Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I'd Like To See For 2014: Outfield

I've decided to pull a Peyton Manning and call an audible.

"I'll allow it."

Instead of releasing each post in this series on Mondays, I decided to push them up. Part of that decision had to do with my impatience, and another part had to do with the possibility of something big happening soon after I finished this series, making the whole thing nearly pointless.

But it's mainly the impatient thing. I mean, I'm sure you've all been there. You get a great present for somebody for Christmas or their birthday, and you can't wait to give it to them. Of course, sometimes that present isn't as great as you thought. But that's not the case here... right?

So moving to the outfield, I'm going to start with what is the easiest position to plan for... centerfield.

Brett Gardner finished the 2013 season with a batting line of .273/.344/.416, while leading Major League Baseball in triples with ten (tied with Starling Marte and Jean Segura). Brett only stole 24 bases this season, thanks in part to the fact that he only attempted 32 steals. But keep in mind that in 2011, his last healthy season, Gardner attempted 62 steals. While a lower walk rate didn't help things this past season, that's not the reason he tried 30 less steals. It could be because he played in a few less games, it could be because Gardner was nursing an injury or two, or it could be that Brett was afraid of taking the bat out of somebody's hands . Either way, Brett is enough of a threat on offense that he warrants a spot in the starting lineup in 2014.

But what about Gardy's defense? Your initial reaction might be "DUH", but I'm going to throw out a couple of stats. Let me preface this by saying that Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is not perfect by any means, but the numbers do give us a decent idea of the type of defender somebody is. Anyway, Brett's UZR/150 this past season was -0.3. In 2011, again... his last healthy season, his UZR/150 was -4.7. Even if you assume the numbers are off some, Brett is really an average centerfielder. For that reason, you may think the Yankees should be on the look-out for a replacement centerfielder. But remember that this is Gardner's first full-season at that position, so there's reason to believe he will improve out there.

So Brett Gardner is my pick to be the Yankees starting centerfielder in 2014.

I want to see this over and over again.

The other two positions are a bit more work, seeing as how the Yankees are not only losing one of their outfielders to free agency (Granderson), but the other two that are under contract through next season are hardly guys to be excited about (Wells and Ichiro). As for youngsters who have some MLB experience, that could work there way into the mix, you have Zoilo Almonte, Brennan Boesch, and Melky Mesa. I don't know about you, but not one of those three names even makes me pause. Sure, Almonte started off strong with the Yankees this season, but he ended up with pretty poor numbers. When it comes to minor leaguers with no MLB experience, there's nothing there either. The Yankees big three outfield prospects (Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott) are still a couple of years away. Ronnier Mustelier once looked like a sure call-up, but after returning from injury he did nothing to force the Yankees hand, finishing with a triple-slash of .272/.319/.398. Musty may get another shot at MLB next year, but it shouldn't be on Opening Day.

So what do the Yankees do? I say they make Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer.

I'm sure some fans may look at his batting line of .244/.337/.432, with only six home runs, and think I'm nuts, but you can't tell me missing 98 games this season didn't have a negative effect. And we're not talking about just a little bit of production when he was healthy. Curtis hit 84 home runs between 2011 and 2012. I don't care that his batting average over that same time period was only .247, because 84 home runs is still huge.

With a bit more work in left field, where he's only played 100.2 innings at Yankee Stadium, I think he can be an above average defender. Couple that with his production with the bat, and I think this is a guy the Yankees should seriously consider bringing back. Even if the cost is more than the qualifying offer.

Speaking of that qualifying offer, I'm starting to think Grandy won't take it. I'm not the only one that sees how much potential Curtis has, and is willing to give him a multi-year deal. Sure, like I said, he missed 98 games, but that was due to two freak injuries. A hit by pitch that broke his forearm in Spring Training, and another hit by pitch that broke a finger shortly after he returned from the first broken bone.

The only reason Granderson should take the qualifying offer is to rebuild his stock for another free agent run next year. If it wasn't for those injuries, and assuming he continued to hit homers like he did in 2011 and 2012, then he could be looking at a 5 year deal worth upwards of $17 million a season. I guess we'll see if Curtis is a gambler. Will he gamble on getting a four-year deal next offseason, and take the qualifying offer this year? Or will he just play it safe and take a three or four year deal now?

I don't know what the answer to that is, but either way I think the Yankees should think long and hard about re-signing Curtis Granderson. Assuming it wouldn't cost five year, I'm bringing Curtis Granderson back to the Yankees.

Who wouldn't want this guy around?

That brings us to the final piece of the outfield puzzle... right field.

