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Just Don’t Call Them Winnie and Goose

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.

Tags:  Greg Golson  Randy Winn  Transactions

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 28, 2010 11:03 am

I'm over it now. I think I wanted Damon more to push Take-Take Brett Gardner to the bench than to actually have Johnny Damon. But its time to be optimistic now. I really like the entire pitching staff, including the bullpen, for the first time in years. The Yankees 1-8 in the lineup should be very good, and maybe the nine hole will surprise me.

2 a.O   ~  Jan 28, 2010 11:33 am

And if Gardner and/or Winn become a gaping hole in the lineup, I'm sure the fake budget constraints will disappear and the Cashman will make another good trade.

3 standuptriple   ~  Jan 28, 2010 11:38 am

Not the worst insurance plan. He is Melky Sr, but his arm isn't that bad. Trust me, I went to college with Winn and live/work in the Bay Area. He was abysmal from the right side last year and on numerous times I suggested he stop switch hitting. Maybe being on a team/lineup with more discipline (and seasoned switch hitters) he can rebound.
How strange is this though? I can now say that I have zero-degrees of separation (Kevin Bacon) from not one, but two Yankees (grew up knowing CC). Thanks Cashman!

4 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 28, 2010 11:39 am

[2] I refuse to believe that the budget constraints are fake. Please. Ive come to terms with this. I don't want to find out in two months that this was done by choice.

In other news, the Yankees hired Kevin Towers.

5 Paul   ~  Jan 28, 2010 11:44 am

Granderson's .731 OPS against LHP isn't struggling given his defense. And I have a strong feeling he'll top that in YS.

If you want to platoon Granderson, fine...but the only place it's necessary is Comerica.

As for Winn's arm, where'd you get your info? I've seen elsewhere it described as decent and fangraphs has him just above average.

6 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 28, 2010 12:11 pm

Tidy, Cliff. Your shrug equals my 'meh' but Winn is fine for what he's needed for and what he's making. For me, it was mainly seeing Damon off in a situation where if everyone had been somewhat smarter we'd have him. What do people feel ... Nick J > Johnny D or <?

Winn, by the way, even at 36 is a nice pinch running option late.

I'd be astonished to see Montero before September ... doesn't calling him early also start his clock running sooner? Far more likely Cash makes a July deal for a missing part. It isn't wrong to start a year with a team you think can win, and then fine-tune if needed. That isn't abandoning general rules of (some) fiscal restraint.

Of course other teams find the very idea of 'fiscal restraint' and 200 million appalling.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 28, 2010 12:21 pm

The Yankees have a lot of swap-based debt, so maintaining their credit rating is essential. I wonder if the establishment of a budget is geared toward that end?

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 28, 2010 12:39 pm

sensible and solid analysis as always, Cliff.

9 a.O   ~  Jan 28, 2010 12:50 pm

[6] My feeling is that the appropriate comparisons are Damon v Granderson and Johnson v Matsui. There, I think we got an upgrade on both, because Johnson is a least capable of
being a defensive replacement and he is less expensive than Matsui with comparable production. Still, that one is close. Damon v Granderson is, IMHO, is not close. And as for Damon v Johnson, it is close and depends on what you assume about Damon's production going forward. My feeling is that the multi-year deal he seemingly required was not warrented because of the likelihood of a decline due to age and due to comparison to a contract year and due to the fact that his big upside, offense, is not in great need onthe current team. Anyway, that's my $0.02.

10 Bama Yankee   ~  Jan 28, 2010 12:54 pm

Judging from the baseball card pictured above, either Winn has a very unusual batting grip or he is in the process of laying down a bunt. ;-)
Assuming it's the latter, could we see more "small ball" in our future? Seriously, does anyone know about his bunting skills?

11 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 28, 2010 1:00 pm

[9] Matsui > Johnson

12 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 28, 2010 1:00 pm

[7] You are the finance expert, but my guess is that the growth and diversity of the Steinbrenner's Yankee-related assets of today, compared to 20 years ago, means that a budget is almost a necessity now.

Back when the Boss was still in charge a few years ago, something tells me he was more focused on the here and now than the future, given his advancing age, whereas Hal (who's under 40 IIRC) and Hank are probably a lot more concerned about the future. A budget makes sense in that perspective as well.

13 a.O   ~  Jan 28, 2010 1:04 pm

[4] Of course I don't know for sure, but my suspicion is that the idea of a hard dollar constraint is a fiction designed to create negotiating leverage. That is, if they really wanted or needed someone, the budget would be "flexible" and the money would be found. But where you have everything or nearly everything you need, you can avoid offending fans by saying that Granderson made Damon expendable.

14 Paul   ~  Jan 28, 2010 1:26 pm

[11] I don't agree that it's clear cut. 1) NJ's minimal defense means he gets more at-bats...if healthy. 2) Matsui himself has to stay healthy. 3) NJ's production will be more OBP-based but in the #2 slot that's all he needs to do. By contrast, Matsui is expected to be a run producer. Walks are easier to project than homers.

