After the Yankees salary-dumped Adam Ottavino, it seemed like some of that money was going to be spent on a Brett Gardner reunion. Although there was some reported interest, it’s been two weeks, Gardner is still available, and the Yankees could still use another backup outfielder.
Although the most likely outcome is probably still Gardner re-signing with the Yankees, it’s worth looking at some potential alternatives for the last outfield spot on the roster. In the event that Gardner and the Yankees just can’t come to terms, Jake Marisnick could make sense.
Marisnick is still relatively young, entering his age-30 season. We know what he is at this point, too: a free swinger at the plate who will run into 10 homers or so per season (albeit at the cost of a low batting average and on-base percentage), but his greatest attribute is his fielding. He has graded well above-average in the field for his entire career, and is capable of playing all three outfield spots. He also brings good speed to the table.
Essentially, Marisnick is a right-handed Mike Tauchman, who already is a poor man’s Brett Gardner. This could be attractive to the Yankees, though, because Tauchman is coming off a rough 2020 season and could have just been a one-time flash in the pan. Things could go wrong if he’s pressed into more regular action as the team’s fourth outfielder. At the very least, he could stand to gain from some competition.
Marisnick isn’t just a good fielder – he’s a great fielder. In fact, he would become the best fielder on the Yankees regardless of position if they signed him. Since Statcast invented “Outs Above Average” (OAA), Marisnick has never posted a negative season and has accumulated 39 OAA over that span. FanGraphs credits Marisnick with 36 defensive runs saved over the same period, and a 9.2 Ultimate Zone Rating. That puts Marisnick 10th among all outfielders in OAA, 12th in DRS, and in the top 25 percent over the last five years. He is simply one of the best defensive outfielders in the sport, which is something that the Yankees could find useful given the declining ranges of Aaron Hicks and Gardner.
He isn’t much of a hitter, but Marisnick has some pop. There was, of course, one outlier year for Marisnick offensively, but that was in 2017 when he was on the Houston Astros. You know, the trash-can-banging year. Marisnick was one of the Astros who appeared to benefit most from the elaborate cheating scandal. Given the Yankees’ (justified) distaste toward anyone associated with the 2017 Astros, letting a member of that team onto the roster might be the one thing holding them back from being interested in Marisnick.
Marisnick would give the Yankees some speed and defense off the bench though, and he has a better track record of doing it than a guy like Tauchman. He’d probably be cheaper than Gardner, and should be able to provide even more defensive value. Although I’d rather see the team come to terms with a legacy Yankee than someone implicated in a massive cheating scandal that is still a sore subject in New York, Marisnick is a decent fail-safe if they truly can’t work out a deal with Gardner.