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The Yanks Still Have Holes to Fill: Part Two

Author: Aaron Marcus

As I noted the other day, there are still numerous holes in the Yankees pitching staff, defense and lineup.  I discussed the pitching situation on Sunday and today I will be going over the Yankees hitting and fielding woes.

This off-season the Yankees have stretched far and wide to bring the most talented players to the Bronx.  With the acquisition of Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to the organization the Yankees have accomplished acquiring a top-notch first baseman and MVP caliber Tex and potential danger at the plate in Swisher.

When the Yankees signed Swisher, the hope was that he would play first base and the occasional corner outfield spot.  He has little centerfield experience and is more comfortable with playing left or right field.  However, with the pick up of Mark Teixeira the possibility of Swisher playing first is over.  And the Yankees now have a major dilemma, what should they do about the outfield?

With the departure of wall-phobic Bobby Abreau the Yankees have lost a potent bat.  However, a healthy Xavier Nady should be able to fill any gap in the offense spot and in my opinion, Nady is a better outfielder as well.

Hideki Matsui missed most of last season with knee problems, but should be ready for opening day.  The problem with Matsui is that no one knows how well he will perform.  His knee may still be a problem and even if it is not, he is still getting older and has already lost some velocity in his arm and coverage on the field.  Once spring training comes along we shall see if Matsui is still fit to play left field.  Even if he is at full capacity, expect a lot of DH appearances and more games sat than in years past.

The next and most grim outfield problem is center field.  Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera are the top candidates for the spot right now, which should ignite fear in all Yankee fans.  Being the Yankees centerfielder is one of, if not the most prominent position in all of major sports.  That is where Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Earle Combs and Bernie Williams patrolled.  The issue needs to be addressed, and needs to be addressed before opening day.

Melky is a great fielder with a terrible bat; Gardner is a great fielder with more speed than Melky, but potentially less pop as well.  If Damon were five years younger, even with his lousy arm still appoint him center fielder.  But given his time spent on the DL in the recent years, his lack of an arm and fielding ability, it looks like he will be the DH for this season.  That still however leaves a major problem for the Yanks. 

Austin Jackson has a chance to come to spring training and prove himself.  But he will most likely start the season at AA or AAA and may not make the team until August.  Jackson is our future, but since the Yankees think in present and not future tense, we will still need a viable centerfielder come opening day.  I don’t know how dead the Mike Cameron for Melky Cabrera talks are, but if there is any glimpse of a possibility that deal can still happen, I urge Brian Cashman to make a move on it.  I thought it was too good to be true, but I can still hope.  The hole in centerfield needs to be addressed, and hopefully it will be before the season starts.

Another option along with the risk of letting Swisher play center, is moving Robinson Cano to centerfield.  If Cano is moved to center, the Yankees can pursuit free agent Orlando Hudson.  As I’m sure you’ve seen in my past posts, I am a huge advocate of the Yankees spending more money to achieve a championship.  They are still $20 million under the payroll from 2008, and if they decide to go with youngsters as the number four and five starters, the acquisition of Hudson wouldn’t be far fetched.  Moving Cano to center in my mind is perfect, the Cubs moved Alfonso Soriano to left field and it worked out decent for them.  Cano has the speed and agility to play the outfield and can keep center warm until Jackson is ready to come up.  Hudson would not only contribute to an already stellar offense, but would help the Yankees out at the second base spot.  Cano is a decent second baseman, but Hudson would make the Yankees infield the best in baseball.

Given we do not know about Matsui’s strength or who will play centerfield, the Yankees only definite outfield spot at the moment is right field.  Xavier Nady should be the opening day starter, however rumors have been flying that he will be traded.  If he is traded expect Swisher to play right, even if that happens there will still be a gap in the outfield.  Swisher could also play left field, but that would mean that Matsui and Damon would have to battle for the DH spot, the Yankees may have too much power in the outfield, and therefore have more problems to fill before spring training. 

The last gap in the Yankees offense and defense is that of Jorge Posada and the catcher’s position.  If Posada can return to his 2007 form, expect a stellar season.  However it cannot be certain that Posada will be able to return to that MVP caliber offense and defense.  His shoulder problem means that his arm strength will be diminished making it easier for runners to steal on him.  He will also be 38 in August and with age comes more wear and tear on any player, let alone a catcher.  Jose Molina is still a viable choice for catcher, but his lack of offense puts a huge gap in the Yankees lineup.

If Molina does play, and I expect he will the Yankees have three possible DH batters every game; Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.  Unfortunately I don’t see three great offense possibilities fighting for a DH role; so expect Damon, Matsui, Swisher or Nady to be dealt before the trade deadline in July.  I wouldn’t put it past Cashman to deal more than one in return for some starting pitching. 

With all the holes the Yanks have yet to fill, expect more offseason moves.  With all the gaps the Yankees outfield still falls third in the AL East, behind the Rays and red Sox.  However, come opening day I am certain the outfield will look differently than it does now.  Come opening day I expect the Yanks to not only have the best outfield in the AL East, but all of baseball.

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