The Yankees have used an amazing 16 outfielders in Spring Training as they have sought to fill the hardest three spots on their roster. In the infield, we have merely been debating the bench spots. In the outfield, nothing is certain – an amazing situation for a team coming off a World Series win to find themselves in. In 2009, Melky Cabrera beat out Brett Gardner to fill the centrefield slot (despite opening the season as second choice). Leftfield went to Johnny Damon primarily because Hideki Matsui’s balky knees prevented him playing the outfield all year. Rightfield went to Nick Swisher who was the lightweight of the three but a good clubhouse presence. Now only Swisher remains.
Melky Cabrera will now work the outfield for Atlanta – gone in the trade that brought Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to New York. Johnny Damon made a hash of his free agent negotiations (can anybody spell B-O-R-A-S?) and has wound up in Detroit. In comes Curtis Granderson courtesy of a separate multi-team deal that moved him across for the Tigers.
Granderson can play either CF or LF and both remain a possibility. He is 29. Damon is 36. The sad news is that in batting average, slugging average and on-base percentage, Damon 2009 beats Granderson 2009 easily and the difference in home runs is only 6 (30-24 in Granderson’s favour). So Granderson has youth, a little more power (perhaps) and is a considerable upgrade in the field. But whether he plays centrefield or leftfield the gain is not huge.
Gardner is a step backwards. He is more of a threat on the base paths than Cabrera but the Yankees gain more than they lose.
Swisher is streaky and for all is good humour not the greatest player the Yankees could be counting on in rightfield.
The fact is that other than Granderson nothing in the Yankees outfield is certain beyond April and the back-up players are just not ready to step up should it all fall apart – as it did for Gardner in 2009.
The remaining 13 tryouts have been used trying to find something more but Spring Training has proved that it is thin on the ground.
Austin Krum, Abraham Almonte, Melky Mesa, Raymond Kruml, and Edwar Gonzalez can quickly be discounted as young players given a look at Spring Training for experience’s sake. However, the remaining 8 players were given more than the expected time at the plate as the Yankees problems in the outfield became more evident. Colin Curtis who spent some time in Scranton last year remained under scrutiny until the 21st of March. Reid Gorecki, a native New Yorker with some ML experience, was less successful at the plate but also given a long lingering look. Jon Weber and David Winfree were not reassigned until the 30th and Weber particularly performed very respectably in his Spring games.
Greg Golson who has seen a little major league time at Texas and Philadelphia wasn’t so far away. Jamie Hoffman was expected to make the grade and felt flat and found himself reclaimed by the Dodgers. So what do the Yankees have left? Randy Winn (.262 as a regular for San Francisco in 2009) and former Yankee, Marcus Thames (.252 in 87 games for Detroit last year). During Spring Training, Winn batted .220 and Thames managed considerably less.
The Yankees outfield is operating on a wing and a prayer and may need a major refit BEFORE the All-Star break.
1. Curtis Granderson
2. Nick Swisher
3. Brett Gardner
4. Randy Winn
5. Marcus Thames
6. David Winfree
7. Jon Weber
Will Carry: Five