Left field closing arguments: Jerry Hairston

Report: Huff lands in San Francisco
Fan Confidence Poll: January 11th, 2010

We were just about finished with the left field closing arguments series, but then we learned that the Yankees and Jerry Hariston are in serious talks. So we’ll bring back the series to examine the Yankees’ 2009 second-half utility player.

We titled this series left field closing arguments, but Jerry Hairston isn’t so much a left field solution as he is a roster solution. Because he can play every position except pitcher and catcher 1, the Yankees can better cover their bench. One player becomes the backup outfielder and backup infielder, thereby creating in essence an extra roster spot. The Yankees can find many uses for that, both to start the season and later on, when they could swing a trade for a more valuable bench asset.

With a 12-man pitching staff, the Yankees have room for just four bench players. Usually that would consist of a backup infielder, outfielder, and catcher, plus one wild card position. By combining the backup infielder and outfielder into one player, Hairston, the Yankees can then afford two wild card bench spots. That allows them the flexibility to give Jamie Hoffmann a real shot to stick with the team. They could also keep Juan Miranda on the bench for pinch-hitting situations.

As a left field solution, Hairston doesn’t provide an attractive case. In only two seasons has he hit above league average, and in this seasons he came to the plate a total of 631 times. His highest OPS+ during a season in which he got 400 or more plate appearances was 92, all the way back in 2002, when he was the regular second baseman for the Orioles. It looks like too much exposure can be detrimental to his production.

The Cincinnati Reds found that out first hand last season. They got excellent production from Hairston in 2008 after signing him to a minor league deal, the second straight year in which Hairston had to settle for one. In 297 plate appearances he hit .326/.384/.487 while playing all positions 4 through 9. Apparently impressed, the Reds signed Hairston to a $2 million major league contract for 2009.

He started off slowly in April, but from May 5 to May 30, over 103 plate appearances, Hairston hit .326/.370/.620. It wouldn’t last. From May 30 through July 30, the last game he played for the Reds, Hairston came to the plate 191 times and got just 43 hits (.247 BA), including 10 doubles and two home runs. Already out of the race, the Reds traded him to the Yankees for Chase Weems. Used as A-Rod‘s primary backup at third base and as the fourth outfielder, Hairston hit fairly well as a Yankee, going 18 for 76 (.237) with five doubles two home runs, and 11 walks (to just eight strikeouts).

Offense, however, is just a bonus for Hairston. His true value lies in his ability to cover every position on the diamond. That provides the Yankees with flexibility for their final bench spot. It’s very much like the Mariners trading Bill Hall for Casey Kotchman. As Jeff from Lookout Landing explains, “this isn’t about Kotchman over the alternative first basemen. Chances are, this is about Kotchman and a righty OF over the alternative first basemen and Hall.” For the Yankees, this is about Hairston and the extra bench spot over a left fielder like Reed Johnson a utility infielder like Ramiro Pena.

As a pure left fielder, there are better options. But as a total roster solution, the Yankees will do well to sign Jerry Hairston. He provides them the flexibility to build and change their bench over the course of the season, adding players as they need them. On a team with just four bench slots, combining two of them provides value. Hairston should be well worth a $2 to $3 million contract.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

1And in the playoffs, after Jorge Posada subbed for Jose Molina, Hairston was said to be the emergency catcher. (Up)

Report: Huff lands in San Francisco
Fan Confidence Poll: January 11th, 2010
  • Evilest Empire

    Rob Neyer heartily endorses the Yankees’ pursuit of Jerry Hairston Jr:


  • DP

    Personally I’m a big fan of Jerry Hairston. Jerry Hariston- not so sure about.

  • Mike bk

    if you bring back Hairston is there a need to carry Pena on the 25 man roster instead of leaving him in Scranton to get more work both with the bat and positional flexibility with more OF experience as they started late last season? this partially depends on Hoffman, but have Hoffman and Hairston as capable fill in outfielders, hairston can play any of the infield spots, then we have enough at least defensively off the bench.

    Not sure how many pitchers they are going to carry, but if it is 12 the bench would be set with Frankie, Jerry and Hoff.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      However, Girardi (like many other managers, btw) has shown a penchant for carrying two utility infielders. So, while there may not be a “need” for both Hairston and Peña, there’s certainly a beneficial redundancy in carrying both of them.

