As I mentioned last week
, my love for Damon (post-Boston/beard Damon, that is) had me rooting for him to return to the Bronx for another season - if the price was right (even as a fan, I can't justify the Yanks spending more than a couple million on him, nor would I want them to sign him for anything more than one season). Unfortunately for Damon fans like myself, since the Yanks (wisely) don't want to shell out big bucks for their left field spot and Damon is still holding on to hope of scoring big elsewhere, it's time to accept the fact that Damon will likely NOT be manning left field in 2010. Thus the time has come to suss out other possibilities...
The Yanks have not yet formally announced who they plan to have in left field this year, but with Damon out of the picture, they essentially have three options: make a trade, sign a free agent, or put Brett Gardner out there. Making a trade seems unlikely - who would they be trading for? And who is left to give up? - and the list of free agents
that fit the criteria the Steins have in place for their 2010 left fielder ("will work cheap" and "doesn't suck too
horribly") is dwindling by the day (although Gary Sheffield is still available! I'm surprised - who wouldn't
want that little ray of sunshine brightening up their team's morale?). That leaves our dear friend Brett Gardner, a guy once thought to be a better bet than Melky Cabrera before his lackluster performance relegated him back to the bench. Gardy may not be the most impressive player, but his low price (under half a mil) and potential for improvement have him just weeks away from getting the left-field gig by a process of elimination. As a Yankees fan during the Steinbrother area, I'm not used to the team "settling" at any position - they've got the money, go after the big players! - but I actually think giving the job to Gardner instead of expending more money or players is the best move the Yanks could make with their left field opening.Why give the gig to Brett?
As noted, Brett ain't the best left fielder in the league, and when compared to the rest of the Yanks lineup he looks like he belongs in the minors. That said... who cares? Have you seen the rest of that lineup? While a 1-9 can't-get-em-out lineup like we had last year is fantastic, it's also rare and simply not necessary. A-Rod, Teixeira, Jeter, Granderson, Cano, Posada, Swisher and Nick Johnson are more than capable of taking care of business whether their 9th teammate is Brett Gardner or Wily Mo Pena or even Matt Holliday. Would having another 25-home run guy on the team be nice? Sure. But it's not necessary for the Yanks to be successful in 2010.
What's more, Gardner shouldn't be written off as a "waste" of a lineup spot anyway - he has the potential to contribute much more than we saw last year. Remember, last year at Spring Training he impressed Girardi so much he was actually given the starting job in centerfield over Melky. Once the season got rolling, his performance unfortunately dropped off significantly, but he's obviously got some natural ability in there somewhere. He's only 26, and doesn't have a ton of experience - perhaps what he needs is the chance to get in a lot of at-bats without a ton of pressure (look at that lineup above). His first partial year in the Bronx, when he appeared in 42 games in 2008, was not impressive (.228/.283/.299), but he improved substantially in 2009 when he had more opportunities: .270/.345/.379 in 108 games. Why not give him the chance to prove what he can do? If he does poorly, it won't have a huge impact on the team, and if he does well the Yanks find themselves enjoying the services of a quality left fielder without sacrificing anything.
That's my two cents... what dost thou think?