KLaw: Just stick with Gardner


RAB fave Keith Law chimes in on the Yanks’ left field situation in Rumor Central today, saying that the Yanks should just stick with Brett Gardner in left because of his defense. “Either Nady or (Reed) Johnson represent marginal improvements that may not justify the cost,” says KLaw. “Neither is really a full-time player. Johnson is strictly a platoon player, and can back up Granderson, but they have Gardner for that. Nady, even when healthy, was a platoon guy until ’08.” The Yanks’ offense is good enough that they could carry a black hole in left, and there’s no reason for them to fix something that we aren’t completely sure is broken yet.

“Eventually, some other option will emerge,” KLaw adds, “and there’s no reason for the Yanks to spend money on left field simply for the sake of spending money.”

Categories : Asides
  • SVJ

    Umm…Damon, anyone?

    • DP

      Bourne, anyone?

      • All Praise Be To Mo


        • Ansky

          Bond…James Bond.

    • Tom Swift

      The point is that, when taking into account the defensive difference between Gardner and Damon, the improvement is perhaps small, and not worth the incremental cost, including luxury tax. This off season, there may be a perception in the front offices that defense is undervalued, which makes me think that Damon is unlikely for the Yanks.

      • SVJ

        I’m not trying to trash sabermetrics because they definitely have their uses in baseball circles, but I have to think that defense has become so undervalued that it’s not overvalued by many.

        I will always have a hard time believing that defense could possibly be considered equal to offense in terms of value. The 2005 Yankees had what was considered the worst defense of the UZR era. Something like -139 runs…14 wins in other words were “lost” because of their defense, and they still won 95 games that year.

        I can’t be led to believe that if the Yankees had the opposite in effect…a weaker offense and a +139 defense, that they would’ve won 95 games. And that’s where saber and I differ by more than just a touch.

        • DP

          Nobody is saying Johnny Damon isn’t a more valuable player than Brett Gardner. What they are saying is that Johnny Damon (perhaps) isn’t ~$6.5 million+ luxury tax more valuable. Not that I agree or disagree, but when people are screaming “WE HAVE TO GET DAMON!!!” They fail to take into account that his potential replacement makes the league minimum and he doesn’t.

          • JAG

            +1. Now, if Damon signed for the minimum, then of course it’s a slam-dunk deal. But we all know that’s never going to happen.


        • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

          Sabermetrics or not, Damon’s more a problem of economics. If the report is that we have only $2 million to dole out, he’s way too expensive.

          I’m mathematically challenged, so I’m not going to get into a UZR, WAR, wRC+ battle, but considering the Yankees’ projected hitting prowess, the upgrade of Gardner from Damon may offset the offensive downgrade experienced in the transition—and it certainly may be even better than breaking even in its totality considering Damon’s career year and probable decline. (Sorry about that run-on sentence.)

          • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

            To clarify my statement: I think Damon’s going to be more valuable overall, but it wouldn’t be crazy if Gardner were to match his productivity/cost.

        • AndrewYF

          Of course, it’s much, much harder to have a +139 defense than a +139 offense.

          I think the problem people like you or me have with valuing defense is that it’s really difficult to project whether someone is going to be a good defender year in and year out. Offensive production is much more reliable, projectable, and isn’t nearly as prone to random fluctuations.

  • jsbrendog

    exactly, gardner/hoffman is fine. and if it isn’t well, whatevsies. sign hairston and youve got what you need.

  • Bob Stone

    I’d still like to see Damon back and hitting in the two hole for $5-7 million for one year plus an option (unless he’ll sign without an option).

  • pete

    i’m cool with hairston and i’m equally cool with reed johnson. i’m also cool with standing pat.

    the reason: I’m so effing cool with CC, AJ, Javy, Andy, Joba, Mo, Phil, Robertson, Ace, Derek, NJ, Swish, Alex, Teix, Robbie, Curtis, Jorge, et al, that pretty much anything else that manages to find its way into a role on this team is incapable of detracting from that core.

    • Camilo Gerardo


  • JSquared

    I think everyone wants to give Gardner the chance to play, and his defense will be there no matter what, I don’t see Gardner starting as a bad move. Hoffmann may do well, who knows, the only additions should be bench as of right now.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

      Everyone? I’d rather see him traded for some mimes and a cheeseburger.

      /was doing so well on the Gardner hate

      • JSquared

        Two Cheeseburgers? I could perhaps be persuaded…

  • JackISBACK

    This might be one of the few times that I agree with Law. And its not just defense.

