In the last part of looking at 2014, we look at the outfield.
A lot will depend on Curtis Granderson. Granderson is a free agent and the Yanks will probably give him the $14.1 MM qualifying offer. The question is, will he take it to restore his free agent value? Granderson hit just .229-7-15, OPS+ 97 in 61 games. He went on the DL twice with broken bones caused by HBP.
You have to look at his power compared to the rest of the outfield. Yes, he strikes out too much (69x in 61 g) and his batting average is becoming alarmingly low. But he did hit 41 HR in 2011 and 43 in 2012. If he leaves, that would leave just Soriano with any power. If the Yanks could talk Granderson into accepting the qualifying offer to restore his value, and play him in RF, they would be better off in 2014.
Alfonso Soriano almost carried the Yanks into the playoffs in 2013. He was energized once he joined the Yanks, hitting .256-17-50, OPS+ 129 in 58 games (.255-34-101 overall, OPS+ 112, 18 SB). But Soriano turns 38 in January, and yes, he strikes out a lot (which could be a problem next year if Soriano, Granderson and Reynolds are all in the lineup. You could have three guys with 150+ strikeouts).
Gardner was the second-best position player on the team, behind Cano, until Soriano came back to the Yanks. He showed surprising power (8 HR and a league-leading 10 triples) while hitting .273-8-52, OPS+ 108. The SB were down. You expected 40+ steals and not just 24. He led the team in striking out (127x).
Ichiro turns 40 next week and should not be an everyday player anymore. His D is still good and he can steal bases, but the .319 lifetime hitter only hit .262 last year (.262-7-35, 20 SB, OPS+ 75). Look at that OPS+ again. He’s not the Ichiro of .330, 40 SB anymore but a shell of that. He should be platooned in 2014, be used as a bench player, def. specialist, pinch-runner, and certainly not, at age 40, play in anything close to the 150 games he played in this year. Of course, this year was by necessity due to injury. But still…
I wish Vernon Wells would NOT be on the Yanks in 2014. He’ll be 35 soon, and hit .233-11-50, OPS+ 72 (lower than Ichiro) in 2013 for the Yanks. Even worse, he hit .199-1-27 in 92 games after May 15th. A total bust, but Good Lord, he was still batting fifth in the lineup from May 15th on. He should have been cut.
Zoilo Almonte, 24, should get more playing time as a backup outfielder. The switch-hitter hit .236-1-9 in 106 at bats (OPS+ just 59) but he is young and may have a future, unlike Ichiro. Will Ichiro’s 2014 be his swan song?
You wonder what free agents could arrive here and if someone like Tyler Austin or Ronnier Mustelier (who could also play 3B) could be a late-season call-up…. or some other minor leaguer like a Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott.
For now, it looks like Granderson (if he comes back—the White Sox would like to sign him), Gardner, Soriano, Ichiro and Wells. I’d rather Almonte than Wells.
But if Granderson is lost, you can see the lack of power other than the aging Soriano.
I’d love for the Yanks to sign Pierzynski to a one-year deal to let Romine, Murphy and Sanchez develop at catcher. I’d like Cano and Granderson back and I don’t expect A-Rod to play (PED suspension), so re-sign Reynolds. If that happened, this would not be too bad, although the age would show a little and there may be a lot of striking out:
Jeter DH (turns 40 in June)
Soriano LF (38)
Teixeira 1B (34)
Pierzynski C (37)
It’s a much better lineup, with much more pop, than we saw for most of 2013.