      Furthermore, while most of us have doubts about Gardner’s ability to hold down LF, swapping Damon-Melky for Gardner-Granderson lessens the need to carry 5 outfielders like we did last year IMO, because Gardner won’t need “medical” days off in LF.

      He might need “I suck” days off, but that requires a replacement, not just an extra OF on the bench for temporary relief.

  • Salty Buggah

    the Reds traded him to the Yankees for Chase Weems

    Good deal.

    I agree that the Yanks should sign him for a all-around utility player but not a LF option. He’s be really valuable in that role to the Yanks.

    • Section 39

      That illustrates just how easy it is to acquire someone like Hairston at the trade-deadline. I don’t think Hairston should be a priority right now with the given team. Cashman is playing the waiting game well and could end up getting Damon cheaply. If not, I think then, and only once Damon is off the board, should we go after these other options.

  • Monotonousblob

    Hairston would be a great utility player, but I doubt they would start him in LF. His value come from the fact that he play may positions well, but is not spectacular at one.

    • whozat

      Given that the post started with

      Jerry Hairston isn’t so much a left field solution as he is a roster solution. Because he can play every position except pitcher and catcher 1, the Yankees can better cover their bench. One player becomes the backup outfielder and backup infielder, thereby creating in essence an extra roster spot.

      Isn’t it pretty obvious that everyone here already knows that his value lies in his versatility?

      Moreover Hairston, assuming they sign him and don’t sign JD, WILL start in LF sometimes. They won’t have a “starting LFer,” really. They’ll have a platoon, and that’s fine.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        I’d say they don’t even have a platoon. They have a smorgasbord of options.

        Gardner/Hairston/Hoffmann, they’ll all get PT. It’ll be like the lat 90’s all over again, baby. The three-headed quasi-monster in LF.

  • http://pendingpinstripes.net Greg F.

    Fancy footnote

  • Tom Zig

    This picture is one of my favorite memories of the postseason.

    I surely hope they bring back Hairston. It’s too bad we cannot have both Hairstons on the team at the same time, they could replace the Duncan Duo.

    • mike c

      keep in mind he’s got a cast on his wrist that he injured doing one of those little warm up swings that he does every time

    • pat

      Oh man that game was awesome. Angels completely shit the bed. Awesome.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      This picture is one of my favorite memories of the postseason.

      Look at Hairston’s vertical!

      Dare i say, Ransomesque?

      • Rose

        “Whoa Doctor!”

  • Pingback: hotstove.com / archive » Overnight Hot Stove Notes: Yankees, Cardinals, Cubs, Red Sox, Reds, Tigers, more

  • Januz

    The need for a right-handed platoon hitter is not that big. If you look at the AL East competitors, and the teams that can contend in the AL for the pennant, you have the following left-handed starters: Lee, Dice-K, Kazmir, Saunders, Matusz, Buehrle, Danks, and Perkins. There is one pitcher there who is outstanding: Cliff Lee. Mark Buehrle is very good (But NOT against the Yankees). Brian Matuuz may be very good (But the jury is out). Kazmir and Dice-K are not what they used to be. Finally, Danks, Saunders & Perkins are nothing special. The team that can actually hurt the Yankees the most with left-handed starters is the Mets with Santana and Perez (Although he sucks against MLB, he is a Yankee-killer (The reverse of Mark Buehrle)). I need not mention what happens when you throw weak lefties against Arod & Jeter.
    I suspect you will see Damon to fill out the lineup, and Hairston (Or a Hairston-type for the bench. Every other team WISHES they have the Yankees “problems”. They will be ok (Provided they stay healthy).

    • Doug

      dice-k’s a righty. think you meant lester from the sox

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Dic-K is Right-handed. I’m sure he CAN dominate, if he chooses to pitch left-handed, but alas, he only throws 7 pitches from the left side, instead of his usual array of 19 pitches from the right side.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        My sources tell me that Matsuzaka will have a big bounceback campaign this year, as he spent the offseason training with the mad scientist The Fiendish Dr. Wu, training that has added 15 pounds of lean muscle and allowed him to grow two extra invisible fingers on his right hand.

        For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          I’m not sure if this is a joke or not. It reads like a legitimate Peter Gammons blurb.

    • Doug

      oh, and you forgot price from the rays

    • Doug

      and ricky romero

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      Hey, Januz: we also play games against teams not in the AL East.

