Outfield/DH Idea: Build a Platoon

In a previous post, I discussed Johnny Damon‘s relative value and suggested that perhaps the Yankees should let him go.  Of course, a quick scour of the outfield and DH options available via free agency though shows that there is little out there.

The great thing about corner outfielders and DHs though, is that you can find some value hidden all over the place.

So today I’m going to suggest an idea that would certainly not be popular.  Mike Francesa would probably spit out his diet coke if I had the audacity to call into the FAN and suggest it.  But here goes anyways.

What about a platoon?  I know Yankee fans want an all-star at every position, but what the Yankees really could use is some production out of some low-cost parts that won’t tie down their payroll any further in coming seasons.

So who would these parts be?  Well, I’ll give one set of options: how about Eric Hinske and Reed Johnson?  Neither is a great option on their own, but let’s take a deeper look:

Hinske posted an OPS+ of 116 in his stint with the Yanks last year, though that obviously was a small sample size.  But his entire career, in over 2400 ABs against righties he has an 107 OPS+ and an .804 OPS.  Sure, last year he actually hit slightly better against lefties than he did righties, but I’ll chalk that up to small sample sizes (he had only 41 ABs against left-handed pitching).  In 2008, Hinkse had a .488 OPS against lefties (good for a 27 OPS+) while posting a .844 against righties.  So bottom line, he hits right-handers.  His fielding numbers suggest he is actually an above average defensive corner outfielder (and to be honest, despite his large build, my subjective evaluation from watching him on TV would agree).  In Yankee stadium, facing primarily right-handed pitching, Hinske easily could post close to Johnny Damon type numbers, with better defense (albeit, much fewer steals).

As for Johnson, the numbers show him to be a tremendous left fielder, with the exception of last year, when he only started 1 game there.  At the plate, Johnson’s only had one really good season: 2006 when he was with the Blue Jays.  He’s been below average otherwise.  But for his career, Johnson has hit lefties for a .841 OPS (including an .848 and .903 the past 2 seasons).  So if he was used primarily against lefties and as the occasional defensive replacement, Johnson would certainly have value.

All that said, I’m not necessarily sold on both these guys myself.  I think Hinske would be a great sign, but I could go either way with Johnson.  Surprisingly, finding a platoon guy to hit lefties was harder than I thought.  I’m not sure Johnson makes sense if the Yankees have both Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner still on the roster, as that would be a lot of outfielders to carry.

My point primarily is that when it comes to corner outfielders and DH types, it’s not necessary for the Yankees to go out and spend big to get enough production.  Jack Cust may be let go by the A’s soon.  The Nationals could be looking to unload Adam Dunn (that’s just speculation on my part).  I have a feeling that with so many guys on the 40-man roster, Cashman will be looking to make a deal.  So while Johnny Damon is certainly still an option, there are more options than you might think.

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5 Responses to Outfield/DH Idea: Build a Platoon

  1. Matt Imbrogno says:

    Hinkse's numbers with the Yankees are very skewed, though. After that killer July, Hinske hit .190/.284/.333. He's definitely a good bench guy, but I don't think he should be guaranteed anything, even a platoon role.

    Johnson would be a decent OF bench option, depending on how the rest of the team shakes out. The career .344 OBP is definitely nice, but the lack of power isn't all too attractive for a regular spot.

  2. Brian Burkhart says:

    Hinske's numbers last year are tough to evaluate because it's a small sample size. So the good was likely not as good as it seemed and the same goes for the bad. But if you look at his career stats, if you kept him away from lefties, he could probably give you 100 starts or so at OF/DH.

  3. The problem with platoons, keep in mind that I'm a huge fan of them, is that it's hard to get players to knowingly agree to something like that. Casey Stengle made them famous when he won a ton of World Series titles back in the day, but that was before free agency. These days players can be a lot more picky about exactly what situation they are walking into and most guys won't agree to something like that. Especially in this situation, you may get Hinske to agree, but what about Reed Johnson?

    In reality both players might be thinking that the Yankees will get them to agree to this only to have them sign Matt Holliday and now they're fighting each other for at bats.

    If it worked out it's not a terrible idea though. It's actually pretty good.

  4. Brian Burkhart says:

    I would be surprised if it happened. I just spent a long time looking at free-agents on baseballreference and fangraphs and felt to compelled to write about some of the stuff I noticed.

    In a perfect world, the Yankees could sign 2 out of Matsui, Damon, and Dye on reasonable one year deals – I just doubt that will happen. No matter what though, I don't want to see any big money corner OF signings.

    Most likely the Yankees bring in one of those 3 and go the cheap route with a Hinske type otherwise and maybe let Jackson come up or perhaps let Miranda DH some.

  5. I wouldn't be pissed if they started the season with Miranda as their DH. If it was a big failure it wouldn't be impossible to deal for a DH later on.