While it's true that the team has Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells under contract for 2014, it's also true that neither one of those players deserves regular playing time. Take away Suzuki's performance after being dealt to the Yankees last season, and you're left with a guy that struggles to get on base 30% of the time. Then you have Ichiro's complete lack of power (seriously, his SLG the past three years is only .358). If he was still able to hit .300 we may have something, but his batting average of .273 the past three years (and that includes his 227 at bats with the Yankees last year) makes me say the words "Suzuki" and "bench" at the same time.

Vernon Wells is also not somebody you want to lean on. In his last five years Vernon's triple-slash is .249/.296/.425. You're reading that right. A batting average under .250, and an on-base percentage below .300. Oh, and that .425 slugging percentage may be respectable, but when it's attached to those other two numbers then you can take this guy and shove it. And it doesn't matter to me that Wells is essentially free in 2014, thanks to Cashman fiddling with the money the Angels owe the Yankees from the trade that brought him to New York. The Yankees would have to get paid, and paid a lot, to allow Vernon to play more than a handful of times a month. And even that may be a stretch.

But the Yankees don't have a ton of money to work with, so what should they do. I'll give you two words... Corey Hart.

Before missing the entire 2013 season due to a microfracture injury to his left knee, we're talking about a guy that hit just under .280 over the previous three seasons. And in those three seasons, Hart hit 87 home runs, for an average of 29 a season. Yankee Stadium is a bit deeper in left field than Miller Park in Milwaukee, but I don't think that will make much of a difference for Corey. I mean, perhaps he'd hit like five less homers, but we're not talking about a pull hitter. If you check out Hart's spray chart from his last three healthy seasons, you see that he's hit quite a few home runs to the opposite field. 

The best part about signing Hart is his cost. You see, he's in pretty much the same boat as Curtis Granderson is. Both guys have a lot of potential, but both of them suffered injuries this past season that cost them so much time that they won't be able to cash-in like many thought they would back in March. So I can see Corey accepting a one-year deal to raise his stock back up for another run at a big contract after the 2014 season, which is where the Yankees swoop in. Not only would the deal be for less years than Corey may otherwise deserve, but it would be for a lot less money. My guess is around $10 million. That may seem like a lot for a guy that just missed the entire season, but not many guys have 30-homer power either. 

By the way, if you're worried about defense, Hart is an average defender. He's mainly played right field, and right field at Miller Park is much bigger than right field in Yankee Stadium. You don't have to be a fielding genius to know that less ground to cover usually means a guy will be better off. Even if Hart's injury lingers a bit, and his defense gets a bit worse, I don't see it getting to the point where the Yankees really have to worry. 

Oh, and Corey would be of help in the infield too, where Mark Teixiera will likely need regular rest. Something I mentioned on Monday when planning the infield. Corey has actually spent 857.1 innings at first base. Now, it's not at the level of Teixiera or other Gold Glove caliber first basemen, but it's not so bad that other infielders need to think before throwing him the ball.

"For the last time... I DON'T wear my sunglasses at night!"

To wrap this up, I'd like to see Brett Gardner return to center field. I want the Yankees to give Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer to continue playing left field. And finally I'd like the team to bring in Corey Hart to man right field.

*salaries are by Average Annual Value (AAV)
Left Field: Curtis Granderson $15 million (whether it's a qualifying offer, or a multi-year deal, Granderson's salary will be something like this)
Center Field - Brett Gardner $6 million (arbitration 3)
Right Field – Corey Hart $10 million (signed for 1 year/$10 million)


  1. Bryan...
    Very well done, I don't see much of a down side to your summation at all. Nice work!


    1. Thanks.

      Looking at it now, I think I under-valued Hart a bit. But he still intrigues me for his power potential, and ability to play RF and 1B.

  2. How do you not mention Alfonso Soriano? Didnt trade him, include him, unless your benching him of course which is just silly.

    1. I don't see him as a starting outfielder, but rather a DH. So he's going to be mentioned later.

      Guess I gave away something... oh well.

  3. I disagree, especially considering that Hart is the guy coming off of two knee surgeries, Hart is the guy that missed the entire 2013 season, and Hart is the inferior player offensively and defensively. You're list though so dont mind me, lol. If anyone should be DH it should be Hart, not Soriano.

    1. I suppose that could work. Hart being the regular DH and playing every now and then in the OF and 1B.

      Not sure I'd call Hart the inferior hitter, seeing as how he has a higher career batting average and on-base percentage. And while Soriano has a higher career slugging percentage, it's not like Hart's stinks. Not to mention that while Soriano is 37, Hart is 31.


Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)