    Bill James projections has Gardner at a projected wOBA of .347, where as Damon comes in at .348. He also projects a wRC of 49.8 for Gardner and 85.9 for Damon (Its a cumulative stat, so Gardner is projected to get about 1.7, which multiplied to his projection gives him about 84.

    And factor in defense, and Gardner is probably the more valuable player. Yes, Damon adds power that Gardner doesn’t but Gardner has top line speed that can change an inning.

    I say stick with Gardner, save the money on for mid season when we might need something else.

    • JackISBACK

      Edit- I meant to say Damon is projected to get about 1.7 more ABs.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

      Bill James also has Austin Jackson slugging .900 in 2010, so…maybe he’s a bit optimistic on his projections.

      (He doesn’t actually project him to hit that high, but he’s generally, in my opinion, a bit too heavy on the sunny side.)

      • Salty Buggah

        Soooo, he’s also being optimistic for Damon then, right?

        • pete

          sure he is, but JMK has a point. Bill James’s projections have been historically optimistic on prospects, much more so than on established players. In fact he’s typically quite pessimistic on players 35 and over (I believe he has A-Rod having a 17 HR season before his 40th birthday…unlikely). Projection systems are based on numbers, not scouting reports. This is fine for major leaguers in their primes, but for guys moving into a different tier of competition, you need to make projections based on more than just numbers. Otherwise Kei Igawa and Shelley Duncan would be average or above-average major league players.

          • JackISBACK

            But in the same sense, we have to account for someone like Gardner improving and someone like Damon declining as well. I’m not saying Gardner is better than Damon or equal to him, but I’m saying that when factoring in money and defense, Gardner might be a better option for us, because Gardner is atleast decent on offense.

            • pete

              I completely agree that Gardner is the more responsible choice given the current context. I just think that were we in a position where we needed to bank on a certain level of offensive production out of LF, then Damon would be the better choice. However, we are not in that position, not even by a long shot. We are currently in the position where our LFer is supposed to be our 9th best position player, and the other 8 are exceptional players. Pretty much anything we get from that spot is a plus.

            • andrew

              While we have to factor in Damon declining, from what we’ve seen the last few years, it appears as though he has not declined as a normal 35 year old would. The projection systems may project his decline far more than they should. While Gardner may improve, i don’t see him improving as much as James thinks.

      • JackISBACK

        Yeah, like Salty mentioned, the same would apply to Damon as well.

        CHONE (The other projection system Fangraphs provides) has Gardner at .335 wOBA and Damon at .352, and wRC with Brett at 74 and Damon at 83. There is a bit more difference here, but not an amazing lot.

  • Steve H

    And KLaw has not been a supporter of Gardner. So he’s not saying Gardner is great, he plays great D, he has a ton of value, etc., he’s simply saying it isn’t worth upgrading right now, which I agree with 100%. If Gardner is hitting .000 on May 1st, then be concerned (though the Yankees would still have a good record).

    • DP

      And like the bullpen arrangement, when you have multiple guys making nothing (him and Hoffmann) you can just play whoever is doing better. So if Gardner truly was hitting .000 (yes, the Yankees would probably still be good), they can just insert Hoffmann.

  • thurdonpaul

    i have 20 (online) bucks that says the Yankees upgrade left field before the season starts, im not predicting who, but i think right now we are to thin in the outfield. i think we are ok there, provided we stay healthy, but i think we need to protect ourself from a serious injury.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

      Is this legal US tender you speak of? To be clear, would a platoon qualify as an “upgrade”?

      • thurdonpaul

        yeah, i guess a platoon might qualify and yes 100% real internet money

    • pete

      this is true – an injury to swisher or granderson and our OF will look pretty bad offensively. But that’s true for every team. We’ll still be competitive though, since we have a dominant rotation and the best offensive infield in the history of major league baseball.

      • Bob Stone

        That’s why I’d like to get Damon on a one year $5-7 Million deal with option if necessary.

        • pete

          That’s not unreasonable, but you have to remember that Gardner is 25, Curtis is 29, and Swish is 29, and none of them have any injury history to speak of, while A-Rod, Jeter, and Posada are older (especially considering their positions), and a-rod had a recent hip injury for which he underwent a hybrid surgery not designed to fully heel the injury, and posada has been injured twice in the last two years. Of all the players on this team, the one Damon would be most likely to be a backup for is Nick Johnson. Do we really want to pay our backup/insurance DH $5-7 million? Especially considering how good the team already is? Their are 8 good to elite hitters on this team right now. With our rotation, we could survive with 5 or 6 and good defense. If you ask me, it would take losing two of A-Rod, Jeter, Posada, or Tex to really kill this team offensively, and even then, we’d probably still come up with 90 or more wins.

