boras?
Does Boras have too much influence on the game and should
something be done to limit his control of the game, like a limit on
 the number of players he can represent in general or each year?

gardner_250.jpgAlso, what are the best options for the Yankees in the outfield short
term and long term? If Cabrera and Gardner don’t perform well in center
field, how soon could we see [Austin] Jackson in there? Out of the
current candidates of Swisher, Nady, Cabrera, Gardner who has the
best arm (I leave off Damon and Matsui because I know they can’t
 throw)? Thanks, Jeff

Thank you for writing, Jeff. The “power” of Boras is generally overstated. He’s a very smart, very successful agent who does good things for his clients. He doesn’t negotiate media rights contracts or decide who gets to own the Chicago Cubs, though maybe he should. He does his job, which is to drive a hard bargain for his clients. What power he has derives exclusively from teams wanting to hire the people he represents. If they refuse to bargain with him, he’s pretty helpless, although they do pay a penalty for that in not getting hold of some very good players. Power seems to imply the ability to impose your will on others, and Boras needs complicit partners before he can even start talking. As for the outfield, I believe in Gardner’s ability to get on base. The question is if he will do it often enough to overcome his utter lack of power.

As for Jackson, don’t get too excited too soon. His indifferent Arizona Fall League performance and good-not-great performance at Double-A Trenton argues for some Triple-A seasoning before he gets a crack at a full-time job. I expect you’ll see a lot of him in Spring Training just so the Major League staff gets familiar with him, and if he does well at Scranton, an injury call-up during the year is a distinct possibility. The center field job would seem to be something for 2010.

2: SOMETIMES YOU JUST FALL OUT OF LOVE (THERE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A REASON)
Why is it that lots of Yankee fans don’t like Gardner in center? He’s  
very fast, an excellent defender and wasn’t half-bad with the bat in  
his second stint last year. Also, what happened to the Yankees’  
fondness of Xavier Nady? It seemed like when they got him, the  
organization really liked him. But now they’re thinking of trading  
him? Trading away a .305 AVG, 25 HR and 97 RBI from an offense that  
had trouble scoring runs last year? Does that even make sense? –Tucker

It makes a ton of sense, Tucker, because Nady isn’t really a .305 hitter. In his career, he’s been far closer to the hitter he cooled from his hot pinstriped start, a .268/.320/.474 hitter. As far as corner outfield production goes, it’s subpar. If Nick Swisher gets back on track this year, he’ll get on base much closer to 40 percent of the time and show comparable power. The value in Nady last season was that he was a huge in-season upgrade on Melky Cabrera, who he displaced from the lineup by allowing Johnny Damon to go back to center. That was a very nice move by Brian Cashman to staunch a bleeding wound, but Nady isn’t someone a championship team plans on starting.

The knock on Gardner is that he’s a banjo hitter, but as you point out he did a fine job in his second stint with the Yankees. He’s a fine defender and an excellent baserunner, and if he can get on base with any regularity, he can show that there are more ways to contribute than hitting home runs. His upside is far superior to that of Melky Cabrera, who has but one skill right now, hitting for average, and that skill was absent this season.

3: MORE ON THE THEME OF THE DAY
Steve- in your PB column of today, you indicate the Yankees should
keep Swisher and trade Nady. Certainly, last year’s  numbers would
scream for the opposite course of action. You seem to be thinking
that last year was an aberration for both players and that each will
return to their prior form. I would prefer the Yankees use a six-man
rotation of Matsui, Damon, Nady, Swisher, Melky and Gardner to
cover the DH and three outfield spots. Unless the a Nady trade yields
a significant prospect or an upgrade in center field, the only reason I
could see trading Nady and not going with this six man rotation is
financial. Do you agree?–Saul

Happy New Year, Saul. One problem I see right off the bat with the Six-for-One plan is that, assuming a staff of 12 pitchers, the Yankees aren’t going to be able to carry all those outfielders plus a reserve catcher and an extra infielder. Beyond that, it’s not necessarily the best application of resources. First, Cabrera is guilty until proven innocent. He was not a great Minor League hitter, and has yet to be even average in the Majors. His big skill is that he can throw. Last year he killed the Yankees, punished them very badly given what an even subpar center fielder would have done. Many among the readership are ready to forgive and forget, but it’s not clear that there’s a good reason to expect a great deal more. Unless Cabrera develops an unexpected ability to knock balls over the wall or suddenly becomes highly selective, he’s going to have to hit .300 to create any kind of offense. His Major League batting averages are, in order,.280, .273, and .249. Wake me when the movie’s over.

