Upon word yesterday that Brett Gardner suffered another setback, his third such instance since he was shelved on April 17 with a right elbow strain, the rumor mill became awash with potential options the New York Yankees should explore to fill Gardner’s shoes if it was determined he would miss the rest of the season. What should the Yankees do? Explore the market to replace Gardner or stand pat with the current crew in left field? My feeling is they should resist any urge to make a deal and here is why.
In order to make a relative case for either option, we need to look at what was lost with Gardner off the field. C.J. Hangen did an excellent job of detailing what Gardner provided and touched upon the players who have helped fill his void in an article last week. C.J. discussed Gardner’s defensive abilities and the acute benefit of having him in the outfield versus Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones. Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix have filled in to a much smaller extent and should probably not be considered full-time or even platoon candidates barring injury.
The other obvious component that Gardner brings to the table which the veterans do not possess is speed on the bases. Gardner has an ability to give a pitcher and catcher fits on the base paths. Gardner owned the second most steals in MLB over the last two seasons heading into 2012 with 96. Not only does he steal a lot of bases, but he has a very good percentage in doing so (81% success rate). Gardner also has the ability to turn singles into doubles, doubles into triples and generally can advance two bases on certain hits where others may only advance one.
There is no doubt that Gardner gives the Yankees an added dimension. I mentioned back in June when the Yankees first grabbed hold of first place that they could still be better with Gardner playing every day. At that point it seemed that he would return, but has since been setback twice (again three times overall). This begs the question of what should the Yankees do if he cannot return in 2012?
In the end this will be a discussion of what the Yankees are currently receiving in left field versus what they could expect by acquiring a player at the trade deadline. There is no need to compare back to Gardner if he is out for the season. Most would agree if he were to return he would slide back into left field and the veterans would move their time share to the DH spot.
Below is a set of charts containing standard counting stats and advanced metrics/ratios of the players who have played in left field other than Gardner in 2012 (games played at other positions by the players below have been omitted).
As the lefty hitter, Ibanez has been in left field more than he or the team expected in 2012. There is nothing spectacular about what Ibanez has provided as a whole while playing left field. Jones garnered the next highest games played totals and his power is undeniable. He and Ibanez has been struck by poor BABIP numbers while playing left field. It should be noted that both players have been more successful at the plate when DH’ing this season.
Wise and Nix have played minimally, with Wise having a more positive impact on the group. Neither player is a serious candidate for extensive playing time. If the Yankees stayed with their current roster, the mix that manager Joe Girardi has used to date would most likely continue.
As for players who are currently available, Justin Upton is the media darling of the bunch, but he can veto a trade to New York if he so chose, and his price would probably be more than the Yankees would want to pay. Jimmy Kraft wrote last week about the Upton pipe dream in New York. It is most likely just that, a dream.
The player mentioned most yesterday once Gardner’s setback became news was Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino mostly because of a speed game similar to Gardner’s. Victorino is due a little more than half his $9.5 million salary for the remainder of 2012. Here are Victorino’s stats through yesterday.
Looking at Victorino’s numbers compared with those of the platoon the Yankees currently employ, one would have wonder why the Yankees would consider spending the money and the prospect(s) for his services. He is a good ball player and brings the one dimension that is missing from the Yankees’ offense, speed, but beyond that they do not gain much, if anything at all.
Brian Cashman has said publicly that costs for return may not be good for trades and he see making waiver moves instead.
“The cost to marginally upgrade is ugly,” Cashman said. “I just don’t know if it’s going to be worth shooting all the bullets it’s going to take to get somebody in here and hope they can help us in the short term.”
The Yankees have the benefit of a nine-game lead in the American League East heading into tonight’s contest and having veteran’s like Ibanez and Jones playing vital roles on the field and in the clubhouse. Playing Ibanez and Jones in the field as often as the Yankees have may not be something that was planned, but it is has yet to hurt the club. An ancillary impact of using them in the field more than expected is the ability to pencil in Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter at DH in an effort to keep them fresh. Another quote from Cashman delivered Sunday prior to the Gardner news, explains his stance.
“Not as an insult to Brett Gardner but we haven’t missed him,” Cashman said. “He’s a huge asset that we can use, but have we missed him? No. Have we missed Joba? No. Is he a huge (asset)? Yes. So all these guys right now can only make us better and give us more choices. But I don’t feel that if (Gardner) doesn’t come back that I have to do something here because (Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez) are doing such a great job for us, in my opinion.”
I’d have to agree with Cashman. If the team was in a dogfight right now for the division lead, maybe they would feel the need to fill a void should Gardner be forced to miss the rest of the season. This is far from the case at the moment. Even if the Yankees should slide between now and the trade deadline, I can’t imagine a deal for Victorino, or anyone else who may cost more, would make sense for the Yankees. I’d expect Cashman to stand pat in the outfield even if Gardner is done for the season and it would be the right call.
What are your thoughts? Should the Yankees try to swing a trade for an outfielder, whether it is Victorino or someone else, if Gardner is done for the season? Or should they ride the veterans and take advantage of the extra nights they get at DH with either Ibanez or Jones in the field?