As the Yanks head into Spring Training, they may or may not have a roster with too many outfielders for too few spaces. Johnny Damon is entrenched in left field and the lead-off spot while Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera will seemingly battle it out for center field. In right, Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady offer the Yanks a plethora of platoon options with Hideki Matsui as the DH.
The Yanks could look to trade an outfielder. Damon wouldn’t — and probably shouldn’t — be the one to go while no team would take on Hideki without a guarantee that his knees could hold up. So that leaves Swisher and Nady as the potential trade bait. Swisher had a seemingly poor 2008, but luck had a big role in suppressing his numbers. He also has a better track record than Nady.
But no one seems to generate more discussion than Nady as the Yanks shop their outfielders. In answering some mail this week, Steve Goldman opined about Nady:
What happened to the Yankees’ fondness of Xavier Nady? It seemed like when they got him, the organization really liked him. But now they’re thinking of trading him? Trading away a .305 AVG, 25 HR and 97 RBI from an offense that had trouble scoring runs last year? Does that even make sense? –Tucker
It makes a ton of sense, Tucker, because Nady isn’t really a .305 hitter. In his career, he’s been far closer to the hitter he cooled from his hot pinstriped start, a .268/.320/.474 hitter. As far as corner outfield production goes, it’s subpar. If Nick Swisher gets back on track this year, he’ll get on base much closer to 40 percent of the time and show comparable power. The value in Nady last season was that he was a huge in-season upgrade on Melky Cabrera, who he displaced from the lineup by allowing Johnny Damon to go back to center. That was a very nice move by Brian Cashman to staunch a bleeding wound, but Nady isn’t someone a championship team plans on starting.
Meanwhile, one of the various Steve’s who read RAB wrote in with this take on the X Man:
He’s one of the more misunderstood players on the Yanks, with many believing “he had a fluke year” and “he’s a NL player,” both of which are demonstrably false.
Check out the progression Nady has made over the past 5 years, especially vs righties. (The numbers are BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.)
vs R .178 .213 .311 .524
vs L .344 .417 .563 .979
vs R .223 .270 .431 .700
vs L .323 .400 .452 .852
vs R .263 .312 .424 .736
vs L .336 .418 .551 .969
vs R .274 .322 .479 .802
vs L .295 .356 .463 .819
vs R .317 .357 .529 .886
vs L .262 .361 .444 .805
He has steadily improved from being a platoon player who only hit lefties, to one who hit righties better than lefties last season. Even if that was a peak year for him, if he was to revert to his 2007 line he would still be a fine everyday player and a good replacement for Abreu, especially when you factor in his value as a (slightly better than league average) fielder, and Abreu being the worst RF in the AL by most measures.
Now to the AL/NL stuff:
1st Half .291 .344 .504 .848
2nd Half .255 .303 .425 .728
1st Half .321 .377 .525 .901
2nd Half .284 .333 .492 .825
The middling second half he had leads many Yankee fans to believe that he’s “not an AL player,” but he actually had a similarly weak (.80 drop off in OPS both years) 2nd half in 2007 in the NL, which could say something about his conditioning or training regimen, but not the league. It’s also worth noting that he only became a full time player in 2008 (607 PAs), he had about 500 PAs in 2007/2006 and 356 PAs in 2005. Again, he is progressing from a platoon player to an everyday player.
So what will it be? Should the Yankees trade Xavier Nady? I’d be inclined to keep him as a fourth outfielder, long his traditional role, and if Swisher falters, they have a Plan B. He provides a lot of pop off the bench, and the Yanks don’t need to trade him right now.
Let’s open the floor on this debate with an ever-popular poll, and feel free to use this post as tonight’s open thread.