We’ve heard from Brian Cashman that center field is not a priority this off-season. The Yanks have three immediate options in Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, and Melky Cabrera, though question marks certainly surround each. With Austin Jackson waiting in the wings as the team’s number one prospect, they likely don’t want to make a long-term commitment. Basically, there are enough options in the short and long term that the team doesn’t necessarily need to make a move.
That’s not the only factor, though. As MLB.com’s Jim Molony points out, the center field market isn’t exactly inspiring. He notes the heads of the class are Ken Griffey and Milton Bradley, neither of whom plays center field in an ideal environment. Griffey’s range doesn’t permit his play there, and Bradley is too fragile to trot out every day. You can add Rocco Baldelli to this group, though he faces fragility issues as well.
This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the class, which includes Jim Edmonds, Willie Bloomquist, Mark Kotsay, Corey Patterson, and Scott Podsednik. Yuck. Apparently, Molony thinks that Jay Payton can play center and that the Mets would shop Endy Chavez, who is signed for just north of $2 million for 2009. None of these should even be in consideration.
So the Yankees might be planning to make Brett Gardner their Opening Day center fielder not out of want, but out of necessity. Let’s hope he can handle it.