Winning With Winn

Last week, the Yankees simultaneously added outfield depth and shut the door on Johnny Damon by signing the 36 year-old Randy Winn to a one-year, $2 million deal. Prior to signing Winn, the Yankees had been linked to Rocco Baldelli, Jim Edmonds, Jermaine Dye and Reed Johnson, who signed with the Dodgers yesterday for $800,000. Johnson did make plenty of sense for the Yankees because of his strong defense and ability to hit lefties, but it appears as though the Yankees wanted to go in a different direction. I know the immediate reaction here is that Brian Cashman overpaid for Winn, but there are a few things to consider here before we jump to a conclusion like that.

Durability: Reed Johnson has been placed on the disabled twice last season; once for lower back spasms and once for a foot injury. He’s always suffered with durability and back problems, whereas Winn has never been placed on the disabled list and has appeared in at least 149 games per season since 2002. Meanwhile, Johnson has yet to play that many games in a season in his career. Although both players will probably used in a limited capacity, Winn’s durability certainly helps warrant a better contract.

Projections and Value: Normally you can’t put to much stock into projections, but if you compile the CHONE, Marcel and Bill James projections, you have a player who will hit .270 with eight home runs and 50 RBI in 2010. Based on the CHONE projections, (.256 – 8 HR – 50 RBI) Winn should be payed a salary of $3.6 million for next season, which is $1.6 million more than he will receive. If he performs anywhere near the compiled projections, the Yankees would have made a pretty smart deal.

Rebound Potential: Winn had an atrocious 2009 season, and if post similar numbers in 2010 it’ll be quite a disappointment. However, Winn has posted solid numbers throughout his career, and thee only significant decline in his numbers was in the power department. If you look at his statistics, you’ll notice t that he encountered a 29-point drop in Isolated Power (ISO). This could suggest that he is on a rapid decline due to age, suffered from an unreported injury or was dealing with issues outside the game. Steve Lombardi from WasWatching pointed out the troubles with his sister-in-Law and the passing of his father-in-law last season. This could have something to do with his poor season, but we’ll have to wait and see. Let’s hope the issues with his extended family get sorted out. Either way, if Winn can manage to hit .280 with a handful of homers, this will end up being a solid deal for the Yankees. We know he has the potential, and as my grandfather always told me: “In baseball, the cream always rises to the top.” Also, if he completely exceeds expectations, the Yankees can trade him at the deadline.

Defense: Despite his poor offensive season, Winn still posted a 20.1 UZR/150 in the outfield. That’s a higher rating than Johnson (-5.2), Rick Ankiel (1.7), Jermaine Dye (-24.5), Scott Podseknik (-2.3) and Johnny Damon (-12.1). Keep in mind that Ankiel is slated to make $3.25 million, Podseknick will make $1.75 million and Damon and Dye are shooting for even higher annual salaries.

So what did the Yankees get for $2 million? A durable, defense-first backup outfielder with some rebound potential. Yes, they probably could have gotten Reed Johnson for less, but there is plenty of silver-lining here. Unlike bench players in the past, Winn has the potential to exceed expectations and even earn a starting job. I still think the Yankees would benefit the most from using Brett Gardner in center and Curtis Granderson in left field, but we’ll have to wait and see how everyone performs in spring training.

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3 Responses to Winning With Winn

  1. Chris Barrows says:

    I couldn't agree more, Dan. I firmly believe that Gardner would be better suited for the Yankees in CF then Granderson. That being said, it will be interesting to see if Gardner does earn the starting job, how he does through a full second season in the Bronx.

    He's improved every year of his career at the next level and I don't see why he can't provide the Yankees with a spark in the bottom of the line-up in 2010 (and sometimes at the top of the line-up in the Nick Johnsonless games).

  2. Dan LaTorraca says:

    I hate to say it, but I want Gardner in center because of the classic baseball feel. I know it goes against a lot of what I write about, but I love the archetypal speedy/no-power/all-glove center fielder in between the power-hitting corner outfielders.

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