Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yanks sign Winn to platoon with Gardner, Damon still unsigned

The Yankees have been looking for a left fielder to split time with Brett Gardner and they found one yesterday, signing veteran outfielder Randy Winn to a $2M contract for one year. Winn will likely play against left-handed pitchers as well as spell Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in center and right.

Winn hit .262 last season with 2 home runs, 51 RBI and 16 steals after hitting .306 with 10 home runs, 64 RBI and 25 steals in 2008. His numbers from last season don't say much about his ability to start in the big leagues at age 35, but he should get 200-250 at-bats and be a productive veteran presence near the bottom of the Yankees lineup.

This signing ends any speculation that the Yankees were considering bringing back Johnny Damon, who was a huge part of last year's World Series victory. From day one I didn't expect the Yankees to re-sign Damon, while everybody else seemed unsure. He's still an excellent hitter but his defensive shortcomings, particularly his arm strength, made it difficult for New York to justify re-signing him at 36 years old considering agent Scott Boras' asking price.

I'm still curious to see what the Yankees decide to do in terms of their batting order. Against righties, it looks like Derek Jeter will lead off followed by Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada should fill the fifth and sixth spots, maybe not in that order, followed by the Nicks (Swisher and Johnson) and Brett Gardner.

Against lefties, Swisher or Winn would likely bat second with Granderson dropping to the seven-hole, thanks to his .202 batting average against lefties over the last three seasons. This is the major reason the Yankees would be silly to lead Granderson off, as you want every-day consistency from that spot and with Jeter, that's exactly what you get.

As far as the pitching rotation goes, New York will go to war with one of the strongest groups in baseball, headed by C.C. Sabathia. A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez will fill the next three slots with Joba Chamberlain assuming the fifth starter's role, at least at the moment. With the strength of their top four, my thought is to move Chamberlain to the pen.

Combining him with Phil Hughes on the bridge to Mariano Rivera can shorten games to six innings or less for the Yankees, like they used to do with their late-90s' championship teams. Chad Gaudin can be a serviceable fifth starter during the regular season and teams don't use a fifth starter in the playoffs, so why mess with Joba? Start him in the bullpen and leave him there. Hughes would be a better fit in the rotation as well, if the Yanks decide only one of them can pitch in relief.

The Yankees made two big splashes with Granderson and Vazquez just one offseason after making tidal waves and signing Sabathia, Teixeira and Burnett. It's hard to say they aren't the frontrunners for the AL pennant heading into the season and probably the early World Series favorite after adding to an already dangerous lineup and rotation. It should be fun to be a Yankees fan this year, once again. My expectations are high.

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