A Tale of Four Outfielders

I’ve been thinking about the Yankees and their outfield a lot recently. Even before this piece by Joel Sherman I had been convinced that this would be Nick Swisher’s last year in New York and had become more and more certain that next year would be Curtis Granderson’s last. With $189 million a seemingly real goal for the Yankees, they just can’t sign both Cano and Granderson considering their other commitments and if they had to choose, you know they will choose Cano. Plus, Brett Gardner will still be under team control in 2014 and while he is not anything near Granderson, he is at worst an average centerfielder in the bigs. So, I have been wondering what the Yankees’ outfield of 2014 will look like? Right now I have it as ?-Gardner-?. Looking at the farm system, I imagine Brian Cashman is going to need to get busy again.

But while thinking about it, I have also been following the careers of two former Yankee outfield prospects, Melky Cabrera and Jose Tabata. Ironically, the Yankees traded both away in trades that have to come to be known on the Yankees side more for the secondary players acquired than the primary ones. Tabata went to Pittsburgh in the Xavier Nady deal while Melky went to Atlanta in the Javy Vazquez deal. I liked the Nady deal when it was made, but it was the Damaso Marte part that ultimately proved important to winning the 2009 World Series.I loved the Vazquez deal, but that has become more about Boone Logan than anything from the Yankees standpoint.

When Tabata went to Pittsburgh it reignited his career and he morphed back into the prospect the Yankees thought he was. Unfortunately, it hasn’t lasted and he has just been sent back to the minors in part because of his lack of hustle.

Cabrera has taken the opposite path. His career bottomed out in Atlanta and they simply released him after one season. Melky took some advice from A-Rod, got into shape and has become the player the Yankees thought he could be back in 2005.

The thing is, I am almost positive that both players would never have reached the highs they have reached in their MLB careers as Yankees. Tabata had a terrible attitude in the minors that was apparently turned around (temporarily it seems) by his trade to the Pirates. Melky seemed to like the New York scene a bit too much and his bond with Robinson Cano may have hurt both players. I am happy to see Melky succeed in San Francisco and I hope Tabata can turn his career around, but I still don’t think the Yankees made a mistake by trading them.

And that brings me back to Granderson and Swisher, two trades that worked spectacularly for the Yankees. Cashman acquired both of them when they were serious doubts about their abilities and futures. Both came to New York and thrived. Part of that was due to the fact that they were very talented players. But another part of it came from the fact that the Yankees did their homework and found two guys who could come to New York and handle the situation. They traded for two guys who could and traded away two guys who couldn’t. That’s encouraging because they are most likely going to need to do it again.