This is pure speculation about the New York Yankees and their plans for outfielder Brett Gardner but he provides an option for the team to improve. And Wednesday when the Yankees acquired switch hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins, that was a way to get better as Gardner becomes a subject of trade talk.
In many ways, and because it is that time of year for wheeling and dealing a trade of Gardner does become a reality. Hicks, 26-years old, can become a fourth outfielder as Chris Young is testing free agency and in all probability will take an offer from another team.
Adding to the equation is the Yankees looking for more offense from the left handed side of the plate and Hicks becomes that option. One dire need for the Yankees is the ability to get on base more and that left handed punch from the lineup was a major flaw this past season.
GM Brian Cashman, said Wednesday, Hicks will give the Yankees what Chris Young provided the past two years.
“He provided us with a lot of flexibility depending on how the winter transpires,” said Cashman. “We believe he’s an everyday player. He’s a player who’s been perceived at a high level for a long time and we believe he figured a lot of things out here in the past year.”
That, from the GM should be enough to say that Gardner could be a goner. Cashman has also stated that there are no untouchables via the trade market with exception of course with the locked in contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury.
And if that means the proper tools are in place, Cashman could go as far as dealing Andrew Miller, the Yankees valuable and capable closer out of the pen.
Cashman said the Yankees roster makes more sense now. Free agent spending won’t be the case here for improvement, though anything is possible because these are the New York Yankees with the power to spend. With that in mind, and because Gardner, with a reasonable but hefty contract that other teams can take on, the roster without him can be better.
It is a part of the offseason that provides a baseball GM to earn their money and for the fans the offseason has also become a part of the game. It can be said that a majority of Yankees fans have come to realize that Brett Gardner can be a valuable player, but more so a first half player than what he produces in the second half, in what is the most important time of the long baseball season.
Gardner and eight years is the second longest Yankee when it comes to service next to Alex Rodriguez and was a member of the 2015 American League all-star team. But it was a second half of struggles and his inability to take the extra base that made it more difficult for the Yankees to overtake Toronto for the AL east title.
Because the table setters of Gardner and Ellsbury did not produce, the Yankees offense showed that inability to score runs, in that important stretch of games in September. And because Ellsbury has the more complicated contract, Gardner is the player the Yankees can deal to get another front line pitcher.
And with the way the Yankees starting four or five is structured, there is a definite need to trade rather than go into free agency and get that pitcher they need. There is no guarantee that CC Sabathia can be the ace, that Ivan Nova can return to strength, or even Michael Pineda who were two of the inconsistent pitchers in the rotation that came up short.
There is also the continued concerns about Masahiro Tanaka and the right elbow. He had a procedure done a month ago and is expected to be ready to throw in time when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa Florida.
The one aspect that always keeps the Yankees in the mix is the ability of their GM to wheel and deal, and that means taking a risk. He did that by acquiring right hander Nathan Eovaldi last offseason and gave up infielder Martin Prado and righthander David Phelps.
It was Prado and Phelps who were two tools of the Yankees late postseason hopes in 2014, and though their presence was missed this past season it was Eovaldi who came up as a surprise with a team leading 14- wins before being shut down with inflammation of the right shoulder in early September.
So Cashman, who had been in discussion with the Twins, went to work and was willing to trade John Ryan Murphy a young catcher who was a good backup to McCann. But the Yankees can afford to rid of a catcher as they are deep in that area.
Hicks is reverting back to be a switch hitter and that can only help with the Yankees inability to get quality of bats this past season off the lefthander.
“They just want me to go out there and play and help the team win,” said Hicks in a conference call with the media Thursday afternoon. “I’ll accept that and get back to the championship. It feels good, the team that traded for me has a lot of confidence in me.”
Hitting from the left handed side can’t hurt. Hicks adapted to that role again with the help of the recently retired Torii Hunter and down in Double-A ball. In 97 games with Minnesota, he hit .256 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI, playing most of his games in center and both corners as well.
And Hicks’ arm out in the outfield is valuable and one scout said Thursday, “He has the range to cover the field and throw from the corners as good as Yoenis Cespedes.” His throw from the outfield has been clocked at 100 or more, but more importantly he hit .307 against left handed pitching in 2015, with an .807 on base percentage.
Hicks said, “More confident as a left handed hitter,” and that he hits more balls in the air because on that side the left handed swing is more level, that the leg kick improved to get leverage at the plate.
So the Yankees have that option now of dealing Brett Gardner. Cashman is almost certain that Chris Young is not returning and the process of getting younger and stronger has started for the Yankees who still have one of the oldest rosters in baseball.
Is Hicks the guy the Yankees need to get younger and better? Maybe not the perfect fit, but that flexibility now gives that option to get better, if or when a trade for Brett Gardner can be made.
Comment: Rich Mancuso [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso