The Yankees Really, Really Shouldn’t Trade Brett Gardner

With the arrival of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner has apparently become expendable. With the amount of holes the New York Yankees have, it would seem logical for them to trade the scrappy outfielder, as he’s one of their most valuable assets and can help them find a replacement for Robinson Cano or much-needed pitching.

There have already been rumors of Gardner going elsewhere. New York recently rejected a trade offer from the Cincinnati Reds for 2B Brandon Phillips. Second base is obviously a huge need with Robinson Cano gone. But the 32 year-old Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four years, and his numbers are declining (96 OPS+ last two years, don’t let the RBIs fool you).

But is trading Gardner really the best option for the Yankees? Maybe not. There are actually quite a few reasons why they should hold onto him for next season.

1. He’s very productive and cheap.

Gardner he is a very undervalued player. In his last three healthy seasons, he’s been worth 15.6 WAR. He’s put up a slash line of .270/.358/.389/.747 with a 102 OPS+ since 2010. He’s stolen 148 bases since 2009, among the game’s leaders (if not the highest amount). He’s done all this by making no more than $3 million a year. He’s going into his final season of arbitration, possibly becoming a free agent next winter. With the Yankees trying to avoid going over the luxury tax, trading Gardner wouldn’t make much sense.

2. He is perfect as a third or fourth outfielder.

Currently the starting outfield for the New York Yankees in 2014 is Alfonso Soriano in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center, and Carlos Beltran in right. Ellsbury has a long injury history with the Red Sox and may end up missing his fair share of games next year. Soriano and Beltran are both 37 and can’t play the outfield every single day, especially together. If the Yankees trade Gardner, they will need to find a reliable fourth outfielder (because Vernon Wells and Ichiro ain’t cutting it) to play a significant amount of playing time.

Gardner has a career 23.0 UZR/150, playing left and center very well enough to win two Fielding Bible Awards in 2010 and 2011. Keeping him as a full-time player will limit the amount of time Beltran and Soriano will be in the outfield together, allowing either to settle into a DH role and be fresh for most of the season. If Ellsbury gets hurt, you still have a centerfielder in Brett the Jet.

3. He will form a dynamic 1-2 punch with Ellsbury

General manager Brian Cashman admits that Ellsbury and Gardner are very similar players. As a matter of fact, they are, just Ellsbury is just better. It’s highly likely with Derek Jeter staying in the top of the order, Gardner will be moved down to #9 in the lineup. That’s ok, actually. Perfect table setting for the heart of the order would be for both to get on and wreck total havoc on the base-paths. It will be much easier for the Yankees to score runs this year compared to last.

Speed kills

Let’s not also forget having both Brett and Jacoby, both all-world centerfielders, in the outfield. How many balls are going to go into the gap for extra bases? Not many. Keep Gardner in left, as it’s much deeper than right at Yankee Stadium. That’s really going to help a questionable pitching staff.

4. He’s one of the youngest (and healthiest) players on the Yankees

The Yankees’ kryptonite, even still, is their age and health. It all went to Hell in 2013, with several regular players missing significant playing time as the Yankees missed the postseason for only the second time in 19 seasons. Everyone missed time except for Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. Gardner in fact has been relatively healthy in his career minus a freak wrist injury in 2012. They’ll need him, with the injury risk coming with Ellsbury and Beltran. Just 30 years old, he’s still one of the youngest players left on a very old team.

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Front Office To Blame For The Beginning of The Yankees’ Decline

After getting swept in the League Championship Series last fall, the New York Yankees went into the off-season with a lot of work to do. Knowing Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter would likely be out until the middle of the season, they needed to make upgrades. They also needed to fill holes in the outfield and at catcher. However, they needed to do this on a budget, as ownership wanted to cut the team payroll to $189 million for the 2014 season, which limited their options and caused people to forget the likes of Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn donning Pinstripes.

As a result, the Bronx Bombers went out and signed old foe Kevin Youkilis for a one year deal for $12 million. Instead of resigning Russell Martin, who signed a two year deal for $17 million with Pittsburgh, or bringing in A.J. Pierzynski or Mike Napoli to play catcher, they decided to go with journeyman Chris Stewart to be the primary starter with Francisco Cervelli and later rookie Austin Romine splitting time with him. In the outfield, they gave a 39 year old Ichiro Suzuki a two year deal for $13 million, and after Curtis Granderson’s injury in Spring Training, traded for Vernon Wells, owing him about $14 million total for this year and next. Yeah, even though they already stated they wanted to cut payroll, they went out and added more and in the form of awful, washed up players. Instead of adding cheaper but useful players like Nate Schierholtz or Mike Napoli that would help stick to this $189M plan but still help this team compete, they added expensive, old scrubs.

