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.