      I’m just saying.

    • Doug


    • Brooklyn ed

      half of those pitchers pitch in other divisons. get your facts straight.

      • Zack

        “If you look at the AL East competitors, and the teams that can contend in the AL for the pennant”

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          I made the same mistake.

          It’s the fucked up punctuation. It addles the brain.

    • Bo

      It’s not about lefty-righty. its about Gardner getting 600 major league ab’s. I dont think he can handle that. He’ll be exposed.

      • Januz

        There are very few people who think Gardner will get 600 AB’s (A Damon signing or a trade is more likely). But even if he did, I would not be worried (Keep in mind, this team had a dynasty with Chad Curtis in left for several of those teams). I made a point the other day, that the 2009 Yankees had the WORST OUTFIELD of any Championship team in their history. Think about it: Ruth and Combs in the 20s and early 30s, then DiMaggio, then Mantle, then Reggie, then Bernie & Paulie. EVERYONE of those guys is superior to Melky, Swisher, & Damon (I think Granderson will as well). Finally, I am willing to bet that every team in baseball WISHES their biggest problem was Brett Gardner.
        I did make a silly error with Lester and Dice-K, but the principle remains the same: There are not a lot of top-flight lefties in the AL, so the Yankees will not get killed, even if Gardner faces lefties not named Lester or Lee.

        • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

          Not sure about everything else, but:
          Finally, I am willing to bet that every team in baseball WISHES their biggest problem was Brett Gardner.

          Pretty much THIS.

        • Doug

          but you don’t need to be a “top-flight” lefty to be tough against lefties.

          here are the 2009 OPS against vs. lefties of various non-top flight left-handed starters projected to be in AL rotations this year:

          purcey – .513
          braden – .550
          harrison – .564
          rowland-smith – .571
          duensing – .579
          price – .642
          laffey – .642
          rzepcynski – .651
          anderson – .788
          holland – .809

          even two that i mentioned earlier, anderson and holland (who are both considered top young lefties in the league), pale in comparison to the “no-name” guys above them on the list.

          and here are the ones you listed. as you can see, outside of lee, none of them were as good as those same “no-name” guys:
          lee – .578
          saunders – .692
          matusz – .708
          lester – .717
          danks – .756
          kazmir – .782
          buehrle – .839
          perkins – .873

  • Doug

    derek holland and brett anderson

    • Doug

      reply fail

  • Jodi

    Cliff Lee is with Seattle, so you can scratch him too.

    • Jodi

      Oops, didn’t read the whole thing. He is on an AL contending team, my bad.

  • Rose

    Do we have enough money in out “budget” for both Hairston AND Johnny Damon…assuming he does decide to take somewhat of a realistic paycut? Say Hairston is $3M per and Damon’s cut does dwindel down to $7M. Isn’t that more than what we are claiming we have left to spend?

    • Doug

      yes it is. but beyond the $, not sure there’s room on the roster for both. wouldn’t we have too many OFers? swisher, grandy, damon, gardner, hoffmann, hairston (although he obviously can play other positions). and yes, obviously we can juggle things around like sending hoffmann back to LA and sending gardner down (don’t know his option situation), but i don’t think either of these things are in our plans.

  • Bo

    Hairston is great as a UTL guy. Not so great as part of a platoon in LF.

    • Dan

      Reed Johnson!

  • Dan

    I dont want Damon back anyway. We need some fresher legs

  • cheddar

    If we had a happy Hairston on the team, we could win 33 games in a row.

  • Matt

    I would love to see Hairston back. The team hardly needs another big bat and his fielding and baserunning are top rate. Additionally, while he may not be a great hitter he is a “professional” one (i.e. takes good at-bats, doesn’t make stupid mistakes at the plate or on the bases, etc.).

    Yanks would be wise to resign him.

  • pistol pete

    Are we really kidding comparing a Gardner/Hairston platoon to Damon. Just think of it this way. Who would be a better 9 hitter, Damon or this ridiculous platoon of part timers. Damon is clutch, can hit lefties, loves Yankee Stadium, is a proven big time player, and is popular in the clubhouse. At one year and about 6 or 7 million he’s a steal. Do you really think money is going to stand in the way of the right player. Please. And furthermore he’ll hit second, the Jeter Damon one two punch benefited both players, don’t screw up something that worked.