This spare parts strategy seemed to pay off, at least in the first two months of the 2013 season when they peaked at 30-18. Since then they are just 27-38, seven games out of a playoff spot. The offense is just atrocious, with only soon to be free agent Robinson Cano and perhaps Brett Gardner as the only reliable, above average players. The pitching besides Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera has also struggled in the last two and a half months, with even CC Sabathia having the worst season of his career. Derek Jeter looks like he can’t play everyday anymore, Mark Teixeira is another albatross contract and Alex Rodriguez is all over the news for the wrong reasons besides his poor play.

Clearly, after 19 seasons, 17 playoff appearances, 13 division titles, seven league pennants and five world championships, it’s time for the Yankees to rebuild, but thanks to this front office, particularly general manager Brian Cashman and owners Hank and Hal Steinbrenner the process will be even longer and very painful. For the next three years, they will have over $65 million invested in Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Sabathia, all looking the wrong side of 30. Unlike the 2008-2009 offseason, the Yankees’ last spending spree, the free agent market in the coming years will also be scarce, as many mid/small market clubs have locked up their stars, like Justin Verlander or Evan Longoria.

This would lead them to try to rebuild the way they did in the early 90s, through the minor league system. However, it is very dry at the moment with little talent ready for the big league level in the immediate future, as any legitimate prospects in the recent past were either traded (Jesus Montero) or otherwise ruined by the organization’s poor handlement (Joba Chamberlain, Dellin Betances).

Perhaps the biggest cause for the upcoming drought is this team’s inactivity at the trade deadline. Sure, they traded for Alfonso Soriano and got the Cubs to pay for the massive majority of his contract like the Angels did for Wells, but you’d think this would mean they are serious in trying to make a push for the playoffs this year and more moves would be coming, but they did nothing. They didn’t get a third baseman, as the Yankees are starving for offense there. They still have no catcher and no shortstop either.

With so many holes, a realistic and more wise option would have been to become sellers. To be free agents Cano and Kuroda could have gotten a mother-load of prospects if Cashman played his cards right. Remember who the Mets got for Carlos Beltran two years ago? That’s right. Zack Wheeler. Cano in his prime and healthy could have gotten even more than Beltran was worth. Now they will either lose him for nothing or give him a ridiculous contract. Teams hungry for back end starters like Atlanta or the Dodgers also could have given up something decent for Phil Hughes, also to be a free agent.

There seems to be IS a total lack of direction in this organization. They seemed to have deceived the fans and the media into thinking they’re trying to put a winning product on the field but are doing it by simply adding has-been names and more albatross contracts, rather than doing it by replacing aged players with younger ones with enough talent to stick around and excel, at least enough to be apart of a future. They poorly equipped themselves for the season, perhaps on purpose. Instead, this team is old, washed up, and simply unwatchable.

Yes, a dry spell was going to happen sooner or later. But Cashman and the Steinbrenners blew several chances to rebuild on the fly and now, this team is headed for the abyss. For perhaps a long time. Get ready Yankee fans. It’s going to be painful.

New York Yankees’ Acquisition of Vernon Wells Is Utterly Pointless and Just Atrocious

The New York Yankees have acquired outfielder Vernon Wells from the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday night. The Angels will pay $29 million of the $42 million owed to Wells for the last two seasons of his contract.

The piling injuries looks to have pushed the Yankees to the point of desperation, and in their desperation they turned to a player they fully didn’t understand.

Wells came to a similarly desperate Angels team in 2011 as a massive salary dump by the Toronto Blue Jays when Anaheim missed out on the likes of Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

He struggled mightily in two years with the team, posting a .222/.258/.409/.667 line with an 86 OPS+ along with a WAR of -0.3. He was the odd man out with the emergence’s of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo and the signing of Josh Hamilton.

This trade is just utterly pointless, and quite frankly, insane. To say Wells is bad is an understatement. He has consistently been one of the worst and most overpaid players in baseball for the past several years. Over the past six seasons, he’s been barely worth over one win over the replacement level. PUTRID. In terms of dWAR, he’s also been a waste in the outfield.

Honestly, with the amount of injuries to key players on offense, especially Curtis Granderson, the Yankees clearly needed to make a move, but is this REALLY the move they had to make?

There are plenty of other options the Yankees could have pursued, in both the minor league system, and in free agency. Clearly, rather than being smart and pursuing cheaper free agents or bringing up less touted but useful prospects from Triple-A Scranton.

