With the lineup nearly set, is Nady worth the gamble?

“I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won’t be a big piece” – Brian Cashman on the left field situation.

There will be no Holliday under the Christmas tree. There is no Bay in the Bronx. Damon’s days in pinstripes have expired. So what, then, do the Yankees plan to do with left field? They currently have Brett Gardner penciled in there, and while some people are bullish on him, I think the Yankees would at least like to have a contingency plan. After all, not only is Gardner the top left fielder right now, but the fourth outfielder is Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffman. That doesn’t seem like an ideal situation heading into the 2010 season.

Given the team’s current composition, and given the budget constraints the team faces, it appears a second-tier option will fit best. We’ve heard a few of those names bandied about lately: Mark DeRosa, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady. Each has his ups and downs, but when considering the Yankees’ situation, Nady fits the best. He’s a gamble, of course, but at this point his demands shouldn’t exceed what the Yankees are willing to spend. Taking a flier on his health could reap big rewards for the Yankees’ outfield.

The concern with Nady is his twice surgically repaired right elbow. He underwent the second procedure in early July, after first having it in 2001. The success rate for second-time Tommy John patients isn’t high, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Most players who undergo the procedure are pitchers, who need their arms a bit more frequently than outfielders. Nady’s arm might be weakened by the second procedure, but maybe not all is lost. If his medical reports show progress, perhaps the Yankees can use him as a 4th outfielder and contingency plan.

Under the best case scenario, Nady works his way into a regular role, much like the team expected of him in 2009. He’s rated below average by UZR, which is a concern, but he’s played so many positions that it’s tough to get a good sampling on him. His bat, however, can make up for that. He almost certainly won’t hit like he did in Pittsburgh in 2008, but if he can hammer out a low .800s OPS, he’ll be a valuable asset on offense.

The worst case scenario puts the Yankees back to where they are right now, only without the budget to acquire another outfielder. That’s the main reason why I think the Yankees might stay away from Nady. If they’re bullish on Gardner, then they’re probably seeking someone who can fill in for him in case he gets off to another slow start, as in 2009. They might want to go with a more reliable option, rather than another gamble. But given the budget constraints and available talent, they might not have that luxury.

If the recent reports are true and the Giants really have offered Mark DeRosa $12 million over two years, the Yankees are likely out. That limits their free agent options to Byrd and Nady. By the numbers it appears Byrd might be a fit. In his last three seasons, with the Rangers, he’s posted wOBAs of .350, .370, and .345, all above average marks. His ISO has risen in each of those years as well. Yet I doubt he’ll replicate those numbers outside of Rangers Ballpark, and especially at Yankee Stadium, which does suppress righty power.

The last question regarding Nady is of whether he’ll sign a one-year deal for $4 million or less. Scott Boras represents him, and will probably seek more guaranteed money. But will any teams want to take that kind of gamble? Considering the lack of interest in three higher-profile corner outfielders — Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Johnny Damon — perhaps Nady ends up taking a small money, one-year deal to try and increase his value. Again, with Gardner currently penciled into left field, he has to figure he’ll get every shot to earn playing time.

If the Yankees can get him for under $4 million, they should give Nady a shot. It’s a gamble, sure, but there’s enough upside to make it worth the risk. That is, unless there’s something we don’t know about his medical report that has teams a bit reluctant to add him, even as a contingency plan.

Open Thread: Festivus, or something like that

I hated Seinfeld, but I understand there are people that live and die by it, so Happy Festivus.

Anyway, More Hardball ran a series of posts on the hitting and pitching stat leaders of the decade, and there a plenty of current/former Yankees involved, so let’s recap:

