This time of year, it’s hard to know what to believe and what to dismiss from Brian Cashman. This is a time for negotiation and bargaining, and neither is helped by the Yankees general manager laying his cards on the table. On Friday, Cashman named starting pitching and left-handed relief as his primary targets of the offseason. He seemed to leave little room for a starting outfielder.
Maybe Cashman was blowing smoke. Or maybe he was, in his own way, acknowledging two facts: 1. The Yankees might not have payroll space to go after Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, and 2. The Yankees might not have a real need for either of them.
Today, Brett Gardner won the Bill James Fielding Bible Award for left field. Gardner was picked as the best defensive left fielder in the game, not just the American League, giving him one more triumph of his breakout season as an everyday player.
I understand the appeal of Crawford and Werth — both have a track record, both have considerably more power — but given the Yankees situation of needing to sign three icons while also clearly needing to address the rotation, Gardner is more than a solid alternative. He’s a very good and very cheap option: A guy with speed, a .383 on-base percentage and one of the best gloves in the big leagues.
Gardner received 96 points, four shy of a unanimous decision. Only catcher Yadier Molina (a perfect 100 points) and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (97) had more convincing point totals at their positions. Much of that is due to Gardner’s range in the outfield, but also for his ability to throw. He doesn’t necessarily have a cannon, but his arm is strong enough. More importantly, his throws are accurate, and he closes on the ball fast enough — and releases it fast enough — that he finished with 12 outfield assists this season. Nick Swisher, who’s own throwing seemed much improved this season, said he got better in part by taking advice from Gardner.
The Yankees have a good outfield. They have a terrific defensive outfield, and if Curtis Granderson’s second-half was a sign of things to come, and if Gardner can repeat this year’s results, they’ll have a good offensive outfield as well. I understand the desire to have all the toys in the toy box, but the outfield pieces that are in place are pretty good as is.
Associated Press photo