Some right-handed outfield options

Heyman: Yankees will make a 'very strong' offer to Lee today
Chat coming up in 15

While most of the focus is on Cliff Lee and to a lesser extent Carl Crawford, the Yankees also have to address their need for a right-handed hitting outfielder at some point this offseason. Matt Diaz was said to be a target, but he signed with the Pirates for two-years and $4.25M last night even though he’s almost guaranteed to finish that contract in another uniform. There’s also the chance that he’ll be exposed with regular playing time and see his value plummet, but I digress.

With Diaz no longer an option for the Yankees, they’re left scrapping the bottom of the free agent barrel for someone that can hit left-handed pitching in part-time duty. Marcus Thames is still out there despite the interest from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and there’s always personal fave Scott Hairston, but let’s take a look at who else is available. I’m going to assume that Austin Kearns is not an option given how his stint in pinstripes ended (with 14 strikeouts in his final 25 at-bats).

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jeff Francoeur

Nope. (also: inevitable)

Reed Johnson

Johnson, who turns 34 today,  was one the team’s leftfield targets last winter, but he ended up with the Dodgers and had a rather forgettable season. He missed close to a month with back spasms and hit just .262/.291/.366 (.287 wOBA) in 215 plate appearances overall, though he did hit lefties for a .342 wOBA. Johnson has a .368 wOBA against southpaws over the last three seasons and is relegated to left defensively (ugly, ugly UZR‘s in center and right), which means he’s not far off from what Thames was last offseason. He’s a legit option, just not a terrible interesting or safe one.

Gabe Kapler

Once upon a time Kapler could mash lefties, tagging them for a .404 wOBA in 2008 and 2009. He fell off to a .255 wOBA against southpaws and .264 overall in 2010, playing so poorly that Tampa stashed him on the phantom disabled list in mid-August so they wouldn’t have to demote Dan Johnson when Carlos Pena came off the disabled list. Kapler’s 35-years-old and is actually a fine defender in the corners (+9.2 UZR in RF, -1.0 in LF (SSS) over the last three years), though there’s quite a bit of risk here.

Lastings Milledge

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Pirates non-tendered the former Met last week rather than give him a sizable raise through arbitration, and it’s tough to blame them really. He’s a slightly below average hitter (.322 wOBA) and a bad defender (-8.0 UZR/150 career), so the only thing that makes him appealing is his age (26 in April) and status as a former top prospect. Milledge can hit lefties (.350 wOBA career) and there’s always the potential to get better, bet I prefer a veteran guy that’s been a platoon player before when it comes to replacing Thames. It’s not an easy job, and a young guy that’s used to playing every day might be able to make the adjustments.

Xavier Nady

Been there, done that. Other than his great 2008 season (3.6 fWAR), Nady’s never been even an average player, topping out at 1.4 fWAR way back in 2003. He put up a .295 wOBA for the Cubs this season after having his second Tommy John surgery and was below replacement level (-0.4 fWAR) in a pretty good amount of playing time (347 plate appearances). The Yanks can do better.

* * *

It’s an ugly crop of righty hitting outfielders out there, especially with Diaz off the board. Hairston is clearly the best option in my eyes with Thames a distant second, even though the latter’s unlikely to repeat his 2010 success. Perhaps Brandon Laird will get thrown to the wolves a little sooner than expected, though something tells me that movie will have a tragic ending.

Heyman: Yankees will make a 'very strong' offer to Lee today
Chat coming up in 15
  • Benjamin Kabak

    Jeff Francoeur: Nope

    Almost as good as Reds: Nope.

    • radnom

      He is close to signing with the Royals anyway.

      Speaking of which, since Diaz went to the Pirates can’t we just call him up midseason?

      • thurdonpaul

        lol, ietc

  • Tom Zig

    Marky Marc and Scotty have to duke it out.

    One of the challenges:

    fielding a grounder at 3B and successfully throwing it TO the 1B.

    • JGS

      This guy is still a free agent.

  • jsbrendog (returns)

    moore really loves his lack of obp players, jesus

  • Mark L

    If the only requirement that he be a better fielder than Thames, why not pick up Edwin Encarnacion? Sick bat, was showing some improvement at 3B last season and the transition to LF couldn’t be that tough, right?

