Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Yankees revamp their lineup

The Yankees, having just finished their first losing month in nearly two years, decided to tinker with their lineup to get their ship back on track. They let Hideki Matsui take over center field from Bernie Williams, switched Tony Womack from second base to left and called up Robinson Cano to play first base.
The most obvious decision is to send Matsui to center field. He played this position back in Japan and might be more comfortable there than in left. His arm is weak, but it's not like the Yankees had a cannon in center before in Williams.
That Tony Womack is moved to left field is more inscrutable to me. He played 122 games in right field for Arizona in 1999, but other than that, he never played more than a handful of games in the outfield. And his hitting line of .270, .316, .315 with 4R and 4 RBI is much more tolerable at 2B than in LF. His batting average, on-base-percentage and slugging percentage would rank 17th, 21st and 23rd (and next to last to Scott Podsenik, who is faster than Womack, at least) respectively among ML left fielders. His SLG would be the lowest of a Yankee left fielder since Gerald Williams, who slugged .191 in just 38 games.
The Yankees can't really be planning to finish the season with Womack in left, which means that we are going to see a trade for an outfielder sooner than later.
Before his call-up, I had never heard before of Robinson Cano, so I looked up his stats.
In 2004, Cano hit .301, .356, .497 in 74 games at AA and .259, .316, .403 in 61 games in AAA. This year in spring training, he hit .286, .306, .371, which makes me wonder why he didn't get Womack's job in the first place. But even if he plays better than Womack did so far this year (which is at least possible, considering his poor numbers), Cano isn't the solution the Yankees are looking for. That a second baseman was called up when the team needed an outfielder probably says more about the Yankees' farm system than about Cano's ability.
I first thought that the Yankees should give Bubba Crosby a chance in center, but when I saw he hit .141, .185, .247 I wondered why he was on the roster of a 200-million-$-team in the first place.
So, I expect that the Yankees will give Cano some playing time and if he does fairly well, they'll trade him for an old, overpriced outfielder. If he sucks, he's sent back to the minors and the Yankees will trade for an old, overpriced outfielder on a team that desperately need to cut payroll.
So, is the team any better now?
Hardly, but at least Joe Torre has a bunch of DH/pinch hitters to choose from in Williams, Giambi and Sierra (once he returns from the DL) now. Also the starting pitching is looking a little peaky right now and there is still a lot of season left to get "real" injuries for anybody. In the current state, this Yankee team probably isn't good enough to make the postseason if Orioles stay hot and Boston plays at least half as good as they can.
So, I think we will see lots of rumors flowing around in the next weeks and I won't be surprised if some impact deals are done before the trade deadline gets really close.


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