Brian Cashman has already come out saying that if they add a left fielder, it would be someone on the cheap – somewhere around $4 million dollars max. That to me eliminates the following free agents from consideration: Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Johnny Damon. Furthermore, John Heyman is also claiming that Mark DeRosa has been offered a 2-year/$12 million dollar deal from the Giants – that takes him out of consideration in my book.
Quite frankly, that leaves a limited number of free agent outfielders that could hypothetically play left field full or part time. Using the MLBTradeRumors Free Agent List I can put together a small pool of players who would not be terrible, and a list of players that I want nowhere near the Yankees.
Possibilities: Johnny Gomes, Reed Johnson, Marcus Thames, Endy Chavez, Scott Podsednik, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Rick Ankiel, Gabe Gross, Eric Hinske, Xavier Nady, Jack Cust, Jermaine Dye, Ryan Church, and Rocco Baldelli.
I’m going to automatically eliminate those that cannot play outfield – goodbye to Jack Cust, Marcus Thames, Johnny Gomes, and Jermaine Dye.
Not I’m just going to eliminate players that should not be considered more than back-ups at this point considering their offensive output as of late: Rocco Baldelli, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Reed Johnson, Endy Chavez, Gabe Gr0ss and Ryan Church.
Two Tommy John surgeries is enough for me to eliminate Xavier Nady from this list.
In my book, that leaves the options down to Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel, and Eric Hinske.
Scott Podsednik: He had his best season since 2003 in 2009 – he put up a .764 OPS with 38 extra-base hits in 587 at-bats. Against righties in 2009 he had a .780 OPS with all but 7 of his extra-base hits against them. Fielding-wise? If put in left-field, he’s just okay according to FanGraphs.
Rick Ankiel: After putting together OPSs of .863 and .843 in 2007 and 2008, he only had a .672 last year. What happened? His line drive rate dropped about 4% and ground ball rate increased about 4%. His BABIP was only .06 less. Bill James is predicting a .763 OPS next year (with 18 homeruns in 375 at-bats). FanGraphs claims that he is a positive in left field, and we all know about his arm.
Eric Hinske: In 2008 Hinske had a .798 OPS and a 2009 in .780. FanGraphs claims he is a positive in left field. In his career he has a over .800 OPS against righties. He clearly enjoyed his time in New York and would not be expensive at all. He made only $1.5 million dollars last year.
Of course the Yankees have two in-house options: Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffman.
Brett Gardner: He has incredible speed and put up a .724 OPS last year in 248 at-bats. He could easily steal 50 bases over the length of a full season and FanGraphs shows that he is an well above average fielder. He had a .781 OPS against lefties compared to a .700 against righties last year.
Jamie Hoffman: A Rule V pick from the Dodgers, Hoffman spent time with AA, AAA and MLB last year. He crushed AA with a .952 OPS and put together a .815 OPS with 8 homeruns in AAA over 257 at-bats. Hoffman had a significant righty/lefty difference as well. Overall in AA and AAA he had a .974 OPS against righties and .760 against lefties.
Based on this, I think the best move would be to just bring back Eric Hinske. Based on the match-ups, Girardi would have three different left field options – Gardner, Hinske, and Hoffman – and Hinske could also take the back-up first base roll. This combination would cost a total of a little more than $2 million dollars overall, and leave them with several options. They have the power guy in Hinske, the little-bit-of-everything in Hoffman, and the speedster in Gardner.