Matsui’s knees may anchor him to DH, and given what we’ve seen of his defense, that’s not a bad thing. Between offensive and defensive deficiencies, there’s no reason to ever play Cabrera, Gardner, or Damon in right field. Although every one of the players you list except for Nady has been a center fielder at some point in his life, only Cabrera and Gardner really have the ability to play the position at this point. Just to sort it all out, Nady would make a fine hedge against injury.  Using him to rotate Damon or Swisher out of the lineup against select pitchers or for general rest would be a great thing. There are three problems: first, Nady might not want to spend his season that way. Second, given that he just spent half a season batting .330, his value will never be higher. Third, he’s off to arbitration, so he’s about to get expensive for a bench piece.  Oh, and there’s a fourth thing: at the end of the year he leaves and the Yankees have to start all over again. If he brings a more youthful body who will be under team control for several years, the greater utility might be in sending him away.

AND ON THAT NOTE…
…I send myself away for New Year’s revelry. I wish each and every one of you a safe, happy, and loving new year, and I will look forward to seeing you in 2009. May it be a very good year for us all.

18 Comments

Milton Bradley>Hideki Matsui

Happy New Years Steven! Thanks for your insight. Even this Red Sox fan appreciates it!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

stevie my man,, you are a total nit-wit.. I think Nady is and was a big up-grade for the Yankees. If we trade anyone it should be Damon or Matsui. Damon probably has a better arm than you but it is still horrible. Have you ever played the game?? I don’t think so with a lot of your off the wall comments. You should go report on H.S. soccer, or badmittion. You may be able to comment on those. I cannot understand how and why the Yankees, and Yes page let’s you comment, go to and report on the Jack-*** movies as you can probably relate to them. Now get off the site, Dufus!!!!!!!!!!

I think the Yankees should trade Nady, Phil Coke, Matsui and Dan Giese, we would receive Ichiro. I believe this deal is worth it for many reasons. For one, with Ichiro, we have a great center fielder with great range and a great arm. I believe Nady was great last year, but he isn’t the type of player we saw of him last year. This is the right time to jump the gun. Also, Seattle is not going anywhere, and might want to unload Ichiro’s salary, Nady also only makes about 3 million this year. The Yankees still have a lot of money to use, I believe and signing Manny to DH could work. Our lineup would work as such. Ichiro, Jeter, Tex, A-Rod, Manny, Damon, Posada, Swisher and Cano.
Few last things. Damon can hit for power, as he hit 17 in the leadoff spot.

stevie my man,.. I think Nady is and was a big up-grade for the Yankees. If we trade anyone it should be Damon or Matsui. Damon probably has a better arm than you but it is still horrible. Have you ever played the game??
___

Damon and Matsui make $13 million in 2008 and are in their mid-30s, while Nady will probably make around $6 million and he is only 30. If you were the GM of another team, which player would you want? Thought so.

From the Yankees’ perspective, as they assemble a team of grinders, similar to the ’90s teams, Nady’s career OBP is .335, while Damon’s is .354 and Matsui’s .371. Since getting on base is the best way to score runs, they fit the Yankees’ offensive philosophy far more than Nady does.

Whether or not Steve has played the game, he is correct.

In 2009 the Yankees starting outfielders should be Damon in Left, Nady in Right, Swisher in Center, and Matsui as the DH. Switch Damon and Matsui around the DH and Left Field postions. I can live with Swisher in the lineup and in center for 1 year and then bring up Austin Jackson in 2010. If anybody needs a day off use Melky, Gardner, and Christian. There you go that solves the outfield situation and this outfield will help the Yankees win the world series.

o yeah one more think i forgot resign damon, nady and matsui so we arent stuck with the rookies

In light of the shortage of OF options in free agency in 2010 (which iis another reason to trade Nady for an OF prospect), Damon might be re-signed if he would accept a two year deal.

