"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: Can’t Winn For Losing

Last week’s signing of Randy Winn was met with a thud the likes we haven’t heard since the Road Runner was leading Wile E. Coyote off of cliff after cliff. The reaction appeared to have little to do with the clusterf— that proved to be the back-and-forth hearsay between Brian Cashman and Scott Boras regarding Johnny Damon. No, it was more that the Yankees actually committed a seven-figure dollar amount to, well, Randy Winn, and didn’t loosen the waistband for the once Unfrozen Caveman Outfielder.

Some of us are still trying to wrap our brains around the pretzel logic that led to the release of a soon-to-be 36-year-old who, despite his defensive foibles, has a stroke tailor made for the New Yankee Stadium and is a perfect fit for the Yankee lineup, only to sign a soon-to-be 36-year-old who is, um, Randy Winn.

There was a great deal of rancor in the Yankeeland Blogosphere in the days following the Winn deal. Over at the Yankeeist, Larry Koestler, a friend to the Banter (well, this Banterer, anyway) likens the Winn acquisition to that of Tony Womack:

Randy Winn…may have at one time been a reasonable ballplayer, but that was back when Honus Wagner was suiting up for the Buccos. I know he’s coming aboard as the fourth outfielder/platoonmate, but sweet Jesus we’d have been better off flushing the money directly down the toilet. It would’ve taken what — an extra $3-$4 million to get Damon back into the fold? We couldn’t do that, but we could spend a third of the presumed cost of Damon on an absolute and utter complete waste of space like Winn? Better to have let Gardner at least try to hold the position down — I’m not even much of a Gardner fan but I’d still rather Grit in there every day than waste any at-bats on the second coming of Wilson Betemit.

Honestly, Brian Cashman knows better than this. Signing Randy Winn and his sub-.700 OPS in 2009 for any amount is craziness. It doesn’t make any sense nor fit with the Yankees’ work-the-pitcher, high-OBP MO.

Oh, but it gets better. The New Stadium Insider notes that Winn was the last straw in pushing a certain 2009 season ticket holder to the point of canceling his plans to upgrade in 2k10.

Backtracking a bit to Koestler’s item, it’s important to note that earlier in the piece, he shows startling similarities between Winn’s weighted on-base average over the past four seasons, and Womack’s during the last four years of his career. Combining Winn and Brett Gardner, you basically have the same skill set (.325 OBP, .700 OPS, etc.). In other words, two people providing replacement-level numbers. Not good if you’re banking on Curtis Granderson summoning his 2007 self and Nick Swisher repeating his regular-season production of last year.

Maybe left-field should be considered an afterthought. Consider that when the Yankees went on their dynastic tear in the late 1990s and early part of the oughts, left field featured the All-Star cast of Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry, Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer, Ryan Thompson, Chuck Knoblauch, Rondell White, and Juan Rivera. The Yankees made six World Series trips in eight years with that motley crew because the other eight members of the lineup were able to make up for whatever deficiencies existed by the 399 sign. This Yankee team is good, but is it good enough to overcome left field, the unknowns of Granderson and Swisher, and despite their productivity, the ever-increasing age of Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter?

Perhaps a more apt comparison to this year’s left field situation is the right field situation of 2002, when a noncommittal Joe Torre rolled out a combination of Spencer and the inimitable John Vander Wal on a platoon basis. Spencer, despite his desire to be an everyday player, never recaptured the bottled lightning of September 1998. At least, he never came close enough to putting up numbers worthy enough to merit his everyday presence in the lineup. Vander Wal eventually regressed into what he always was: a pinch hitter. The two of them gave way to Enrique Wilson playing right field against the Mets. Wilson misplayed a couple of balls so badly that within days, the Yankees traded for the ball player formerly known as Raul Mondesi.

If history repeats itself this year, Ramiro Peña will have to make an emergency start in left and bungle it so badly that in a fit of panic, Cash will trade for Milton Bradley by the Fourth of July.

This is all figuring, of course, that Granderson is playing center field and not left. Certain pundits on certain afternoon drive radio shows have already put Granderson in left, and have said that Winn was not a terrible signing, Nick Johnson was an upgrade and a solid No. 2 hitter, and Gardner is not a terrible player, either.

We’ll find out soon enough, right?


