In Disney World today, the Yankees’ three long relief candidates — Brett Tomko, Al Aceves and Dan Giese — are each scheduled to make their cases for that final spot in the bullpen. Meanwhile, the center field job is all but wrapped up, and Brett Gardner is emerging as the one to start the season manning center field.
For those of us watching the Yankee news over the last few days, this revelation can hardly come as a surprise. After all, the Yankees, as Ken Rosenthal reported, would be willing to trade Melky Cabrera at this point. That kind of news doesn’t leak out five days before you name the trade candidate as your starter.
At the same time, though, Kat O’Brien says that both players will earn jobs with the Big League club. For the Yankees, that’s simply a personnel matter. Melky Cabrera is out of options, and while the Yanks may not have a trade lined up, the Yanks would have to put Melky through waivers to send him down to AAA. We might not be too high on Melky’s future potential, but a 24-year-old with 415 MLB games under his belt wouldn’t clear waivers.
Rob Neyer agrees but only to a point. In a blog post yesterday, Neyer analyzed the Yanks’ center field situation and urged the team to send off Melky if they can. In fact, he doesn’t think both players should earn a spot on the team. While Neyer has a point about that, as I said, the Yanks don’t want to lose Melky and will probably try to trade him this spring. Writes Neyer:
[If] you’re going to get rid of one of them, Cabrera’s probably the guy. At least Gardner’s demonstrated that he can do something (run and field) and might do something else (reach base). At this point, it’s not clear that Cabrera can do anything. And I say that having written — just two or three years ago — that by now Melky would be one of the 10 best center fielders in the majors (not one of my more brilliant predictions).
Cabrera’s upside might still be higher than Gardner’s … but the Yankees can’t worry about upside. They’re trying to win right now, and Gardner gives them a slightly better chance of doing that…
The Yankees aren’t going to trade Nick Swisher because they need him. If Joe Girardi can’t somehow get Swisher nearly 500 plate appearances this season, then he’s not a good enough manager for this club. I’m at the front of the line criticizing the supposed decision to make Nady the everyday right fielder, but I’m willing to cut Girardi just a little slack for the moment. There just isn’t any justification for Nady getting more playing time than Swisher in the long run.
In a way, this news is good for Brett, bad for Melky, but in another way, it doesn’t really matter. Gardner will earn the center field at bats until his hitting becomes a liability. If he isn’t doing the job out of the gate, the Yanks can put Melky back into that lineup spot if they haven’t traded him. If neither emerge as viable candidates for the job, Nick Swisher may be pressed into service or Brian Cashman will look elsewhere. For now, though, April 6 will mark the start of the Brett Gardner Era in the Bronx.