After a perennial sluggish start, the New York Yankees have smoothed out the kinks and are playing solid baseball again.
This doesn’t mean the Yankees problems are solved but it does show fans that the Bombers can still compete at the top, which was once again somewhat in question not so long ago.
At this point in the season, no team is home free. The likelihood of more slumps and injuries are as unavoidable as they are unpredictable but there are always concerns that teams can prepare for beforehand.
For the Yankees that concern is replacing the still injured Brett Gardner.
Gardner brings a dynamic to the Yankees that cannot be replaced with anyone on the 25-man current roster.
No one can steal bags like Gardner, but my concern is the lack of defense that is now in left field everyday.
THE CURRENT SITUATION:
Ibanez and Jones are excellent DH’s, and are good for the occasional start in the outfield but these two are not built to man the outfield and survive on an every other day basis.
Ibanez is 40 years old and has made the most start in left field with 35.
To no fault of his own, Ibanez has already missed many catches this season, which essentially prolongs the inning and can be harmful to a game’s outcome. Also, Ibanez batting average is .234 when manning left field; and as a DH he posts a .333 batting average and his bat has become vital to the line-up.
Wise is a 34-year old journeyman who might be defensively a better option but in his 15 starts in left he is posting a .067 batting average, with one hit and six strikeouts. And that is just not going to cut it.
And 35-year old Jones, who has 10 Gold Gloves in his trophy case as an outfielder, has not played the outfield everyday since 2007.
At the start of Spring Training this season, NY Post’s Joel Sherman wrote a promising article with Jones’ declaring to hitting coach Kevin Long, ‘to inform Yankees GM Brian Cashman that he was returning in 2012 to take someone’s job.’
Sherman also reported:
‘He (Jones) said he is going to show Joe Girardi he is still a viable center fielder if needed and — without naming names — he has taken aim at Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher for playing time.”
Well, that was a nice afterthought but how convenient would it have been if Jones really did get back to being even three-quarters of the player with Gardner’s absence.
THE POSSIBLE OPTIONS:
1) Now, the Yankees could always make a trade before the July 31st deadline but GM Brian Cashman is not going to give up the remaining half of the Yankees farm system for a substitute outfielder unless it can guarantee a championship. Exceptions would be maybe Nationals phenom Bryce Harper but that is NEVER going to happen.
2) Looking at how other teams have managed injuries internally makes me wonder why the Yankees NEVER really give younger guys a shot.
Well that is because the options are slim and risky.
One idea was 23-year old, switch-hitting Zoilo Almontebut he is just coming back from a hamstring injury.
Almonte has a .242 batting average on the season in Trenton. And since returning from his leg injury his average has dropped to a poor .176 so Yankees would have to see PARAMOUNT strides for him to get he call.
There is also 20-year old Mason Williams, who is still developing down in Single-A.
Williams was ranked 16th among top out fielding prospects by MLB.com this season. He is posting a .309 batting average, with four homers, 20 RBIs and 16 steals for Charleston River Dogs this season but he is way to inexperienced to make a leap to the Majors.
3) What the heck happened to 30-year old Chris Dickerson?
I realize that Dickerson is not the ideal fix but he has made 67 career starts in left field, while posting a .280, with 6 homers and 18 RBIs, which is a vast improvement over Wise.
4) Pray for an elbow miracle for Brett Gardner.
Gardner is a dynamic player that will continue to be missed by the Yankees and even more so down the stretch.
Look, I am not trying to get anyone’s hopes up because Gardner’s situation is grim. Realistically when a player is flying to get different doctors opinions; and especially one that has already been on the DL for two months might be the last thing a team wants to hear.
And that means that Gardner’s elbow has not healed at all, and maybe has even gotten worse.
The Yankees are saying Gardner won’t be back until after the 2012 All-Star break but my guess is it will be at the earliest this September, or God forbid next season.
Regardless, Gardner has played nine games this season and with no timetable on his definite return the Yankees need to start weighing their options ASAP.