One reason I’ve been rather silent of late is that there’s been jack all going on with the Yankees. The debate over left field never really moved me. To me it was obvious: put Granderson in left, Gardner in center, and enjoy the big defensive upgrade without losing anything on offense versus Damon and Melky. Still, with Johnny Damon still unsigned and Curtis Granderson well known for his struggles against left-handed pitching, there was grist for the mill. That ended yesterday, when the Yankees signed Randy Winn to a one-year deal for the $2 million that they had previously stated was all that remained of their budget for the 2010 season. Winn’s intended role on the 2010 Yankees will be a veteran bench bat, insurance against Gardner struggling, and a possible righty-swinging caddy for Granderson provided Winn can bounce back from what Jay Jaffe reported on twitter was the worst single season righty-vs-lefty split on record (.158/.184/.200 in 125 plate appearances).
Winn will be 36 in June, which doesn’t bode well for a big rebound, but on his career the switch-hitting Winn’s splits are very close to even, so some correction seems a given. Jaffe also posted Winn’s PECOTA projection from the upcoming Baseball Prospectus 2010, which is a mildly more encouraging .270/.333/.380 (.252 EqA). Does that line look familiar to you? Here’s a hint: the departed switch-hitting member of the 2009 Yankees’ starting outfield has a career .269/.331/.385 line.
That’s right, Randy Winn is Melky Cabrera, just a decade older and on the wrong side of his production curve. Melky is the better defensive center fielder and has a much stronger arm (Winn will evoke plenty of Johnny Damon references when he flings the ball back to the infield with that wet noodle hanging off his right shoulder), however Winn is better basestealer (over the last four years Melky had 44 steals at 76 percent, Winn had 66 at 81 percent), and is a much better defensive corner outfielder (save for the arm, of course). For what it’s worth, the Braves will pay Melky $3.1 million for the 2010 season having settled prior to arbitration.
So Winn is a veteran with range in the corners, speed on the bases, and something between average and replacement-level production at the plate? Sounds like a fourth outfielder to me. If not for his age, I’d say Winn has a bit more upside than that. He can play center passably, and on his career has been a near perfect league-average hitter (.286/.344/.418, 99 OPS+, .267 EqA). If he has a bit of a dead-cat bounce in the Bronx, he’ll go from being a typical bench player to something of an asset. Then again, if he doesn’t and Gardner struggles or an injury hits the outfield, the Yankees will have to start scrambling for Plan C, which might not be lefty-hitting Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann if Winn takes his spot on the 25-man roster.
To recap: *shrug*, as long as he doesn’t start too often . . .
In other outfield news, the Yankees traded minor league infielder Mitchell Hilligoss to the Rangers for former Phillies center-field prospect Greg Golson, who had been designated for assignment. Hilligoss was an appropriate token player for a DFA trade, a college shortstop taken in the third-round in 2006 who quickly moved to third, failed to hit in High-A each of the last two years, will be 25 in June, and played more first base than short or third in 2009.
Golson is now on the 40-man roster, but has options remaining. Former Rangers scout Frank Piliere described Golson as a tremendous athlete with elite speed, a strong arm, good range afield, and solid character, but something of a mess at the plate. Golson’s minor league stats back that up. Drafted out of an Austin, Texas high school with the 21st overall pick in 2004, Golson has swiped 140 bases at 79 percent in 5 1/2 pro seasons and shown a bit of pop, topping out at 15 homers between High-A and Double-A at age 21, but his swing and plate discipline are a disaster. He has struck out 737 times in 634 minor league games against just 148 unintentional walks, a K/BB ratio of nearly 5:1.
Golson is still just 24 and has a small taste of the majors and a year of Triple-A under his belt, so there’s some hope that if the Yankees can fix his approach at the plate, his athleticism could yield immediate results. That’s a huge “if,” but it seems worth the 40-man spot at least for a few months to find out if he can be fixed, particularly given that he is a righty-hitting center fielder. He’s certainly an upgrade on Freddy Guzman, though that’s an absurdly low standard.
With Winn, Golson, and Hoffmann behind intended starters Granderson, Swisher, and Gardner, the Yankees now have six outfielders on their 40-man roster. They’re done save for an non-roster offer to a righty outfield bat (with ex-Rays Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes and ex-Yank Marcus Thames among the names being tossed around). Barring injury, Gardner will start, Winn will start the season on the bench, and Golson will start in Austin Jackson’s place in Scranton. All that remains is for the team to make a decision on keeping Hoffmann, which if they do bring in an experienced righty NRI, they likely won’t.
Pitchers and catchers report three weeks from today.