          • Bob Stone

            The relative age of the roster and the high possibility of some injury makes Damon even more attractive.

            • pete

              but adding damon will just mean adding another older player who could be susceptible to both decline and injury, and who plays poor defense. Again, it makes plenty of sense to have all of the options you can if you aren’t cutting into your budget cap, but if you are, then it’s simply a reward outweighed by the financial compromise it pushes you into.

      • mike c

        posada’s at a high risk of injury too

    • Bob Stone

      Is this an even money bet or are you giving odds?

      • thurdonpaul

        even money bet

        • Bob Stone

          Thanks but no thanks.

  • pete luciano

    Most of you on this blog must be smoking something. Gardner nor any of the imposters mentioned are close to Johnny Damon, please. He’s great at Yankee Stadium, a proven playoff player, and can hit lefties. The more Gardner or any of his imposters play the more their holes come out. I think an under valued success last year was moving Jeter to the one hole and Damon two. It improved both players, reduced double plays for Jeter, and increased Damon’s rbi’s. Sign Damon, stop the noise about Gardner or the money. Money has never mattered to George, for God’s sake we got $46 million tied up in Kei Igewa, paid Giambi $23m his last yr and paid Clemens $28m his last yr to go 6 and 6. And we’re worried about $5-$7m for a proven playoff player with good chemistry and at least 1 good year left.

    • mike c

      seems like most would rather a #18 jersey that said “reduced payroll” on the back
      i don’t get the front office worship either

    • pete

      first things first, that “we” (we being the yankee FO, of course) are worried about “$5-7 million) is pure speculation. There is no evidence anywhere that Damon is willing to accept such a price. We know that the yanks have no interest in offering a guy who can’t play defense and only hits at home $10+ or multiple years, and only a fool would disagree with that stance. But there IS a budget, and every indication is that the team is very close to it right now. That’s why many here are saying that $5-7 million is too much to give to damon.

      Secondly, Gardner can be expected to perform at at least replacement level offensively, and likely closer to league average, when baserunning/stealing is accounted for. Throw in what has, in an admittedly small sample, shown itself to be elite defense – a potential 3 win swing defensively from Damon, and it is not far-fetched at all to say that there’s a distinct possibility that Gardner’s overall production in 2010 matches Damon’s, especially if Damon plays for anyone but the Yanks, whose park appears to be the only one he can actually hit in (~.760 OPS on the road in ’09, which was a career year offensively for him to begin with).

      Thirdly, Gardner will likely be complimented by a platoon partner of sorts, unless his offense is good enough to warrant a full-time starting role, in which case this entire discussion is moot, as he will have vastly surpassed damon’s production if that is the case. The 2009 yankees won the world series and had the best offense in baseball with a tandem of Gardner and Cabrera batting 9th. Their 1-8 is almost exactly the same as, if not better than last year’s, their pitching is better, and their defense is better. What on earth leads you to believe that they can’t compete with the same 9th hitter, or even one slightly worse, for that matter? For all intent’s and purposes, Gardner is replacing Cabrera from last year’s club, not Damon. Gardner’s overall production, when accounted for defense, is quite likely to exceed Melky’s. Therefore, 2010 Yankees > 2009, world series-winning, 103 regular season game-winning, Yankees, as currently constructed. Thus shelling out “$5-7 million” on the not very significant and even less necessary upgrade that is Johnny Damon, is foolish.

      And lastly, why would the $$ owed to Igawa give us more budget room for Damon? If anything, it cramps it even more.

      • pete

        also, things that are not going to strengthen your argument here: RBI’s as an indication of improvement, W/L record as an indication of success, and George Steinbrenner. George plays no role in the FO these days, and even his sons take a major back seat to Cashman, who is rightfully unwilling to overpay for a declining player whose ’09 numbers are a bit of a mirage, since they represented not only a minor spike late in a player’s career (a contract year at that), but were also a combination of two wholly different hitters home and away, and do not account for the horrendous defense that is likely to continue to decline.

        If Johnny signs elsewhere, hits .275/.350/.420 with a -15 UZR, while Gardner amasses a .255/.335/.385 line and a +15 UZR, Gardner’s the better player. And that’s not even taking the (presumably) $6.5 million salary difference into account.

      • mike c

        we lucked out with injuries in 09. and even if johnson stays healthy, he’s not going to match 2009 matsui production. damon’s the piece that pushes us over the edge from dominant to unfuckwithable

        oh and i can get you a good deal on cashman jersey’s (under budget of course)

        • pete

          “we lucked out with injuries in 09″

          Alex missed over a month. Nady missed almost the whole season. Wang missed almost the whole season. What the yankees “lucked out” with, above all, was offensive production from every spot in the lineup. Want to guess where we got “luckiest” all things considered?