1. Alex Rodriguez- 1190
2. Johnny Damon- 1115
3. Derek Jeter- 1088

1. Ichiro Suzuki- 2030
2. Derek Jeter- 1940
3. Miguel Tejada- 1860

1. Todd Helton- 431
2. Bobby Abreu- 408
3. Albert Pujols- 387

1. Alex Rodriguez- 465
2. Jim Thome- 368
3. Albert Pujols- 366

1. Alex Rodriguez- 1243
2. Albert Pujols- 1112
3. Manny Ramirez- 1106

1. Andy Pettitte- 149
2. Randy Johnson- 143
3. Jamie Moyer- 140

1. Dave Weathers- 713
2. LaTroy Hawkins- 654
3. Mariano Rivera- 651

1. Livan Hernandez- 2201.1
2. Javier Vazquez- 2163
3. Mark Buehrle- 2061

1. Randy Johnson- 2182
2. Javier Vazquez- 2001
3. Johan Santana- 1733

Complete Games:
1. Roy Halladay- 47
2. Livan Hernandez- 36
3. Randy Johnson- 32

1. Roy Halladay- 14
2. Randy Johnson- 12
3T. Tim Hudson- 11
3T. CC Sabathia- 11

1. Mariano Rivera- 397
2. Trevor Hoffman- 363
3T. Jason Isringhausen- 284
3T. Billy Wagner- 284

(min. 1000 innings)
1. Pedro Martinez- 1.036
2. Johan Santana- 1.113
3. Randy Johnson- 1.114

It’s pretty sick that the Yanks’ had the decade’s three greatest run scorers on the team last year, and damn is that A-Rod guy good. Dude hit 97 more homers than any other player over the last ten years. Ninety. Seven. That’s crazy. Even if Pujols played in 2000, A-Rod would still lead by like, 60. Also, it’s pretty impressive how far out ahead of the pack Unit and Javy are in strikeouts. Make sure you click through, there are some other cool stats that didn’t make the cut because there are no Yanks involved.

After you do that, use this bad boy as your open thread. The Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all in action, but talk about whatever you want. Oh, and Happy Tex Day. Mark Teixeira agreed to a deal with the Yanks a year ago today. Now that’s a holiday worth celebrating.

Jesus Montero ranked the fifth best prospect in baseball

We know that Jesus Montero is the top-ranked prospect in the Yankees system, but where does he ranked compared to his peers? SI.com recently published Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects, and Jesus ranks fifth overall. Furthermore, John Manuel calls him “The minors’ best hitter.” Those are some pretty hefty accolades for de Jesus, especially considering two of the hitters ranked above him: Jason Heyward of the Braves and Mike Stanton of the Marlins. Slated to start 2010 in AAA, we just might see Montero don the pinstripes before the season closes.

By the Decade: After O’Neill

For the sixth installment of our look back at the Yankees By the Decade, we hit the outfield and start in right. Paul O’Neill was the player of the decade for the Yanks in right during the 1990s, but as the 2000s dawned, his days were clearly numbered. Following the 2001 World Series, he retired, and the Yanks were left with a gaping hole.

So just how did the team fill the void left by Number 21’s retirement? The chart below shows all of the decade’s right fielders who played 10 or more games in the field. The bottom line represents the overall total line including the 18 players who did not make the cut. Those guys made only a combined 148 ABs among the lot of them anyway.

Bobby Abreu 1388 408 91 9 40 236 185 2 5 266 29 .294 .376 .459
Gary Sheffield 1087 312 53 1 61 221 152 15 18 149 28 .287 .380 .506
Paul O'Neill 1046 287 57 1 36 162 92 5 2 146 36 .274 .330 .434
Raul Mondesi 581 146 36 3 25 81 61 8 4 103 9 .251 .325 .453
Nick Swisher 434 107 30 0 24 71 85 2 3 113 12 .247 .369 .482
Shane Spencer 257 68 13 2 6 32 21 1 5 59 3 .265 .329 .401
Bernie Williams 194 55 15 0 8 29 11 0 0 17 8 .284 .317 .485
J. Vander Wal 142 40 12 1 3 13 12 0 0 33 4 .282 .335 .444
Ruben Sierra 128 31 9 0 6 20 13 2 0 20 2 .242 .310 .453
Melky Cabrera 111 34 3 0 2 14 14 2 0 10 5 .306 .384 .387
Karim Garcia 100 26 4 0 3 14 6 1 0 21 2 .260 .299 .39
Juan Rivera 92 28 6 0 6 16 7 0 0 15 2 .304 .354 .565
David Justice 89 21 5 0 3 14 13 1 0 18 3 .236 .33 .393
Bubba Crosby 86 18 1 1 1 6 3 0 1 16 0 .209 .244 .279
Eric Hinske 53 12 1 0 7 10 5 1 2 16 0 .226 .317 .642
Xavier Nady 48 13 5 0 1 6 2 0 0 7 2 .271 .300 .438
David Dellucci 44 8 1 0 1 4 3 0 2 9 2 .182 .265 .273
Aaron Guiel 39 11 1 0 4 7 2 0 1 6 0 .282 .333 .615
Shelley Duncan 34 10 0 0 2 6 1 0 0 8 1 .294 .306 .471
Matt Lawton 32 4 0 0 2 4 4 0 2 6 0 .125 .263 .312
Kevin Thompson 29 6 1 0 1 5 7 0 0 9 0 .207 .361 .345
Kenny Lofton 17 6 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 1 0 .353 .450 .353
Gerald Williams 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 0 .000 .077 .000
Totals 6191 1680 347 19 246 989 711 40 46 1079 151 .271 .348 .453

