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Yankees Looking for Outfielders, Not Pitchers

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Shane Victorino: Possibly being fitted for a different shade of pinstripes?  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Shane Victorino: Possibly being fitted for a different shade of pinstripes? (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Jon Heyman reports, or mongers, or whatever you want to call it, that the Yankees "aren't too concerned about their rotation, as CC Sabathia is returning soon, and Andy pettitte is expected back by early September," and as such, "are looking harder at the outfield market than the pitching market, as they still have concerns about Brett Gardner's elbow situation."

As well they should, given that Gardner (A) seems to be having setbacks on his setbacks, and (B) no one should confuse Gardner with Vulcan, the God of Fire (no, I don’t know where that comparison came from either). When everything is working right, the combination of a smattering of hitting, a good number of walks, a lot of steals, and excellent range in left field makes him quite valuable, but subtract any of those elements and there wouldn’t be enough remaining to carry what is one of baseball’s offense-first positions.

Heyman notes that "Raul Ibanez and Andrew Jones have done very well filing in," a curious statement because Ibanez has been neither filing nor filling—despite a little surge during the month of July, since the end of April he has hit .241/.301/.453 (.232/.281/.402 on the road) with his usual problematic defense in left; whether you prefer WAR in Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, or Baseball Prospectus flavors, all three rate him as about a replacement-level player so far this year.

Heyman identifies Shane Victorino and Justin Upton as among the Yankees’ targets.

Upton has a no-trade clause that happens to include any major league team that plays in the Bronx, New York, but put that aside for a moment. Upton is still only 24 and possesses the talent to be a 30-30 player, but like his brother B.J., what he can do and what he will do are two different matters. His 2011 was terrific. His 2010 and 2012 (at least so far) less so. He is also a career .249/.327/.413 hitter away from Chase Field, including .252/.339/.340 this year. Upton will command a high price based on his age and prior accomplishments and could turn out to be a player a team could keep for the next ten-plus years (he’s signed through 2016), but he could also blow up in your face—if you can get him to agree to a deal.

Victorino, 31, would be a rental as he will reach free agency after the season. The longtime Phillies centerfielder is a true switch-hitter with very solid .282/.347/.444 rates with the Phillies heading into this season, and those don’t represent a major home park bias. What is more troublesome is that while Victorino looked like an MVP candidate about a year ago, hitting .305/.382/.539, his bat went into a September death spiral (.186/.258/.319) and he’s been, if you will pardon an oxymoron, spectacularly mediocre this year at .245/.311/.379. Ruben Amaro Jr. is a poor trader, so there’s some safety for Brian Cashman there, but there is no justification for the Yankees giving up much of value to get a disappointing veteran in his walk year.