It’s hard to tell how much of the negative reaction to today’s signing is a legitimate dislike of Randy Winn, and how much is legitimate disappointment at not bringing back Johnny Damon. The Yankees spent the past few weeks telling everyone to expect this sort of signing — a low-cost, fourth outfielder to round out the bench and compete for a starting job — but it still seems to have caught everyone off guard. After last year’s Mark Teixeira signing, a last-second change of plans always seemed possible, if not likely.
Obviously, Winn has some holes, but so does every $2-million extra outfielder. Randy Winn is not Johnny Damon, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad player for this Yankees team.
The Good: Until last season, Winn was a solid everyday player for the better part of a decade. He’s a career .286 hitter who plays good defense and runs pretty well. Until last season, the idea of Winn as a fourth outfielder would have been outstanding.
The Bad: Last season was awful. Winn’s .318 on-base percentage came with only two home runs and his highest strikeout total in five years. He’s 35 years old, and you can’t help wondering if his age is catching up to him.
The Good: In his career, Winn’s left-right splits are fairly even. He’s hit .280 as a right-hander, .289 as a left-hander. Slightly higher on-base percentage as a lefty, slightly higher slugging percentage as a righty.
The Bad: Again, last season was awful. He hit .292 as a lefty, but put up a .158/.184/.200 line as a right-handed batter. Cody Ransom hit better against lefties than Winn did.
The Good: Last year’s splits seems to be out of the ordinary. Winn hit .289 with a .470 slugging percentage as a right-handed batter in 2008, and he hit .351 with a .535 slugging percentage right-handed in 2007.
The Good: At just $2 million, Winn was inexpensive even in this outfield market. Rick Ankiel — coming off a .231/.285/.387 season — got $3.25 million guaranteed. Xavier Nady — coming off a second Tommy John surgery — got $3.3 million. This deal likely (I’m guessing here) does not blow the Yankees budget for a possible mid-season addition, should that be necessary.
The Bad: The Yankees’ talk of sticking to a budget seems to have been sincere. I’m not actually sure that’s a bad thing, but I know, in a lot of ways, it will seem to be a bad thing.
The Good: If Winn bounces back to his 2008 form — or even comes fairly close to his 2008 form — the Yankees will have a cheap outfielder who’s capable of playing every day. The version of Randy Winn who played two years ago could hit lefties and righties, play all three outfield positions, provide some speed on the bases and occasionally hit a ball out of the park. For what the Yankees need him to do, that’s an outstanding option.
The Bad: If Winn repeats last season, the Yankees have a veteran on the bench who doesn’t provide much: No power, and certainly not a right-handed complement to Gardner and Granderson. This isn’t Johnny Damon, and for those holding out hope for an unexpected Damon return, this clearly doesn’t satisfy.
Bottom line, this is a fourth outfielder being asked to compete for a starting job. That’s exactly the kind of role Winn should fill. He doesn’t cost much, and last season’s numbers aren’t in keeping with his career numbers (or even his recent numbers). I don’t know why the Yankees wanted him over a more traditional platoon-type outfielder — I really thought it would be either Reed Johnson or Marcus Thames — but that’s a question Brian Cashman might answer after the deal is official. For now, there is only Randy Winn.
Maybe not the guy you were expecting, but hardly a terrible option for this role.