There is no chance that Matsui is going to be re-signed because he is basically a DH and that is where Posada will have to spend most of his time given his age.

Talent rookies are the lifeblood of any team. The Yankees need more of them.

re outfield logjam

i agree the yankees need to do a trade…let’s not forget the logjam in the bullpen (not counting the arms coming off the dl)
a. the yankees are in a great situation,they have quantity..maybe 2nd tier type players,but small market teams like the pirates and royals and maybe even the mariners and reds could use a boost to their bullpens or reserve outfield positions…
b. there is no guarentee that austin jackson is the real deal,
may i suggest getting *mclouth from the pirates…trade nady
back to them add 2 potential starters/long men…giese and robertson,throw in albaladejo add melky and maybe shelly duncan (did anyone remember him?) this creates an opening in right for swisher…dh spot is matsui’s with a possible rotation of damon,posada,and jeter…with ransom
being primary back up at first and 3rd..if jeter comes down with an injury,a-rod moves to ss and ransom takes over at third..
swisher can always be moved by trading deadline if any long term injuries develope to an outfielder/infielder..
let’s not forget jeter is no youngster 36 by end of 2009 season ? can we remember robin yount ?
all this is predicated on the assumption that :
teixeira is as great as his previous seasons atest to..
cano rebounds both defensively and offensively
jeter performs at least 40 % better than in 2008
a-rod get’s his head together..
posada recovers some strength in his throwing arm
matsui’s bat comes alive
damon stays in shape
gardner get’s on base…
nady/swisher cut down on their wild swings and make contact with the ball

as to pitching,there is concern
1. sabathia…overuse from past 2 years,let alone weight
(remember david wells)
2. a j burnett…injury prone
3. joba chamberlain…has not pitched a full season in the majors
4. wang is coming off a season cut short by injury
5. pettite/hughes…who ever gets the nod is either coming off a poor second half or a sub par season
6. ?…if giese is not used in a potential super star cf position
trade carry giese as a potential emergency starter..letting go of him could prove pivotal to the 2009 season (just a gut instinct)

* he maybe the missing piece,youth , power, good defensive cf’er some speed..major league resume…
pirates need a bit of everything..starting pitching,bullpen,outfield..reserve infield players…maybe some cash?
i’d hate to see a talented player go to waste in pittsburgh
at least 4-5 years to be wild card ready..depending on farm
system
let’s not forget…damon and matsui come off the books at end of 2009 season…
posada can always become full time dh in 2010 with two years remaining on his contract..maybe this is reason kevin cash was taken by the yankees in the off season..

2009 season

let’s not forget…all 5 starting pitchers are subject to breakdown..regardless of their contracts..i would consider
signing the brewer’s remaining free agent pitcher,ben sheets, to a minor league deal..although he too is injury prone
wether the yankees still have their former minor league
pitcher who was traded for chuck knoblock in the minors would be another emergency call up,although he hasn’t pitched in 2 1/2 years ?
let’s not forget the yankees love reclamation projects…though many have proven disappointing
take for example sidney ponson and the late ex phillies pitcher and latroy hawkins…etc…etc…

First of all, your math seems to be a bit off: 12 pitchers + 2 catchers + 5 infielders + 5 outfielders + 1 DH = 25-man roster. That’s what you’ll get with the 6-for-1 plan. Granted, having only one backup for 2B/SS/3B creates an exposure, as the OF/1B crew does not contain a Morgan Ensberg or Andy Phillips (or even a Gary Sheffield) who lists third base on his resume.

As for Melky, does his midsummer magic of his first two seasons count for anything?

July 2006: .313/.358/.475
August 2006: .311/.397/.453
June 2007: .298/.364/.447
July 2007: .368/.410/.528
August 2007: .306/.350/.468

Those are good numbers for a center fielder, and I’d take July 2007 in a corner OF spot as well (and he has the arm for RF). Granted, Melky’s 2008 disaster renders him “guilty until proven innocent,” but isn’t it highly unusual for a position player to peak at age 22?

