Austin Kearns in 2011?

Offense comes up big in 9-5 win
Game 124: CC at home for the series win
Will we see this in 2011? (AP Photo/Wagner)

I know I’m getting ahead of myself this year, but should the Yankees try to resign Austin Kearns in the offseason?  Assuming  they are sold on Brett Gardner and will not be signing Carl Crawford, I think Kearns might have a role for this team beyond 2010.

Kearns has had a solid year after signing for 1 year/$750k with the Indians in the offseason, but has he done enough to either make significantly more money and get signed to be a full time player?  On point #1, I’d say the answer is no.  I don’t see him getting a multi-year deal in the offseason for very much money.  On point #2, I can see him getting a chance to start full time, but likely on a bottom feeding team.  Maybe he’d rather do that than sign on as a 4th outfielder, but if he’s willing to become a part time player next year at the age of 31, I think he’s a great fit for the Yankees.

Kearns would become a great 4th OF for this team, filling the role many had hoped of Randy Winn.  He can play the corners well defensively, and could probably still handle in CF in a pinch(though Mo forbid it ever got to that).  He also shows no drastic splits vs. lefties or righties, which can be viewed as both a positive and a negative for a bench player.  The negative is that he doesn’t provide any great skills(like Marcus Thames vs. LHP) but I think the positive that he isn’t completely inept against either RHP or LHP outweighs the lack of a great skill.  And anyway, if Kearns was great against either hand while being adequate against the other he would certainly be a starter elsewhere.

I have no idea what Kearns has in mind for 2011 and at this point maybe he doesn’t either. He’s played in almost 1000 games without ever reaching the playoffs.  Maybe a deep run this season and he realizes he’d rather get 300 AB’s for a contender than 600 for a bottom feeder.  Maybe he knows that next huge contract isn’t coming and is content with the $20+ million he’s made so far (assuming he hasn’t gone Antoine Walker or Mark Brunell on us).  It truly comes down to Kearns’ desires, but I would love to see him back in the pinstripes in 2011.

Offense comes up big in 9-5 win
Game 124: CC at home for the series win
  • Nostra-Artist

    I still want Jerry Hairston Jr to come back, but that’s just me.

    • Doug

      Hairston is putting up a 2+ WAR season for the Pads. His hitting hasn’t been anything special but he’s been a wizard cat with the glove. They’ll probably hold onto him.

    • don draper

      That makes two of us.

  • GermanYankee

    This year has been great for him and that should be good enough to find a team where he’ll start next year. But it would be great if he could keep him as our 4th outfielder.

  • Ethan Stanislawski

    He’s played on nothing but bottom feeders until he got to the Yankees, so it may be a welcome change.

  • Reggie C.

    What about Magglio Ordonez instead? Not sure how Cash will handle the DH slot, but Maggs can fill that role and serve as a 4th OF when Swish needs a day off.

    • Pat D

      I wouldn’t trust him in the field anymore.

    • MikeD

      I don’t see the Yankees signing a DH-type this off season. I expect Montero to be getting a number of ABs as a DH beginning at some point in 2011, plus Posada and others among the core aging Yankees will need to see time there too. So Magglio is not it.

  • Guest

    Simply put, it does not make sense for Kearns to come back to the Yankees on a bargain basement deal to be our fourth outfielder.

    If I were a ML ballplayer I would want to to do three things: 1. Make money, 2) win, and 3) play. I’d probably want to do those things in in that order.

    At 31, Kearns only has so many years left in his major league baseball career. But, he’s still young enough to command a fair amount of money and need not settle for a veteran discount contract. Remember, after its all said and done, likely he will never come close to seeing the kind of money he can make as a major leaguer. He owes it to himself, and more importantly, his family to maximize his income over the next few years. Because when that major league gravy train stops, it stops abruptly.

    Furthermore, I just can’t see the prudence in taking less money to guarantee oneself less playing time. If he chooses to do that, he is further diminishing his future value and will make even less money in his career as a result.