          That’s right, you guessed it: The aging, knee-less Hideki Matsui, and the aging, always banged-up, coming-off-a-shitty-year Johnny Damon. The two of them had career years very late in their careers, and never seem to be healthy, and you’re pissed at the yankees for replacing them with Curtis Granderson (less OBP than damon but better power and defense make up for it) and Nick Johnson (injury concerns no more than Matsui’s, better OBP than Matsui makes up for less power).

          Look – Johnny and Hideki both had great years, and I love them for it. But it’s absurd to expect them to repeat them next year, considering their respective ages and health concerns. Could the yankees lose in October? Sure. But if they do, it will be much more because of underperformance from A-Rod or Tex or CC or AJ or Javy or Jeter than it will be because of Curtis or NJ, because those guys at their best will beat anybody.

        • pete

          also, while i’d like our offense to go from dominant to “unfuckwithable” as much as the next guy, it’s hard to diagnose an aspect of the team that can be called “dominant” as a necessity, which would presumably be the only reason for which a team would eclipse its budget.

          So it comes down to whether or not you believe that team’s budget is what it generally assumed to be (about $2 million beyond their current payroll). You’ve expressed previously that you don’t believe this. I respect that opinion, but IMO, every move the yankees have made thus far suggests that it is around what it’s reputed to be, and, more importantly, it is a hard figure, not an arbitrary one. Given this fundamental disagreement, we’re unlikely to convince one another.

          • mike c

            i suppose you have a point. although i take the term “hard budget” from a baseball team with a grain of salt. it’s not like we’re talking the government’s health care budget here. all i know is that the yankees keep giving me the primo stuff i’ll keep them in business this year. i’m talking about the buffalo chicken sliders with fries here. just saying, i would prefer if i could yell at damon from the left field bleachers this season. maybe we’ll pass around the collection plate so we can start talking about keeping jeter next year

            • pete

              Jeter =/= Damon. In fact, it would be ridiculous to assume that passing on damon and spending on jeter are unrelated.

              • mike c

                unrelated on a one year deal

      • Bxbomber

        This whole “Johnny sucks on defense” angle has just gone too far. Can someone stop using alphabet soups to rate these guys and actually come up with some anecdotal and empirical evidence from actual games played where Johnny Damon cost the 2009 Yankees games with his defense? Then compare that to games he won with his bat. I won’t even go into the post season contributions which to me at least more than justify his salary over Gardner. I’ll say this once again, no one wants Gardner up to bat in a key spot in the playoffs over Johnny. And when it happens(which it will) each of you will think back to now and say, why didn’t we spend the money.

        Im still flabbergasted we let Matsui go for Nick fukkin Johnson of all people for $500K less. Somehow I suspect this board will be in an uproar come October when we start realizing Cashman thought way too much about these moves vs just spending at tad more $ to ensure the best chance at a repeat. I’m sure there isn’t a single person on this board that’s going to feel better if we lose in October yet we saved $5 mil.

        • pete

          no, because anecdotal evidence is fallacious. What damon’s UZR tells us is that the number of balls that should have been outs and weren’t turned into a number of baserunners that, according to league/historical percentages, contribute to a certain number of runs, which, according again to league/historical percentages, contribute to a certain number of wins over the course of a season. Now I realize that that seems unempirical, and that “damon dropped this ball then, and that ball then, and that ball then, and in each of those instances, thereby cost the yankees those games” would appear to have more weight in demonstrating a player’s defensive impact on the team, but we’re not talking about an empirical review of 2009, we’re talking about what we can project into 2010. Given the number of balls that drop in front of damon compared to gardner, we can project that the corresponding number of baserunners will lead to a certain number of runs, based on historical averages, and project again from that how many wins that will cost us, again based on historical averages.

          As far as Hideki goes, the guy is at this point even more of an injury concern that nick johnson is. Couple that with the (arguably) better production you get from a healthy nick johnson anyway, and you’ve got a very compelling argument as to why he’s a superior choice.

          And for October, it is impossible to project things on a small-sample/anecdotal level like postseason performance. Even within the postseason, both Johnny and Matsui had their ups and downs. It’s not to discredit the importance of october performance, but when constructing a team, GMs HAVE to focus on the regular season, not the postseason, because it is impossible to project how the postseason will go. Great teams have lost, mediocre teams have won. That’s the beauty of baseball.

