The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees got their starting center fielder today. In a deal with the Texas Rangers, the Yankees acquired former outfielder Greg Golson. Golson had been designated for assignment a week ago to make room for infielder Kahlil Greene. The Rangers received infielder Mitch Hilligoss and cash in exchange for Golson, who was added to the 40-man roster.
Albeit small, this is actually an excellent move by the Yankees. They essentially traded a 24 year-old faltering and blocked infielder for a 24 year-old high-upside outfielder who has yet to pan out. Hilligoss is most famous for his 38-game hit streak back in 2007, but he really has not been a productive player since. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him good, but at his point he is nothing more than a fringe minor leaguer or bench player.
Golson, on the other hand, still has enough raw talent and tools to develop into a decent backup outfielder. At this point in his career, his speed is his calling card. In 634 minor league games, Golson has stolen 140 bases while only getting caught 38 times, averaging a 7.6 speed score. He’s a very good defensive player, but since being drafted he has not delivered at the plate. Strikeouts seem to be his biggest issue, but if he’s able to take the next step, the Yankees could have a player with some power, a lot of speed and a decent glove.
Golson, 23, offers huge speed, arm strength and range in center field, but his hitting tools and pitch recognition remain unrefined. A product of Austin’s Connally High, he batted .282/.333/.434 for Double-A Reading in 2008, chipping in 13 home runs, 18 doubles and 23 stolen bases in 28 attempts. The righthanded batter struck out 130 times in 426 at-bats, a rate that was in line with career norms, while drawing 34 walks. Even with a low contact rate, Golson’s power plays as average, and Eastern League mangers named him the league’s most exciting player. He’s batted .265/.309/.406 in 2,101 minor league at-bats, and he went 0-fot-6 for the Phillies as a September callup.
He failed to produce in 2009, posting a .258/.299/.344 line with 20 stolen bases in 123 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City. If the Yankees did not have Brett Gardner, I’d say Golson would be a great pick for the forth outfielder spot, considering there bench would be without a solid pinch-runner. However, the defensive ability and offensive upside of Jamie Hoffman should spell another Triple-A season for the former-Philly. If Golson can work on his pitch selection, cut down on strikeouts and make more consistent contact, he’d be a great player to have. Either way, this is a great deal for the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Xavier Nady signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. He could make a total of $5.35 million with incentives. Perhaps the Yankees were not comfortable with his durability, but they certainly could have afforded that. Perhaps they really are holding out for Johnny Damon.