    I suspect Cashman will wait to see who is left standing in late January and give the job to whomever accepts 1 yr/$2 million. Yankees bench construction at its finest.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      He’s nicknamed E3. He’s a rock at 3B. If we’re looking for a bench guy defense has to be important here.

    • Ed

      Sick bat, was showing some improvement at 3B last season and the transition to LF couldn’t be that tough, right?

      I wouldn’t count on that. Fielding flyballs is a very different talent than fielding the infield. Moving around from one infield spot to another or one outfield spot to another is far easier than switching between infield and outfield.

      • Mark L

        Perhaps, but see Soriano, Braun, Chipper as infield guys whose bats only necessitated they only provide passable OF defense. Encarnacion is not near those guys in terms of offensive upside but he’d likely hit better than the Winn/Thames combo and it would be hard to outdo the damage they did in their 40 OF starts.

        In any case, Cashman normally isn’t that unconventional and I imagine we’ll sooner see someone like Scott Hairston or Andruw Jones.

  • John

    On the Francoeur picture, did Francoeur just hit the ball or he went fishing for it like four feet outside? If the latter, this is hilarious.

    • vin

      Looks like he hit it. For his sake, lets hope it was a hit and run, and he had to protect the runner.

      • Zack

        It was probably a 0-0 count with 0 outs

    • Phil

      sadly this this the caption of that photo from getty images, looks like it was taken after the hit, a double no less. according to baseball reference, it wasnt a hit and run though:

      NEW YORK – APRIL 28: Jeff Francoeur #12 of the New York Mets connects for a third inning RBI double against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 28, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

  • Bryan

    Jeff Francoeur? ahahahahahhaahhahaahahaha! *breaths* ahahahahahahaha!

  • Andrew

    I would put Reed Johnson high up on the desirable list, but behind Hairston and Marcus Thames. Johnson’s chronic back issues are very dicey, but if he fills the Thames role he could be useful, and the limited use might keep him somewhat healthy. At this point, even knowing it’s very unlikely that he would replicate his 2010, I would be content with a Thames return. Seems like Hairston will sign with a team that has more PT opportunities.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      Am I wrong for being afraid to defend someone’s health issues after being such a huge Nick Johnson fan last year?

  • James

    What about Andruw Jones? Or is it pretty much certain he’ll get a starting job somewhere? Crazy power (.250 ISO past two years), can still play the OF and killed lefties last year (.931 OPS).

    • pete

      I’d be interested, but at no more than $2m

      • pete

        actually I’m not sure I would do that. I’d rather give him a ST invite with an offer up to $2m contingent upon his making the team, which would be contingent on a reasonable assessment of his defense. If he gets himself back in shape, he’d probably be capable of orchestrating a reasonable mediocrity in left or right, since he was at one point a brilliant defender, and is not super-old. If he can’t field, though, I’d be concerned; he would have to be about as good as Thames was last year to be worthwhile

        • James

          I don’t think he’s THAT bad. He’ll do better than a ST invite. Past two years his UZR and TZ have both been above average and he hit lefties as well as Thames does. He’s definitely capable of playing the corner OF

          • pete

            huh. I really just assumed he was terrible in the field, but i guess I was wrong. Yeah I’d be down. He’ll probably do better than the $2m limit I suggested, though, and I’m still not willing to go beyond that for a 4th OF

    • vin

      He’d be smart to go to the NL East, so he can tee off on Javy 5 times next year.

  • mike

    just re-sign Thames 1 year $1.5 million, a small increase over his last contract and get it over with. He can continue to work with Kevin Long to get his swing down pack.

    • vin

      But with Posada as the primary DH, that’ll force Marcus to play the field – which ain’t pretty.

      I wouldn’t be completely opposed to bringing Marcus back though – I’d just rather see him stashed in RF at YS3. There’s just way too much ground for him to cover in LF.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      down pack? are you moving him to Australia or the Pirates? Or Lambeau?

  • Josh

    that picture’s hilarious.

  • Matt DiBari

    That Frenchy picture made my week.