3:50 pm Jul. 19, 2012
The Yankees got some bad news this week, with Brett Gardner, the team's everyday left fielder to start the season, suffering another setback in his attempt to return from an elbow injury. Gardner's season is in doubt.
So what should the Yankees do to replace him? Nothing.
With Gardner out, the Yankees have deployed Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones in his place. The defensive hit they take is clear. Gardner is one of the best left fielders, defensively, in the American League. Ibanez and Jones are both below average at this point in their careers. (The Yankees do have DeWayne Wise to use, late in games, as a defensive replacement.)
But both Ibanez and Jones are better hitters than Gardner at this point, too. Gardner's OPS+ last year was 91; Jones is at 121 this year, Ibanez at 100.
Even that understates how effective Jones and Ibanez are, because the two of them work in tandem. Gardner's overall OPS last season was .713. Ibanez, who plays primarily against righties, is at .805 against them in 2012. Jones, who plays primarily against lefties, is at .821 against them.
Jones and Ibanez are both older: Jones is 35, Ibanez 40. But by playing in a platoon, both will get plenty of rest over the final two months of the season.
The net result has been perfectly good left field production for the Yankees, who are ten games ahead in the division. Sure, they have prospects to trade for someone like Shane Victorino, who would provide comparable production to Jones and Ibanez. But exactly why they'd do that, ponying up a package to land Victorino against other teams who need him far more, is unclear at best.
Instead, the Yankees would be best-served by saving their prospects for other trades, or, heaven help them, to eventually play for the Yankees. That they will likely do just that isn't a reflection of ownerships desire to pend less, but the less-reactionary guidance of general manager Brian Cashman.
It's the kind of thinking that leads to a team with a massive financial edge leverage that into a ten-game lead in their division.