To fill the vacant left field vacancy, we’ve mostly talked about players not under contract. Johnny Damon remains the favorite, but we’ve also discussed Mike Cameron and Matt Holliday. It doesn’t appear that the Yankees plan to move quickly on a left fielder, so maybe we’ll see a few other options emerge over the next few weeks. Since there aren’t any other strong options on the free agent market, perhaps the Yankees will seek to trade for a player who will cost less than the above-mentioned three.
Among its many resources, MLB Trade Rumors has a trade market analysis for each position. Here’s the one for left field. Since most teams don’t possess a corner outfield surplus, the list doesn’t contain many enticing names. A few could be interesting ideas, but I doubt the Yankees move on any of them.
David DeJesus comes up every once in a while, and the Royals might dangle him this off-season. He posted the lowest OBP of his career in 2009, but even then it was .347, not bad by any stretch. If he can hit more like he did in 2006 and 2008 he’d be an asset in left and at the bottom of the order. Since we don’t know how he’ll hit, though, I think he’s more of a backup plan than anything.
MLBTR lists Josh Willingham among the trade candidates, though I don’t see why Washington would trade him. His .260/.367/.496 line ranked among the best of his career. He’s 31 next season, true, but he still has two more seasons of team control and made just $2.9 million in 2009. Washington GM Mike Rizzo set a high asking price for Willingham over the summer, and that’s not likely to change. He’s one of their better hitters, so I assume they want him starting in left field next season. If they do plan to trade him, though, the Yankees will probably inquire.
Other than those two, there are assorted bad contracts, like Juan Pierre and Eric Byrnes, and some other middling players. Matt Murton appears, but I doubt the Yankees would use whims anything more than minor league depth. None of the remaining names should interest them at all. But, because Nick Swisher can slide over to left, the Yankees can also check out right fielders.
The only player worth a look on the right fielders list is Brad Hawpe, and he might not be available. Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd said that the team has “no desire to move him at all.” Hawpe has posted an OBP of .380 or higher in each of the last four seasons, and his lowest slugging percentage in that time is .498. His left-handed bat would play well at Yankee Stadium, though he does have a pronounced platoon split. UZR also ranks him worse than Damon in the field. Still, it’s more likely that the Rockies keep him, or else demand more than the Yankees are willing to offer. Hawpe is a good player, but probably not a fit for the Yanks.
The Yankees should be open to any possible solution to fill the left field void, and that includes through trades. Few teams, though, have corner outfielders to spare, or at least corner outfielders who could start for the Yankees. They’ll find a solution somewhere, even if it does cost them a few dollars. I don’t think George Steinbrenner will mind. As Brian Cashman said, “He wants to win again.”