Brett Gardner

Why Not?

There seems to be a segment of Yankeesland angry over the signing of Brennan Boesch. I understand he had a terrible year last year and he is left-handed, but the anger is misplaced. It’s a small investment of $1.5-million and the Yankees can send him to the minors. And its important to remember that he is only 27 so there is a decent chance he rebounds from the .240/.286/.372 he hit last season.

Maybe the anger is more about the fact that the Yankees need to take a flier on a guy like Boesch. What the injuries to Granderson and Teixeira have exposed is how thin the Yankees are depth-wise. At this point it seems very likely that the Yankees will open the season with three guys they signed to minor league deals and two of them will be guys they signed in the past week. Unless another move is made, you have to think that Juan Rivera will open up at first with Ben Francisco and Boesch splitting time in right. It’s not exactly an optimal situation but there is not much else the Yankees can do.

So, Boesch may not be anything to get overly excited about, but at least the Yankees are gambling on a guy who isn’t over 30. The Yankees have taken a flier on a guy who could help right now and also provides some insurance if Travis Hafner breaks down. In addition, he is not eligible for free agency until 2016, so he provides a possible low-cost option for next year as well. Is an outfield of Boesch, Gardner and Ichiro something to drool over? Of course not, but it’s the probably the best the Yankees can do right now.

Not A Shock

I speculated about this last weekend, but apparently Joe Girardi has made it official- Curtis Granderson will play center when he returns from his broken arm. It’s unfortunate because I don’t think Granderson is much of a center fielder anymore.

What surprised me about the article I linked to is the comment from Girardi saying he would play Mesa in center and Gardner in left if Mesa made the team. Mesa is certainly considered a very good defender, but so is Gardner. Maybe it’s simply a case of putting the rookie in the spot that makes him the most comfortable, but it doesn’t thrill me. A 2014 outfield of Gardner-Mesa-Ichiro might hit 30 homers between them. However, Gardner in center and a free agent in left would make a lot more sense.

Then again, Mesa needs to not only win the job in 2013, he needs to win it for 2014. We shall see.

Bad News

According to reports Curtis Granderson has broken his forearm and will miss approximately ten weeks. That figure includes rehab, according to Jack Curry, but it means the Yankees will not have Granderson in the lineup until early May.

This is exactly the type of injury the Yankees really couldn’t afford to suffer. They simply don’t have a lot of depth in the upper levels of the system and their options in camp aren’t great. Perhaps the best one is Thomas Neal. Neal is 24 and hit .314/.400/.467 in AAA last year. Unless Melky Mesa or Zolio Almonte is ready to make the leap to the bigs, its hard to see how Juan Rivera or Matt Diaz would be a better option.

In addition, this probably puts an end to the idea of Granderson in leftfield. Without the benefit of practicing the position in spring training, I can’t see the Yankees throwing him out there in the middle of the season. So, I would expect Gardner to play center until Curtis returns.

 

Win-Win-Lose

Local columnists aside, I can’t think anyone who has paid attention to the Yankees over the past few years is surprised at the news that the Yankees are moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left. Granderson hasn’t looked great in the field the past few years and fielding stats back that impression up. His range factor was 10th in the AL. His UZR was an abysmal -17.8.  Compare that to Brett Gardner who had amazing back-to-back UZR’s above 20 in 2010 and 2011 and had the second-highest range factor in the AL in 2011. (He only played 85 innings in the field in 2012, so I ignored those numbers.) Gardner is clearly the better fielder and moving him to center makes baseball sense.

But it also makes business sense. Granderson will be a free agent next season and there is a big price difference between a 40-home run centerfielder and a 40-home run leftfielder. By putting Granderson in left, the Yankees reduce his potential price tag, which might just allow them to keep him after 2013. (We can debate whether or not they will want to later.)

So, the Yankees improve their team and they improve their business potential, that’s a win-win in my book. Of course Granderson is the loser in all of this. By doing this the Yankees put a dent in his price tag and they force him to learn the toughest outfield position in Yankee Stadium. Granderson is not the type to complain, but I can’t imagine he is happy about any of this.