Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Who Fields Death Valley In Yankee Stadium in 2010?

Bryan Hoch on MLB.com wrote recently that the Yankees might be bluffing with their left field scenario.

We can debate if Brett Gardner or Jamie Hoffmann will really be in left field on Opening Day (I tend to think it's a lot like after the '05 season, when they insisted that Bubba Crosby would be the Opening Day center fielder until he wasn't and Johnny Damon was), but the GM is doing his best to throw ice water on any fantasies of another big-ticket addition this winter. "I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won't be a big piece," Cashman said Dec. 22. "Any speculation about some high-end player who has big ability and dollars attached on a large scale would be inappropriate."

It certainly is possible that the Yankees will make a move to shore up left field—especially if Johnny Damon or Xavier Nady drops the price tag a little bit. It could be the Yankees are bluffing. However, there are a few things to consider about the differences between 2005 and now.

In the spring of 2006, the Yankees had just gotten knocked out of the first round of the playoffs, and this after 2004's disastrous playoff series against the Red Sox. Jason Giambi was a shell of the megamillion dollar superstar that was supposed to reinvigorate the Yankee success train and resided under a cloud of steroid suspicion. Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez were on their way out. And the Pavano, Wright and Randy Johnson signings were looking like mistakes.

In short, the Yankees looked like an aging, out-of-control behemoth.

They couldn't have Bubba Crosby start in left and still pretend to be trying to reignite the dynasty. There would be just no way.

Going into 2010, however, the Yankees are defending World Champions. They won 70% of their games in the second half of 2009 and seem poised to continue their dominating ways. Mark Teixiera, last year's free agent prize, won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, placed 2nd in the MVP race and wont turn 30 until April. They added Curtis Granderson, all of 29, and hopefully invigorated batting in the Yankee lineup, to play centerfield. And they picked up Nick Johnson and his .426 OBP to help keep the batting order potent.

The Yankees, of course, would love to have Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. But they don't need them. Their lineup remains extremely dangerous, and the additions should only make it more so. If Brett Gardner is the starting left fielder on Opening Day, his .270 batting average, good defense and feisty base running wouldn't be the worst option for the home run hitting Yankees. Or the Yankees could go with someone like Reed Johnson as an insurance policy.

Then again, if Matt Holliday drops his price, all of this could be moot. Word is however, that the Yankees are serious about keeping a budget this year and will not sign a big ticket free agent ("No chance on Matt Holliday, no chance on Jason Bay.  Zero. None. Underline it.").") and I for one, believe them this time. So don't be surprised if Brett Gardner trots out to left field on Opening Day.