    I totally agree with you that he would make a very good fourth outfielder, and it would be awesome if he took less money to be a bench guy on the Yanks.

    But if I were his parent/wife/agent/kid/friend/person who cared about him, I would smack him upside the head if he chose to do that.

    • Gonzo

      If I were Kearns, my main goal now would be to get 10 years of service time.

    • Zack

      I agree with all of this.

      Yes he’s been paid $20m, but that’s more like $10m after agent fees and taxes. So if he gets say 3m to play full time somewhere else, he’s gone- think everyone would make that choice.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s not a given that another team is willing to pay Kearns more to start than the Yankees are to be an important bench player. Marcus Thames is making more money than Kearns this year, despite being signed as a very limited back-up while Kearns was signed to start.

      Kearns has been available twice in the last year–free agency and trade deadline–and has only attracted a $750,000 offer from the Indians and a half-decent pitching prospect as trade value. He may have offers this offseason to start at a higher salary, but I don’t know that anyone is going to blow the Yankees out of the water financially if they want to retain him as a valuable bench-piece.

      Given Granderson’s splits, the Yankees need someone to play LF against LHP. They might be willing to match the offers Kearns gets from other teams.

  • Pat D

    I think most players are too “proud” to accept being bench players. I have to think that he’ll look for a starting job elsewhere. If he doesn’t get it, then maybe he comes back.

    Right now, I wouldn’t count on it.

  • Basil F.

    Is arbitration an issue here?

    Does he qualify for type B status? I’m guessing no.

    • Zack

      No he’s not.
      It would have been nice, but at the same time it would have cost more to trade for him

  • Ross in Jersey

    Assuming Kearns continues doing well the rest of the year, someone will pick him up next season. Just like Hinske and Hairston, someone will offer him more money and playing time than the Yankees can offer.

    If, for some reason, he draws little interest from other clubs, I could certainly see him staying. But I doubt that happens. His bat and glove are still starter-caliber on another club.

  • Chris

    I’m hoping the Yankees will move Gardner back to CF, sign Crawford for LF and trade Granderson but I agree Kearns would make a nice 4th outfielder.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Trading low on Granderson is not a smart baseball idea. My money’s on Granderson out-performing Gardner through 2014 anyway.

      • Gonzo

        Gardner being the better value, right?

        • Benjamin Kabak

          Because he doesn’t make much and is cost-controlled, yes. If the Yanks are going to trade an OFer to land Crawford, it should be Gardner, not Granderson.

          • Gonzo

            Is that what you would do, or are you just spitballing? What if you had to trade Grandy to afford both Lee and Crawford? Just a hypothetical.

          • Poopy Pants

            But according to you, they can already fit Lee and Crawford in the payroll for next year.

      • Ted Nelson

        Out of curiosity, why are you certain it’s selling low? I haven’t particularly thought about trading Granderson, but in his 3rd straight declining season and due at least $20 mill the next two seasons… Seems like it might make a lot of baseball sense to get out from under that deal if you have more effective options.

    • Gonzo

      I don’t think you could get much for Grandy. Would you be OK with just a salary dump, or do you trade only for something in return?

  • Chris

    I would be happy with Grandy in CF and Crawford in left with Gardner as 4th outfielder but I think in order to sign Crawford they’d have to dump Grady’s salary. They’d obviously get less back than what they paid for Granderson in a trade but it would be worth it if it gets them Crawford.

  • jonathan

    I am in with Kearns, and I would also like to see us take a look at Omar Vizquel (sp) I just read that he wants to come back. I think his defense is still above average, and he would provide more with the stick than Pena

  • don draper

    Manny Rameriz anyone?

    • Gonzo

      I don’t want any part of Manny. He can’t stay healthy.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      So he can play DL?

      • hello9

        He’d fill the potentially commemorative Carl Pavano/Nick Johnson role.

    • zs190

      Recent injuries, age, bad clubhouse presence, lack of effort, etc are reasons that make this unlikely.

