There are a lot of great points from both sides of the Hughes/Santana issue, and I expect the conversation will continue through the weekend (might we have to start a third overflow post??). Anyway, just to steer the conversation in a slightly different direction, I’m going to pose a hypothetical.
Stick, Cash, Opp, and Hank are sitting in the Tampa offices. They’ve already traded Melky and Hughes for Santana, and have signed Santana to an enormous extension. As a bonus, Andy Pettitte has announced that he will return, so the Yankees rotation looks as formidable on paper as any other in the league. The only problem that remains is a center fielder.
Two of the guys in the room want to stick with internal options. Damon can start the year there with Matsui in left, which would have the added benefit of allowing Jason Giambi to play as the everyday DH. That, according to Buster Olney, is the current thinking from a confident Yankee front office. However, as we all know, this plan might not fly. Damon still has plenty of range in center (personally, I trust him more than Melky for tracking flyballs), but he throws like a girl. Matsui’s arm isn’t as bad, but he’s not gunning out Curtis Granderson going from first to third on a single to left.
The other two guys in the room want to sign a free agent. They say that both Jones and Rowand have good range in center (don’t believe the hype regarding Jones’s supposed defensive decline; if he is declining, it’s not significant enough to fret over).
Somehow, the “sign a free agent” couple convinces one of the “internal options” guys to sign either Jones or Rowand. In fairness, the majority says to the sole “internal options” guy: “It’s your choice. Rowand or Jones?”
Which do you choose? Remember, this is inevitable. Carved in stone. Either Andruw or Aaron is guaranteed to be the Opening Day center fielder.
Me? I’m going Jones, and it isn’t even close. Jones is just four months older than Rowand, and has a far better track record. Jones has had two below-average years, and he socked 34 and 26 homers in those years, which is tremendous for a center fielder.
Rowand, on the other hand, has has only three years of over 500 plate appearances. Over the past four seasons, when he has been a regular, he has had two good seasons and two well below average seasons. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, and he strikes out his share — once every 5.84 plate appearances, as opposed to once every 5.21 PA for Jones.
Now, Rowand isn’t going to get the five years and $90 million that the Angels gave to Torii Hunter. But he’s looking for somewhere between five years and $60 million and six years and $84 million. Jones is likely seeking six years and $108 million…same deal as Hunter, just with an added year, which makes sense considering Jones is nearly two years Hunter’s junior.
The overarching idea is that if you’re trading Hughes and Melky for Santana, you might as well go all in. Why half-ass a 2008 championship run?