          • For Lack of a More Creative Name… Alex

            Just to add on, we really cannot see when Damon’s range led to an out becoming a hit, therefore we don’t have empirical evidence. We do not see Damon’s initial read or route, we are looking from behind the pitchers mound. Just because we did not see it does not mean that it did not happen. Fact is, Damon’s range led to a lot of outs turning into hits which leads to more runs.

            • pete

              “Fact is, Damon’s range led to a lot of outs turning into hits which leads to more runs.”

              this. over the course of a 162 game season, probability becomes reality.

          • mike c

            “Couple that with the (arguably) better production you get from a healthy nick johnson anyway”

            totally disagree with you on that one. matsui’s a beast (assuming his knees don’t explode) who was just the WS MVP. johnson’s a good hitter, but he has not been close to the teammate matsui has been since becoming a yankee.

            • For Lack of a More Creative Name.. Alex

              When you say “he has not been close to the teammate matsui has been…” How can u POSSIBLY know that??

              • mike c

                7 years in the bronx, a ring and a WS MVP– and so far he’s been a better hitter.
                what else needs to be said?

            • pete

              NJ OBP’d .426 last year. That is quite beastly. And Matsui’s knees ARE of exceptionally high concern. They’re both about .850 career OPS guys. Except Matsui’s age and knees indicate fast-approaching decline. Nothing about NJ indicates that.

              • mike c

                agreed on NJ being a better choice going into ’10.
                don’t agree that he’s been a better baseball player than matsui though. that remains to be seen

        • For Lack of a More Creative Name… Alex

          You’re flabbergasted? Flabbergasted?
          /John Sterling’d

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Melvin-To-America/193013541601?ref=nf Andy in Sunny Daytona

    The “Gardner/Hoffmann” platoon is like being dealt two 7′s in blackjack with the dealer showing a 5. You’re probably going to win, but it won’t be pretty.

    • thurdonpaul

      i like the way you put that and i agree with it too :)

    • AndrewYF

      It’s like that, but if you win you get 10 dollars, and if you lose you pay 100.

      Production-wise, not salary-wise.

      • pete

        except salary actually does matter, which some people never seem to understand.

  • bonestock94

    I say go with Gardner. If him and Hoffman really suck it up you always have the til the trade deadline to make a deal.

  • http://incumbentgm.wordpress.com Joltin’ Joe

    I’m not totally sold on UZR/150, but it did rate Damon pretty badly last year. By consensus, the fans were not happy with his defense either. Considering that he may not even be within the constraints of the team’s budget, I say it’s time to move on and see if Gardner or Hoffmann can stick it out in LF. Hairston or Johnson could be nice, cheap additions assuming they don’t take up a huge number of the LF spot’s PAs.

  • larryf

    Bret was a very exciting and productive player prior to his broken thumb. He was not good in the post-season but neither were Swisher, Cano and-for what we expected-Tex (126 avg???). He will see a lot of pitches to hit batting 9th before Jeter and gives us 2 leadoff hitters in one lineup. He will chase down alot more flies in the gap, line drives in front of him and turn more potential doubles down the line into singles. He could be a great 476K player for us this year…. If he only was as good a bunter as McCarver thinks-something to work on in ST

  • Joseph M

    By May 1, people will be coming to this site desperately seeking a Gardner replacement. Gardner’s strong points are, late inning defensive replacement and pinch running. That’s it. This guy is not a major league hitter of any note. Start him 3 to 4 times a week and his value disappears. He won’t hit and he won’t be available late innings to fill the roles he has value in.

    Let’s state it bluntly, Damon’s value to the Yankees is so much more than Gardner’s it’s not even worth discussing.

    If the Yankees are so concerned about salary then can someone explain going out trading for an 11.5 million dollar soft in the center 4th starter named Javy Vazquez. This guy is nothing more than a .500 pitcher with terrible postseason numbers. We have two young stud pitchers available for the 4th and 5th slots plus reasonable back ups should one or both fail. With the money saved on the wasteful Vazquez pick-up we might have signed Matsui (who signed for just a million more than injury prone Nick Johnson) and have had money left over to possibly sign Damon to a one year 9 or 10 million dollar deal.

  • RL

    What no one has pointed out is that with the moves made this year we really need to look at Granderson/Gardner(& Hoffmann) as compared to Cabrerra/Damon. That’s a better indication of how we’ll stack up as compared to last year. I see Grandy’s offense easily replacing Damon’s and hope that Gardener/Hoffmann can come close to Cabrerra. That makes the need for Damon with his poor defense and ~$7Mil salary unecessary.

    • Joseph M

      I think Granderson is going to be a bust, can’t prove it just a gut reaction. As a postseason player I see another Cano only worse. Defensively, I think fans are in for a surprise, he’s not that good.

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