      On the other hand, he was a local guy for a number of years and is still a great hitter when healthy.

      If he gets past his ego and sign for a Nick Johnson type of deal, I’m fine with it but I really don’t think he’s the type to do it.

  • zs190

    From what I’ve heard, the FA market is pretty shallow this year. Austin Kearns is a second tier starter and a good bench guy for a contender. I expect him to take a deal to start for somebody now that he’s re-established himself. (Bonus if he actually plays well in playoffs for us!)

    He’s good enough that I would love to have him around as a bench guy so if he somehow wants to play for a winner over starting then that’s great (same for Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. really, both guys have done well this year)

  • David (In Seattle)

    Wasn’t it awesome that we got Swisher for such a cheap price – ’cause he was having a down year.
    If Only there was an outfielder somewhere on some unknown team, who was having a down year, who with a little help from a good Long standing hitting coach, could make some adjustments and improve their hitting, but no, young Son, no Grander player, Curt as it may be to say is available on another team.
    There’s more than a Kearnal of truth to saying we could have a good outfield for the rest of this year.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    Hal runs the Yankees more like a business than George so I we are not getting both CC & Lee. We need pitching help over outfield help especially with the age of the staff.
    One thing that really concerns me is seeing Crawford in Fenway as a Red Sox.

  • Mr. Sparkle

    From what I’ve heard, no one was interested in Kearns this past offseason. He basically would have been out of baseball had he not been friends with Indians manager Manny Acta. He had to ask Acta for a shot, he invited him to spring training but was told he’d have to earn a spot. He did and made the most of it.

    Why the history? Because, I think this is an opportunity where the Yankees should hold the upper hand. He might have had a good enough year where he could latch on to another bad team and start…or play fairly regularly with a good team. Or, maybe take his chances and have to beg for a job again next year. He seems a good fit for the Yankees and it would be nice for once to have a solid bench entering the season, rather than waiting for July deadline to fix things. Do you hear that Cashman? You’re actually allowed to build a bench in the offseason you know.

  • Kevin in Delectable Princeton

    Bench guys like these rarely re-sign. As said in the article they look for more playing time, something they will get more of on a non-contender. We saw it with Jerry Hairston Jr. last off-season, the Yankees would definitely like to have someone with his ability on the team, but he went to the Padres because he knew he would get more playing time.

  • Eric

    I still think Yankees will sign both Crawford and Lee this offseason. We all know how much Cashman covets Lee and I’ve heard he’s been waiting for Crawford to hit FA for years. Then they have Gardner to be the 4th OF/compete with Granderson for the CF spot.

    • Plank

      Everyone is suggesting trading Granderson while his value is low. Why not trade Swisher while his value has never been higher? If the budget is the issue preventing getting both players, that should alleviate it.

  • mac1

    Kearns is a heck of a guy to have as your 3.5- 4th ofer and I’d love to see him back next year especially b\c he’s a RH bat. Yanks could get him 300+ ab’s in a rotation with Grandy and Gardy.

    My offseason wish would be Lee, Pettitte (hopefully he gets healthy) Kearns and a Kearns like backup for A-Rod, Jeter, Cano – i.e. Wiggington. Eventhough Wiggy can be scary defensively at 3rd, he gives the Yanks 3 solid ab’s before he’s replaced by a Pena should the Yanks be winning or tied come the late innings.

    Assuming Gardner can continue to be a .280/.370 type hitter and even with Grandy’s disappointing offensive year, their defense has been among the best I’ve seen in 35+ years in a Yankee uniform.

    I think the Yanks can save a boatload by letting Crawford go elswhere – but use some of that money to get major league quality backups for the IF and OF – A-Rod and Jeter are showing some age and Grandy probably needs a caddy against tough lefties – its also great to give those guys a blow once in a while with a credible offensive and defensive player.

  • Ted Nelson

    Good article, Steve. Will be interesting to see what Kearns does this offseason.