1 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 3, 2010 8:54 am

[0] What you said. I've got nothing to add only to say while I don't doubt that Cashman knows his business, he invariably makes a head-scratching geriatric signing who doesn't make it through the season. Berroa anyone?

2 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 3, 2010 9:14 am

There may be days this year when Nick Johnson is hurt, Jorge is resting, and Curtis is riding the pine vs a really tough lefty. Those lineups will not be pretty. Hope it's not on a Saturday afternoon vs Jon Lester.

3 joejoejoe   ~  Feb 3, 2010 9:33 am

I think the Yankees are better positioned than any club to pick up bargains next year mid-season based on other clubs having economic problems. Just because you have money in the budget doesn't mean you have to spend it now. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Look at the Joe Mauer situtaion in Minnesota. If he resigns in MN this spring then they will have to cut elsewhere and maybe you can pry Jason Kubel out with a prospect.

Winn is going to be used like Dave Roberts in Boston, not Damon last year.

I like the signing. It's cold hearted but it's about winning now and in the long run.

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2010 9:36 am

I expectorated some snark about the signing last week. Got it all over with in one post. Cliff's analysis put it in proper perspective.

Now I'm thinking you've gotta feel bad for a guy who's getting booed in the blogsphere before his first at-bat. Here's hoping Winn's a productive Yankee.

if nothing else, it's a Winn?-doh! of opportunity for those of us who appreciate 4th grade level puns.

5 rbj   ~  Feb 3, 2010 9:49 am

"4. Sliced Bread
February 3rd, 2010 at 9:36 am

if nothing else, it’s a Winn?-doh! of opportunity for those of us who appreciate 4th grade level puns."

Just keep the puns clean, people. We don't want anything randy here.

I just wonder if Cashman realizes part of his job is to give stories to the papers/radio/blogosphere including WTF stories. That would explain signing Winn.

6 ms october   ~  Feb 3, 2010 9:55 am

[4] yeah considering he got off to this start he best take the most obscure number he can find

[3] i agree with your first statement. which makes me wonder why cash didn't just save the $2M for later in the season when he can make a mid-season trade.

7 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 3, 2010 9:56 am

Let's hope Randy has more success than Winn-dows Vista.

8 Ben   ~  Feb 3, 2010 10:07 am

When Randy comes in the door, money goes out the Winn-dow.

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2010 10:34 am

oh, what winn-sical banter!

10 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:07 am

[7] Diane, I went through about 15 different pun-tastic titles before settling on the one I used. It's almost too easy.

11 standuptriple   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:15 am

Man, only in Yankeeland does a 4th OF/LIDR/pinch runner create such emotion. He's also an insurance plan, a prospect motivator and a message to Damon that he's replaceable (at one tenth his asking price). For the low price of $2M? 1% of payroll? Woe-mack is a cold comparison. Sorry, I can't conjure up a pun for a fellow Bronco.

12 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:20 am


I appreciate the effort! :-)

13 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:29 am

[12] I have to admit ... the fallout from this signing is hilarious. At least Winn isn't being billed as "the type of leadoff hitter we've been looking for" like Womack was.

14 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:31 am

Hmm .... will Jeter be our LF by the ASB? (I kid I kid)

15 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:46 am

I admit I haven't paid enough attention and so missed all the Whinn-ing about Randy. I thought we maturely dealt with it when it happened. A meh signing in almost every way, at a next-to-nothing cost for a 4th OF, pinch runner type. I didn't see, myself, any signs that damon was ready to come back to US at 5 million for one year ... though he may now be forced to take that elsewhere, once the Yankee ship has sailed. If anyone can confidently declare that an offer of 5 million to JD would have been accepted, I'll agree (in fact, I'm pretty sure I said it) that the Winn 2 mill is a bad spend compared to a Damon 5 mill. (Even 6, if it was in the kitty).

I am also one of those irrationally relaxed about Gardner batting 9th in CF or LF. I agree with the comment above about part of Cash's job being to keep the blogosphere in stories till pitchers and catchers.

I saw a 10 year deal being floated for Mauer. That has to be 200 million, you know. Twinkies will have to make other moves if they lock up that kind of money. I see it as a small market crisis. Keep Mauer, release the players who help him make you a playoff contender (in a fortunately weak division).

