Brett Gardner won’t be back until after the All-Star Game. The speedy LF, who (in my opinion) should have won the last two Gold Glove awards and who (fact) led the AL in SB last year, has only played in nine games for the Yanks this year. .321-0-3, 2 steals in 2 attempts, OPS+ 122. 9 for 28.
He has had two setbacks so far. He has his elbow in a brace, has received that platelet therapy, and a cortisone shot. Without him, there is a huge difference in the Yankees lineup. They are a bunch of sluggers. There isn’t as much littleball. Heck, right now A-Rod (6 for 6 in SB) is tied with Nunez for the SB lead on the team, and Nunez was sent down a while ago for his defensive miscues (and Nunez is currently on the minor league DL). Not only that, apparently Andruw Jones can’t play CF anymore despite 10 gold gloves out there. The backup for Granderson was Gardner. So Granderson can’t get a day off.
Now Ronnier Mustelier has been hitting, hitting, hitting since defecting Cuba. He hit well in a short stint in High A Tampa last year. This year, between AA/AAA he is at .328-11-43 as I type this up. But he’s only played some 8 games in CF in the minors, another handful at 2B. For the most part, LF/RF and 3B. He still might be better than Andruw Jones at this point, esp. in the corner OF positions. But could he backup the Grandy Man once in a while?
The thing is this. With Gardner out, LF has been played mostly by 40 year old Raul Ibanez, with a little of Nix and Jones. