I didn't want to do this, but Google is forcing me. Went surfing for stories about our New York Yankees, and left field is pretty much all anyone is talking about. So, this notebook is sponsored by a very confused left field at Yankee Stadium.
FanGraphs Tuesday made an excellent case for why the Yankees are doing the right thing by bargain-hunting for a left fielder.
The Yankees have made a bunch of good moves this winter, adding Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, and Javier Vazquez to a roster that was the best in baseball a year ago. Their true talent level, as currently constructed, is probably that of a 100 win team. The Yankees are going to be very good in 2010.
So, perhaps we should not be so surprised that New York is bargain shopping in left field, avoiding the likes of Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. They are at the other end of the win curve, and it doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of money there either. The marginal value of the 101st, 102nd, and 103rd win in terms of playoff odds is really quite small. And that’s approximately the upgrade that Holliday would represent over the current production that Gardner offers in left field.
The Yankees have entered the prime area of significant diminishing marginal utility. They are so good that adding another high quality player doesn’t help them that much in 2010, and because of the long term contract that is required, they’d be risking future flexibility to add wins that may actually matter for an upgrade that just isn’t necessary.
Writing about that FanGraphs piece, ESPN's Rob Neyer agrees.
Yes, the Yankees can afford Holliday.
Yes, Holliday would make the Yankees better. Maybe a juggernaut, even.
But the only way the Yankees can fall into a habit of losing, someday, is by stockpiling too many players in their 30s with big long-term contracts. It's incredibly difficult to place a value on flexibility, but that value is real and important and Brian Cashman's awareness of that value is going to keep the Yankees on top for quite some time.
So do I. Without going into great detail, let me remind you who the left fielders were during the dynasty years of 1996-2001.
1996 -- Gerald Williams; 1997 -- Tim Raines, Mark Whiten, Chad Curtis; 1998 -- Chad Curtis, Tim Raines, Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer; 1999 -- Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer; 2000 -- Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer; 2001 -- Chuck Knoblauch.
Point is, you don't need a super star at every position. The Yankees will add somebody to the mix before Spring Training, and I will be happy if it's a useful option like Xavier Nady or Jerry Hairston Jr.