Yanks Keeping LF Warm For Crawford

Columns, Featured — By on December 16, 2009 12:06 pm

The Boston Herald reports on the Red Sox two-year pact with Mike Cameron, while mentioning that Yanks have apparently been in touch with Jason Bay:

The Red Sox last night agreed to terms with Cameron on a two-year deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. Multiple reports pegged the deal at roughly $15.5 million…

…Bay expects to make a final decision in the next couple of days, with the Mets, Angels and Mariners the front-runners for his services. However, lurking in the weeds are Yankees, who have reached out to Bay’s representatives to express their interest, the source said.
The Yankees are not believed to have made an offer, and it was unclear last night exactly how strong their interest is, but it goes without saying that in matters of free agency, they never can be discounted.

First, on the Cameron signing – it’s a nice move.  But the Red Sox have yet to (publicly) commit to playing Cameron in center field, and the general belief is that he’ll slide over to left field so Jacoby Ellsbury can remain in center.  What’s the difference between Cameron in center and Cameron in left?  Night and day.

In the past two seasons, Cameron has posted UZR numbers of 11.3 and 10 for the Brewers.  UZR came into fashion in 2002, and since then, Cameron has consistently been among the Major League leaders in that category, including 3rd in the Majors last year – barely behind BJ Upton, but well behind Franklin Gutierrez, who appears to be a once-in-a-generation defensive outfielder.  Compare this to Tacoby Bellsbury, whose UZR last year was a Major League-worst -18.6, and it would be utterly mind-boggling to see Cameron switch positions to accommodate such a horrific fielder.  If the Sox decision makers are smart – and they are – they’ll take a look at the numbers and do the right thing.  But should they somehow fail to do so, and decide to stick with the kid in center, they would severely damage Cameron’s value to the team.

Cameron has posted an OBP over .360 once – that was in 2000 – and has never slugged over .500 despite averaging 23 HR per season.  While he posts terrific offensive slash lines for a CF, particularly one with his defensive gifts (career .250/.340/.448), he doesn’t hit like a corner outfielder.  If the Sox were chasing offense, there were much better players to be had on the FA market or available through trade.

On to the Bay/Yankees rumors – I don’t buy it.  The Yankees are routinely tied to any and all free agents because of their financial clout, but to me, Bay isn’t a great buy for the Yankees because he doesn’t fit Cashman’s recent MO. He isn’t particularly young (31) and he isn’t particularly athletic or solid defensively.  I think Cashman is instead taking the chance that Carl Crawford will become a free agent following the 2010 season.  It’s the same gamble he took in not trading for Johan Santana and instead waiting for CC Sabathia.  The Yanks overwhelmed CC with cash last offseason and he became the team’s true ace en route to a World Championship.  A similar scenario could unfold next offseason with Crawford, who would become, along with Cano, Granderson, Teixeira, and Sabathia, a long-term franchise cornerstone with the speed, defense, youth, and athleticism the Yankees crave.   I don’t see Cashman wanting to commit to the (likely) 5 years it would take to land Jason Bay, particularly since he’s viewed as a defensive liability – the type of player the Yankees already have in spades.

Another possibility is that the Yankees view Jesus Montero as a left fielder in the long term.  Montero isn’t too far away from being ML-ready.  Maybe the Yankees are willing to absorb a year of Melky Cabrera in left field if they think Montero will be ready to take over in a year.  Granted, Jesus has never played anywhere but C, and the Yankees are loathe to move him off the position despite the fact that most scouts agree he can’t play it well.  But the fact remains that the Yankees have some future options in left field, and signing an older, big money FA to fill the spot for 5 years seems opposed to the type of team that Cashman hopes to build in the Bronx.

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5 Comments

  1. Shant says:

    Good analysis as always Scott… I like the direction the Yanks are going by getting younger. Sox are doing what the 2002 – 2008 Yankees did… signing old players to bad contracts.

  2. The 2011 Free Agency pool is much better than than the 2010. That is why the Yankees still haven’t sign anybody this off-season. They are waiting for the likes of Carl Crawford, Joe Mauer, and Cliff Lee.

    But here’s a thing… What if the Yankees sign Jason Bay (on his demands). Use Bay for the 2010 season and see Bay help the Yankees getting back to the World Series.

    If it doesn’t work out, the Yankees can trade Bay in the middle season or the 2011 season and sign Crawford or Mauer or even Cliff Lee.

    Win-win situation for the Yanks.

    • Ian says:

      There’s potential there, I just don’t think the Yanks would be dealing from a position of strength. If word gets out that the Yankees are desperate to unload Bay in order to make room for Crawford, they’d get some serious low-ball offers and would probably end up having to eat a good sized chunk of Bay’d contract to even strike a deal. In addition, the fact that next year’s free agent pool is so strong works against them as well. Other teams will be thinking, “Why unload prospects for a guy like Bay when we can buy someone just like him?”

      The Braves may be trying to do something similar with Derek Lowe this year, though; let’s see if they’re at all successful.

  3. Georginaa says:

    Russell Martin has played well above Munson leevls. He has been Mantle-like. Of course, it’s extremely doubtful that he’ll keep up this pace but there’s no doubt that he has been SUPERB thus far. I’ve liked this signing since day 1 but I believe he is a free agent after this year which could cause all sorts of problems.[] Reply:April 25th, 2011 at 2:19 pmRussell Martin is not a free agent after this season. He will be entering his final year of arbitration. So unless the Yankees release him or trade him, he will be in Pinstripes in 2012.[]Hardcore Yankee Fan Reply:April 25th, 2011 at 3:56 pmThanks for the heads up. That’s really good news. If he plays well this year, it might even be ideal if they could sign him to a 2-3 year extension as Montero could be used as the full time DH part time Catcher once Posada rides off into the sunset.[]

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