Granderson is going to make a people look silly this year - I'm looking at Goldman as well as Cliff. By the end of the year when folks look up and he's approaching a .900 OPS and Ajax is struggling to hit a .700 OPS, we're going to hear a bunch of stories about how it was a steal. It's rare that I'm this gung-ho on any player, but I simply can't see the negatives that some people seem to be hanging onto, especially when I see those Comerica splits. 70% of the time Granderson is going to hammer right-handed pitching. The other 30% of the time he's going to be above average, especially at home.

15 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 28, 2010 1:53 pm

[14] Granderson, and to an extent, Vazquez, are the off season moves I'm not worried about at all. I'm surprised so many people are worried about him

16 51cq24   ~  Jan 28, 2010 2:08 pm

[9] since i assume johnson will be in the 2 hole and granderson will hit behind arod, i think the more relevant comparisons are johnson/damon and granderson/matsui. i think that johnson is clearly a better hitter than damon, and that his high obp will make him even more of an upgrade than it looks on paper. granderson is clearly not as good a hitter as matsui, but he is a bit more of a power threat, and should be even more so in yankee stadium, so i think that his impact if he hits behind arod may be comparable to matsui's, despite his lower obp. i'm pretty optimistic overall. i'm neutral on winn, but i don't think it's supposed to be that big a move.

17 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 28, 2010 2:12 pm

[14] Was I that negative on the Granderson trade? I think I said it was a solid swap, but warned not to overlook Granderson's flaws. I think i was trying to temper expectations more than expressing low expectations of my own. Maybe it didn't come off that way. I should reread it. Pretty sure I said Granderson could hit 40 homers given his new home park and pointed to Comerica's effects on lefty batters. I also have been an AJax doubter.

18 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 28, 2010 2:28 pm

I didn't see anyone doubting Granderson either, not in a big way. I share the view that he'll be a hit in the Bronx, both as a person and as a batter with the short porch.

I think worrying about 'enough production' for a corner OF is a silly way to judge who should be CF and LF. If both Gardner and Granderson are playing what does it matter - really! - who plays where from that perspective. The only issue is the better defensive alignment.

19 Paul   ~  Jan 28, 2010 2:36 pm

[17] I guess I just think you and Goldman are consistently overstating his flaws given Comerica vs. YS. I mean the difference between the two for lefty batters is huge. Then when we see a .731 OPS versus LHP on the road, I don't see that as a flaw. It's an average CF rate. Here, look at this tortured math to arrive at a projection:

RHP - Home: 35% of AB * .950 OPS = .333
LHP - Home: 15% of AB * .780 OPS = .117
RHP - Away: 35% of AB * .900 OPS (career avg) = .315
LHP - Away: 15% of AB * .730 OPS (career avg) = .111

Add all that up? You get a .875 OPS. My only real assumption is that he gets a 50 point benefit in OPS at home. Who here wouldn't be very pleased by that result? And that's him playing full-time (i.e., not sitting against LHP). I think that's conservative but it could be generous too.

Because the projections don't take into the Comerica vs YS effect, they have him much lower than he should be (.820 to .840 OPS). The FAN version has him at a .865 OPS. It really just comes down to how well he hits in Yankee Stadium. If he gets no benefit, we're looking at a .820 - .850 OPS hitter. If he gets more than some (i.e., Damon) he'll be among the most valuable hitters in the game.

20 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 28, 2010 3:04 pm

[18] I've been saying for a couple years that Curtis Granderson the person could become a "face of baseball" type guy. Not necessarily the best player, but one of those guys that parents tell their kids to aspire to be. I think coming to New York can only help that.

21 Paul   ~  Jan 29, 2010 5:11 am

Add Neyer to the "normally excellent but what?" crowd on Granderson. Over at NoMaas:

SJK: In every single article we've read, no one has mentioned the idea of moving Granderson to LF and making Gardner, who was one of the best CFs in baseball last year, head up the outfield defense. We've been advocating that idea for over a month now. What do you think about that idea and do you think there's a chance it could happen?

RN: I think it's a fine idea, in a vacuum. But the Yankees don't play in a vacuum. For one thing, a lot of people would wonder why they traded for -- and why they'll spend at least $26 million on -- a left fielder who doesn't hit a ton.


I normally really like all things Cliff, Goldman, and Neyer. Indeed, that's an excellent crowd. But given his numbers against RHP (.900 OPS) and away from Comerica I think we're in for a real treat. Here's a another view. On the road for his career (1454 PA): .284 /.353/.516 = .869. That's the baseline. Unless you somehow think YS will hurt his swing, we're looking at a guy who will be pushing or exceeding a .900 OPS. How is that not hitting "a ton"?

22 Paul   ~  Jan 29, 2010 5:26 am

One last thought:

1) Granderson - Career on the Road: .284 /.353/.516 = .869
2) Granderson - 2009 on the Road: .267 /.345/.516 = .861

Once you accept that Comerica killed Granderson (and seemed to get in his head in 2009 to the tune of a sub-.700 OPS), you see a guy who's going to have an excellent season no matter his position. And that's before any assumption about what YS will do for his numbers.

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