With Granderson out, the Yankees could have paid either Ronnier Mustelier or Melky Mesa the league minimum to play LF. Either would be likely to produce better numbers than Wells, with less of a risk to take.

This is just the latest move in an offseason where the Yankees have spent a lot of money on the wrong people, when they could have just spent. They let Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh for 2 years and $17M, leaving a massive hole catcher, but they’re willing to pay Wells and Ichiro Suzuki both $13M?

One has to wonder what the people in the Yankees’ front office have been thinking this offseason. There is no rhyme or reason to their insanity, and their foolishness could lead the Yankees to their worst season since 1993.

Brian Cashman, Randy Levine, and the Steinbrenner Bros. are running the team into the ground, and this is just the latest of their senseless transactions.

The Yankees Need to Trust Their Young Guys Rather Than Pick from the Scrap Heap

This week’s acquisition of outfielders Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco, recently released from their respective squads, means only one thing concerning the New York Yankees’ attempts to improve their roster: They continue to be content with picking from the scrap heap rather than trust their young upcoming prospects.

In the offseason, starting catcher Russell Martin and starting right-fielder Nick Swisher, along with important bench pieces in Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez all left to free agency. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson have all suffered injuries and will be out for at least a month a half (In A-Rod’s case, perhaps the entire year).

With no ML starting catcher, no regular CF (Brett Gardner will switch from LF to the 8 spot for Grandy), and half the infield gone, the Yankees are in dire straits, and have done a very poor job to replace them.

With Teixeira and Rodriguez out, former Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis looks to carry the load at 1B and 3B along with Eduardo Nunez and returning Yankee Juan Rivera. Rivera, Matt Diaz, and the recently signed Boesch and Ben Francisco will compete for the 4th outfielder spot. The catching duties will be apparently shared between Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

I don’t think I have to pull up any numbers to make it clear that all these guys are mediocre at best. Even Youkilis struggled in 2012 with both Sox squads, hitting .235 with a 99 OPS+, both career lows. Injury plagued for the last couple of years, he could still be a good pickup if healthy

But the fact is, the Yankees could have simply brought some youth up to help deal with these injuries rather than waste what little money they allowed themselves to spend this past winter.

Keith Law’s 2013 edition of his annual Top 100 prospects has four Yankees prospects on it. Catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and SladeHeathcott could have helped thew Yankees in their situation if they were ready but they all seem to be another year or two or perhaps three away.

As a result, the Yankees should look for help from less touted players, preferably right-handed to off-set the likes of Ichiro, Granderson, and Hafner. There are a few players in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that can easily fill the empty spots on the Yankees’ major league roster in the Bronx until those injured can return.

Of course, the favorite to help fill in the holes the Yankees have is Eduardo Nunez, a lazy choice at best. His 88 OPS+ is not nearly enough to make up for his atrocious, Chuck Knoblauchian defense. He is not the answer at 3rd base with both Teixeira and A-Rod out.

One guy that can fill some holes in both the OF and 3B is Ronnier Mustelier, a 28 year-old Cuban defector with just 150 games and 595 at-bats under his belt. However, he has impressed with the bat, putting up an impressive .324/.378/.488/.859 line with 18HRs, 96 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases in those games climbing up the system.

Despite being mediocre or average at best with the glove, Mustelier can still play both 3B and LF so Brett Gardner can take over CF with Ichiro in right. Mustelier’s hitting skills are too solid to ignore and more than deserves to come up with the big league club in April, especially over Nunez.

A guy who deserves a chance to become the Yankees’ 4th outfielder is Melky Mesa. Yes, that’s right. Another Melky. He is just 26 years old and broke out in 2012 at Double-A and Triple-A, hitting 23 HRs, slugging .480, stealing 22 bags, and putting up an .805 OPS. What you also get with him, however, is a long swing causing a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. Still, he’s still a very good option as a 4th OF and should win the job over the likes of Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, Boesch, or Francisco.

Another OF option is Zolio Almonte, 23. He hit 21 HRs in 2012 at Trenton and could find his way to the big leagues if he continues to improve. He has played all three OF positions regularly, primarily right, but should have no problem if asked to play left at Yankee Stadium, as difficult as it surprisingly is. Like Mesa, however, he strikes out a lot and walks very sparingly.

If Nunez is not the answer (most likely) at utility infielder, another kid may be a better option. Corban Joseph, just 24 years old, could eventually find himself as the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees if Robinson Cano leaves after this year. Joseph has only played second in recent years but improved with the bat in 2012

If he ever (that is, EVER) gets healthy, a potential dark horse option for the infield eventually could be David Adams. He has been plagued by injury for much of his professional career, which caused a potential Yankee trade for Cliff Lee in 2010 to be killed.

