Brian Cashman has repeatedly said that the Yankees will not sign an expensive outfielder to fill the void in left field. He also said that the organization is comfortable with using Brett Gardner as a starting outfielder. The Yankees probably have one more spot open on the roster for an additional free agent, but with Chad Gaudin eating $2.95 million of the remaining budget, Brian Cashman will likely look for some of the most inexpensive players possible. Let’s take a look at the best remaining bargains on the free agent market:
1. Jonny Gomes – If the Yankees want to add a starter without spending much money, they should look no further. Gomes signed with Cincinnati on a minor league deal last season and even though he had a very strong year, I can’t see him asking for more than $2.5 million. The Yankees would be smart to add Gomes, who would add right-handed power to the bottom of the order, give Nick Johnson and Nick Swisher the occasional day off and add power to the bench should Gardner get the starting nod.
2. Fernando Tatis – Out of the remaining free agents, Tatis actually makes the most sense for the Yankees. He’s New York tested and has plenty of corner outfield experience, meaning he could split time with Gardner and give Swisher the occasional day off. He also can play any infield position, which would add some serious depth to the bench. His career .221 pinch-hitting average underwhelming, but with his versatility and decent offensive potential, the Yankees can’t go wrong here.
3. Reed Johnson – He’d have to shave his beard, but Johnson would be a perfect platoon partner for Brett Gardner thanks to his ability to hit lefties and superb defense. I think his asking price is probably more than what the Yankees are willing to pay, otherwise he’d be in pinstripes already.
4. Rocco Baldelli – He’s a very nice fit for the Yankees, but I worry about his durability. He put together a fine season for the Red Sox after learning to properly deal with his illness, and his low base salary in 2009 suggests that he could be had on the cheap. One thing to note: he’s the owner of a .353 career batting average as a pinch-hitter. He’s also mashed lefties for the past two seasons.
5. Randy Winn – Let’s be honest here. Winn would be lucky to get a two-year deal after the way he performed in 2009. There has been little interest in the one time All Star outfielder, but if Winn was willing to take a one-year deal with a low base salary, there could be a fit. He’s always been a tremendous defender and could bounce back at the plate.
6. Johnny Damon -He’s not a bargain now, but he could be come February. If his contract demands come way down and he’s willing to take the Bobby Abreu treatment, Damon could be one of the best bargains of the offseason. It seems like very few teams are interested in Damon and he could approach the Yankees again before the hot stove cools.
I know there are a few other options on the market like Xavier Nady, Omar Infante and Rick Ankiel, but I think the six listed are the best possible fits when taking both talent and price into account. I can see the Yankees going into the 2010 season with Gardner as their starting left fielder, but they have the space and resources to add another player and should probably do so. Depth is a necessity the Yankees can afford and they should not worry about deepening the bench during the trade deadline.