Some of those names bring back some bad memories. Remember when the Yanks tried to plug in a right field hole left wide open by Gary Sheffield’s injury with Aaron Guiel and Kevin Thompson? Remember when Karim Garcia started picking fights with fans in Fenway? Remember when Raul Mondesi was thought to be the next great Yankee warrior who would don the mantle left by Paulie? Those certainly weren’t the days.

After the 2002-2003 dark ages in right field, two players dominated the decade. Gary Sheffield landed in New York in December 2003 as a solution to their right field woes. He carried with him a prickly attitude but seemed ready to make a go of it in the Bronx. For two years and a half years, before an injury cut short his 2006 campaign, he delivered. As the right fielder, he hit .287/.380/.506 with 61 home runs and an overall OPS+ of 135. He came in second in the MVP voting in 2004 and made the All Star team twice.

In 2006, though, Sheffield hurt his wrist and never recovered his stroke. The Yankees made a move to acquire Bobby Abreu in mid-season, and Sheffield found himself a man without a position. He made his displeasure known and was dispatched the Tigers for three promising young arms. In return, the Yankees received Kevin Wheelan, Anthony Claggett and Humerto Sanchez. Sanchez is a Minor League free agent; Claggett was traded to the Pirates; and only Wheelan remains with the Yanks. The returns have not yet amounted to much, the Yanks were rid of Sheffield’s contract and demeanor.

To replace Gary Sheffield, the Yanks acquired Bobby Abreu from the Phillies in a salary dump deal. Philadelphia sent Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yanks for C.J. Henry, Carlos Monasterios, Jesus Sanchez and Matt Smith. Abreu went on to hit .294/.376/.459 with the Yanks, and no one played more right field this decade that Bobby. Yet, last winter, with the Yanks ready to get younger and more athletic, Brian Cashman was more than willing to let Abreu walk. As Sheffield was dumped on the Tigers rather unceremoniously, the Yanks bid Abreu a quick farewell.

So then, who is the right fielder of the decade? Both Abreu and Sheffield were paid far more than their actual value, and both were atrocious in the field. Sheffield put up a combined WAR of 5.8 while in pinstripes, and Abreu put up a 5.7 mark in the same category. Because of his monster 2004, I have to give the edge to Gary, but he doesn’t have a slum dunk case for it.

As the Yankees look ahead to 2010 and a new decade, the fun-loving Nick Swisher is holding down the right field spot. He won’t put up the offensive numbers of a Sheffield or even Abreu, but he is a worthy successor to the spot. Who will we be toasting in ten years in right though remains a mystery.

Damon knows his role

Johnny Damon might not understand the negative value of his defense, but he does understand his standing with the Yankees. From Mike Puma of The Post:

“I know I don’t fit their payroll,” Damon said. “We’ve had a little bit of communication with them, but my price is too high right now. I don’t think I’m their solution.”

Damon’s price might not remain too high for much longer, depending on how the market works out after the holidays. Maybe he’ll find a team to give him two years at a salary over $10 million, but looking around the league it appears unlikely. If Damon ends up signing a 2009 Abreu deal, I wonder how much he’ll regret overstating his demands early in the proceedings.

As for potential Damon replacements in left field, don’t count on Mark DeRosa. Jon Heyman heard that the Giants offered him a two-year, $12 million contract. I doubt the Yankees match that.

Johnson deal finalized; Igawa actually wanted?

By now, it was just a formality, but the Yankees have officially signed Nick Johnson for the 2010 season. The left-handed on-base machine will earn $5.5 million next year as the team’s DH, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2011 at the same base salary. Johnson said earlier that he was willing to give up his desire to play the field in order to join the defending World Series champions. That’s what I like to hear.

In other Yankee rumors, Mark Feinsand dropped an interesting Tweet this morning. Prior to landing Vazquez, the Yanks were talking about Carlos Zambrano, and the Cubs were willing to take on Kei Igawa’s contract. The Kei-meister has two years and $8 million left on his deal, and the Yanks have never seemed too concerned with trading Scranton’s all-time winningest pitcher. I can’t quite figure out why.

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