January 1, 2010

Final thoughts on Brett Gardner

gardner4 All signs say the Yankees will add someone else who can play left field this offseason, but as of right now Brett Gardner is the guy. The addition most likely will not be any big piece, according to Brian Cashman. I trust Gardner as a starter, and here’s why.

Brett can hit: Gardner is not that bad a No. 9 hitter. At all. A hitting line of .270/.345/.379 may look bad, but it’s actually quite good if you factor in his speed on the base paths. He stole 26 bases in 31 attempts last year, and surely would make a run at 50 thefts in a full season in left. Not bad for a No. 9 hitter, especially when this was the average AL hitter’s line in ‘09:  .267/.336/.428.

Gardy’s got D: Gardner is also a quality defensive outfielder. He is even considered by most a better center fielder than newly acquired Curtis Granderson. Since Gardner’s spot in the lineup isn’t nearly as secure as Granderson’s, I’d keep Granderson in center, rather than making him switch back and forth between left and center, especially if the Yankees acquire another left fielder to platoon with Gardner.

Lacking depth: Despite my trust in Gardner, I don’t think it is greedy of Yankees fans to be asking for another outfielder. The Yankees have a great lineup, but lack depth. If injury prone DH Nick Johnson goes down, New York has nobody but the unproven Juan Miranda to back him up.

Don’t need Damon: I believe a bat like Jeremy Reed would suffice in this situation, but a lot of fans like the idea of bringing back Johnny Damon. Damon doesn’t make sense unless he and Scott Boras significantly lower his price tag, but that won’t happen because other teams still need a left fielder. Also, the Yankees already found a replacement for him with Johnson. There’s simply no need.

Balanced lineup: I really like the flow of the current lineup with Gardner at No. 9. Whenever Gardner singles or walks, the Yankees can hit and run with Derek Jeter every time to avoid the double play. Here’s a look at the lineup vs. righties:

Player Pos. Bat ‘09 OPS*
Jeter SS R .871
Johnson DH L .831
Teixeira 1B S .948
Rodriguez 3B R .933
Granderson CF L .780
Posada C S .885
Cano 2B L .871
Swisher RF S .869
Gardner LF L .724

* MLB average OPS was .764

Gardner is the only player in the lineup with an OPS below the league average, and I think his speed easily makes up for the lack of power. Overall, the lineup has a great balance between power and speed. Don’t mess with it!

Knowing my luck, Cashman will go out and sign Matt Holliday tomorrow.

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