The Yankees have a lot of parts that could use some fixin’. The team has decided to focus on the starting rotation despite the many young starting pitching prospects working their way up through the organization. Last week, I largely focused on first base, where the Yankees have a big hole and the free agent market offers the perfect player to fill it. During the 2008 season, two major areas of concern were second base and catcher, but the Yankees have very talented players signed to long-term contracts at each of those positions, both of which are very shallow in terms of the talent available league-wide. Third base is not broken, nor, for the moment is shortstop or the bullpen, but the Yankees’ outfield and designated hitter situation very much is.
Here are the players who started for the Yankees at the three outfield positions and DH last year:
*adjusted for position
Center field was a disaster, the aggregate numbers at the position having been inflated slightly by Johnny Damon’s .294/.378/.529 line in 33 starts there. With Damon helping out in center and DH, the team’s performance in left field dipped below average. Designated hitter was also buoyed by Damon, but even moreso by the outstanding work of Jason Giambi, who has since departed as a free agent, as well as seven strong starts from Alex Rodriguez (.333/.414/.625). Meanwhile, Bobby Abreu, who started all but ten games in right field and kept that position in the black, has also headed off to find perhaps his final fortune as a free agent, leaving right field in the hands of Xavier Nady, whose .268/.320/.474 line as a Yankee was a far more accurate representation of his abilities than the .330/.383/.535 he hit in Pittsburgh over the first four months of the season. Last year, the average right fielder hit .276/.347/.451. Nady’s career line is .280/.335/.458, and he’s a sub-par defender.
Here are the Yankees’ other in-house options in the outfield:
*on Opening Day 2009
The problem with this list is that the Yankees’ best outfielder (setting aside the career year Nady won’t repeat) is their oldest, while their youngest (from among those with major league experience) is their worst. As it stands now, the Yankees have a giant hole in center field, a rapidly aging DH coming off knee surgery who is no longer viable in the field (Matsui), an average-at-best right fielder, and a 35-year-old Johnny Damon in left with little on the way other than Austin Jackson, who just hit .246/.298/.377 in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League and has yet to play above Double-A.