I don’t disagree with your general thesis that the Yankees have the leverage right now to make a good trade, but there is no need to be impatient. If 4 of the 6 outfielders fulfill their potential in the first half, the trade-deadline possibilities could be amazing, e.g. Damon and a young pitcher for the 2011 starting shortstop.

let’s turn to 2010-2011 seasons
fingers crossed that 2009 was at least an ALC win if not a world series winning season..i would be content that the yankees at least got as far as the world series*(i do not see the phillies repeating)

left and right field are major question marks

derek jeter is 36 years old..what’s left?

did a rod overcome his 2008 psychological set backs

2010-2011 depend on 3 main areas…
healthy pitchers..with quality arms to support them in scranton if a call ups is necessary..

the right outfield re alignment…..at least 2 big bats are becessary…

catching….another question mark…is posada’s shoulder/throwing arm still intact after a 2009 season
molina has one year left ?….was kevin cash kept…?

did the yankees make the right moves in the 2008 off season and trading deadline in 2009 to make it work

realistically….the yankees have to pray a lot in 2009
that at least 4 of the five starting pitchers remain healthy
(2 of them named cc and a j…although i like their attitudes and make up..it’s their arm strength i am concerned about)

come to think about it….leftfield,rigtfield,shortstop and catcher (do i hear 2nd base being of concern)
*did robinson cano rebound in 2009?

more position player questins in 2010-2011 then ever before..
another question…
did the yankees make the correct decisions regarding outfield position players..

** get mcclouth at all costs….this would cover smaller pitfalls offensively in leftfield and rightfield
should austin jackson prove another melky type player..

another reason nick swisher should be kept on

Steve,

Why not sign someone like Mark Kotsay to play CF until Jackson is ready?

He can still hit a little and still play a good CF.

Hey guys, I was just wondering why the Yankees are even showing an ounce of interest in Andy Pettitte. I understand he has done good things for the organization and can pitch a big game, but I honestly believe that Andy has nothing left in the tank. Although we said this about Mike Mussina, who proved us all horribly wrong, what statistics imply that Pettitte has what it takes to be a successful contributor to the 2009 Yankees pitching staff ? I would much rather giving that money to Ben Sheets or Oliver Perez, two very good pitchers that have been proven to be better than Andy Pettitte at this current date and time.
From Danny in Queens

woah sorry that has nothing to do with the outfield situation … on the outfield situation, I believe that Pat Burrell in left field would be a large upgrade. He is a power hitting right handed bat, and he can take pitches. Remember, with the losses of Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi, the Yankees lost out on alot of walks and production. Abreu and Giambi made pitchers work, got on base, and now theres a large void. Burrell along with Tex takes care of this situation. I think our outfield should be : Burrell in left , Swisher/Damon in Center, and Nady in right. I understand that Damon cant throw or do much from the outfield, but you need his bat to be in the lineup. The DH spot is basically locked up by Hideki Matsui because of ailing knees. My Yankee 2009 lineup is as follows :
Damon , Jeter , Cano , Arod , Teixeira , Burrell , Matsui , Posada , Nady
Danny in Queens

to jjf0122……
very insightful comments…liked them to a point…
let’s not forget though that burell is a national league player..no guarentee he can hit against the elite red sox pitchers…moving damon to cf would be a nightmare…can you imagine how many hitters would hit balls to the cf area
in addition swisher had only a little bit of time at cf position dor the white sox…he is only a fall back plan…true he is young and major league tested….but at best swisher is a reserve first baseman/reserve corner outfielder…could be
dh if matsui used in a trade…
let’s look at cf realistically
with texeira in the fold…and nady and swisher probably in a battle for starting rf’er…the yankees could be ok with a platoon of melky and gardner…who knows melky might have a comeback..
ichiro is the best bet….trade matsui,nady,two minor league pitching prospects….hughes/kennedy..
good luck to all us yankee fans

Dear Steve:

I believe that out of Matsui, Swisher and Nady to be traded – I believe Swisher has got to go. I believe Nady will have better production for the future with the Yankees both this year and for the foreseeable future. I believe that Cashman Teixeira was not on their radar when they signed Swisher. I think Matsui will stay on the team because of marketing in Japan. Getting back to Swisher – he does not hit for average, he has some pop but just not a starter. Please keep Nady!!!! He will not disappoint!

Steve,
Should we jump at Michael young? Cano and some other prospects should be enough since he’s owed 60+ and I don’t see who else wants to take additional money now.
What do you think?

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