Lastly, and most unlikely is the catcher’s spot. The job looks as if it will be shared by Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, two seriously flawed and poor at best MLB players. Both have absolutely no business starting for the New York Yankees. They’re both backups at ABSOLUTE BEST.

The best option the Yankees have right now at catcher may be another minor leaguer, 24 year old AustinRomine. He was limited last year due to back problems, and so far hasn’t fully developed his hitting skills. But between him, Cervelli and Stewart,Romine may be the best option defensively so it makes sense after dealing with Jorge Posada starting for over 14 years.

Sadly, it’s likely that these guys won’t be able to get a chance to help the club, as the Yankees continue to go with the scrap heap to fill their holes. Worked out sometimes and sometimes not. They basically replaced Johnny Damon with the likes of Randy Winn and Austin Kearns in 2010. Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon somehow managed to replace Andy Pettitte’s production in 2011. Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez did well as bench pieces last two years.

But now should be the time for that to end, with the core players of this team aging and getting ready for the end of their careers (Mariano Rivera). The Yankees can’t plug their leaky holes with old vets anymore. There needs to be a youth movement in the organization, eventually centering around the likes of Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin.

But with those three two years away, less touted guys need to step in and help. Who knows? Ivan Nova did well in 2011 and David Phelps looks to make his mark now. There could be guys just like them waiting for their chance, but the Yanks need to give them it.

Russell Martin May Be the Yankees’ Best Option at Catcher Despite Poor Season

How many players can have as poor of a season as Russell Martin and still have a chance of being paid? Especially considering he turned a three year extension worth about $20 million from the New York Yankees last offseason?

Martin hit just .211, had a .311 OBP and a 92 OPS+. All below average numbers. His numbers were even worse until he had a red hot month of September/October.

Still, he managed to set a career high in home runs with 21 and delivered several clutch hits over the course of the season, including one in Game 1 of the ALDS inBaltimore.

Well, there’s a very good chance that Martin could be back in Pinstripes in 2013 and for the foreseeable future, and still have a solid contract to work on for it.

Martin is currently the third best catcher available on the free agent market behind Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski. All are in their 30s and looking for long term contracts

Napoli is coming off two excellent seasons with the Rangers, hitting 30 HRs and having a 1.046 OPS in 2011 and becoming a first time All-Star in 2012. Pierzynski just had his best season ever with the White Sox this past season, setting career highs in HRs and slugging.

So, because of typical Yankee standards, will they be all over either Napoli or AJ? The answer is probably no.

The Yankees have a plan to cut payroll to $189 million by the 2014 season. Currently, they have $70.5 million invested toward that season between Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia.

They also have to worry about locking up Robinson Cano for the long term. So between those four players, and perhaps Derek Jeter, could add up to almost $110 million for that season.

The desire to cut payroll and the amount of money already committed for the future could limit the amount of talent the Yankees can add based on their contract desires.

Russell Martin made just $7.5 million in 2012, and could get pretty much the same amount of money over a multi-year deal. Both Pierzynski and Napoli could look to get even more than that.

The fact is, Martin is the best option at catcher for the Yankees financially and long term.

Despite his poor numbers, some metrics may suggest that he may bounce back next season. Out of all MLB players with a minimum of 450 plate appearances, he had the lowest BABIP at .222. His line drive rate (19.4%) is around his career norms, so it doesn’t seem it is a result of weak contact and more of as an outcome of bad luck.

He is a much better option long term than AJ, as Pierzynski is 36 and will ask for more years and money after having a career year. His year was an extreme outlier, as he didn’t have a season with an OPS+ over 100 (average) since 2003 when he was inMinnesota. So, Martin’s and Pierzynski’s career numbers are actually very similar, but Martin is the superior defender.

Napoli is the worst defender out of the three and will be forced to play a lot of games at first to keep him in the lineup. The Yankees can’t do that with Mark Teixeira on the team still providing excellent defense and offense. He will also probably ask for the largest deal of the three, as he’s only 31 and the best option.

Even if Martin doesn’t rebound with the bat if he is brought back, he is still a good stopgap between whoever emerges as the catcher of the future in the minor league system. Currently there are no immediate in house replacements but there will be in a few years.

Jesus Montero is gone and he couldn’t be the long term man. Austin Romine has had back problems and will not be ready to be the starter just yet. Gary Sanchez and JR Murphy are more than a few years away from the Majors.

Still, given what Martin provides defense (he certainly was an upgrade over Jorge Posada last year), and the hope that his offensive numbers could trend upward, it would seem he is the best option to continue tot be the New York Yankees’ starting catcher for 2013 and afterward.