In the rumors, the Yankees are in talks to deal an outfielder. Many fans have assumed that the addition of Ellsbury and Beltran has made Gardner superfluous and advocated that he should be dealt for another need. However, the Yankees should surprise everyone and do the opposite. They should add Shin-Soo Choo.
Right now the Yankees have at least 2 1/2 glaring needs: another starting pitcher, a second baseman or third baseman and a right handed platoon partner for Kelly Johnson. Joe Girardi and fans would probably feel more comfortable if the bullpen had a couple more elite experienced arms as well. In an ideal world, the Yankees would simply fill those holes and march through the regular season and win the World Series.
Unfortunately, it’s not an ideal world. At this point the Yankees are probably about an 80 win team, with the additions merely replacing Robbie, Andy and Mo and the 2014 team unlikely to be so successful in one-run games. The Yankees need to add about 10 wins just to be among the worst Yankee teams of the last 20 years. Sorry, that was the frustrated Yankee fan coming out. I mean Cashman needs to add 10 wins to field a playoff contender.
There isn’t a pitcher, second baseman, third baseman combination that adds 10 wins. The Yankees don’t have the prospects to acquire a star through trade and Tanaka is the only free agent pitcher or infielder who might be elite or is even likely to be an All-Star (Jimenez, Santana and Garza might be All-Stars, but with their uneven track records that’s hardly likely). So that brings us back to Shin-Soo Choo. If you’re reading this, you’re already probably already familiar with his strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is that the both Oliver and Steamer project him to have produce a RC+ in the low 130s, which is higher than the projection of any current Yankee or remaining free agent and depending on his defense will produce 3-5 wins.
But wait, you say, this is stupid because we already have Ellsbury, Gardner, Beltran and Soriano. Perhaps, but let’s look closely at the Yankees lineup. The Yankees have no great hitters. Their best players, Ellsbury and McCann hit well for good defensive players at difficult and important positions. If Jeter recovers he’ll hit great for a short stop, but not like a star. Teixeira has been better than average, but hardly a star. Beltran will be 37 and he keeps swinging at more and more pitches out of the strike zone, but even if he doesn’t decline, he was only the 31st best player last year by RC+. He’s our best guy! One of the implications of this sad state of affairs is that the Yankees can’t waste the DH position resting old guys because frankly, none of these old guys hit well enough, especially against same side pitchers, to be worthwhile as a DH. So while Beltran can maybe play the outfield if you accept a bunch of extra doubles, he should be viewed as the everyday DH.
So now the Yankees only have three players for the three outfield positions. However, Soriano will be 38 next season, which should yield some red flags. Even if that wasn’t the case, Soriano’s incredible August disguised the fact that over the last three seasons his on base percentage is .305 (that’s with the torrid finish pulling it up). That’s not good. It’s time for fans to treat Soriano like they did at the deadline, as a vast improvement over Vernon Wells and Ichiro, but not a cleanup hitting left fielder on a championship caliber club. However, the Soriano would be a great fourth outfielder, letting the Yankees reduce Choo’s exposure to lefties, rest guys and pitch hit for the Ryans and Cervellis who will get plenty of playing time.
That would leave the Yankees with a reasonably deep lineup against right handed starters like this:
Infielder to be signed
The lineup against left handed starters would still be weak. Not Wells hitting cleanup weak, but weak. Signing Choo doesn’t replace the need to sign two more quality infielders (or Tanaka), but it will make adding those three other players worth it. Little would suck more than staggering to 85 wins (or worse) and no postseason after giving away several first round picks.