16 ms october   ~  Feb 3, 2010 11:47 am

[14] NO!! your quest to have jeter move off short continues to be delayed :}

17 FreddySez   ~  Feb 3, 2010 12:11 pm

[11] Nails it IMHO - "a message to Damon that he’s replaceable."

When you look at the Winn signing in logical or measurable terms, it's a head-scratcher. When you factor in pride, and the Yankees' attitude toward Boras, it all makes perfect sense.

I think Cash would have signed me to play LF before he capitulated to Boras (or rewarded Damon for casting his lot with the guy).

18 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 3, 2010 12:29 pm


Well, they DID bring A-Rod back ... (but I forget if that was after A-Rod ditched Boras temporarily)

19 MichiganYankee   ~  Feb 3, 2010 1:54 pm

I was initially bummed about the Winn signing, but a few revelations have calmed me down:

a) Is Gardner really a platoon candidate? He has consistently hit lefties slightly better than righties. If the Yankees have an outfielder that is exposed against righties, it's Granderson, and even his lefty/righty splits were not so bad outside of Comerica Park. As for Granderson hitting lefties in Yankee Stadium, his homer off of Mike Myers in Game One of the 2006 ALDS began the unravelling of the Yankees' run (i.e. it caused Torre to leave Moose in the game to face Granderson in Game Two, and after Granderson trippled, Torre fell into panic/pushbutton mode).

b) The "righty-masher" would have been used largely as a late-inning pinch-hitter for Gardner and Granderson. Reed Johnson does not have good numbers as a pinch hitter.

c) When a players' offensive numbers drop off the cliff at age 35, it's generally not a fluke. In Winn's case, however, his high line-drive rate and low BABIP suggest that his drop-off may have been just that.

d) The Yankees' OF/DH arsenal is going from Swisher/Gardner/Damon/Matsui/Melky to Swisher/Gardner/Granderson/Johnson/Winn. Swisher's 2009 season was in line with his career norms, so we can expect him to maintain his (streaky) production. Gardner is likely to improve. Granderson is a huge defensive upgrade over Damon, and Granderson/Johnson should be a slight offensive upgrade over Damon/Matsui (especially considering that Damon and Matsui far exceeded expectations last year and are due for significant regression). Winn, at his age, is a bit of a downgrade from Melky, but Yankees' net upgrade at OF/DH is still sizeable.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 3, 2010 2:09 pm

I think before anyone can really judge the Winn signing, we need to see what Damon eventually gets. Apparently, he turned down a $6mn offer from the Yankees (albeit with deferred money), so I am not so sure a few extra million would have made a difference.

With his defense, speed and health factored in, Winn is a very useful player. Ideally, he'd be a 4th outfielder, but if the Yankees have to rely on him, they wont be in bad shape.

As for Swisher, his 2009 season was right in line with his 2006 and 2007. The year that stands out as an aberration is 2008, so the Yankees should be confident in expecting another season similar to last year's.

21 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 3, 2010 5:09 pm

[20] "With his defense, speed and health factored in, Winn is a very useful player."

You could say the exact same thing about Gardner. The Yanks have a strikeout/flyball oriented staff - no one who's starting for the Yanks in 2010 had a groundball rate over 42.9% in 2009, unless Mitre makes a start or two - and only two guys who I expect to pitch some innings in the bullpen (Mo and Melancon) cracked 50%. Having a superb defender in LF + a guy who can probably keep his OBP at league average (.a 325 OBP is NOT replacement level; IIRC league average OBP in 2009 was around .335) is sufficient. It may be beyond sufficient, because the thing everyone forgets about Damon is that he had a career year last year at age 35. The odds of him declining in terms of offense this year are sky-high. A typical Damon year - .288/.355/.439 - docked a bit for being 36, plus his craptastic defense, is probably not all that far off in terms of wins than a .335OBP + superb defense out of Winn and Gardner.

In short - I, for one, welcome our Randy new overlord.

22 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  Feb 4, 2010 12:24 am

All things considered, I'm ok with granderson/johnson/winn replacing Damon/matsui/Cabrera. I can't wait to see those drives to left center actually get hauled in by either Gardner or Granderson. Johnny throwing himself barely within the postal code of those drives over the past few years proved to be, time and again, the triumph of hope over reality.

Defense is the new offense, right? Boras and Damon kinda missed that one, no?

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver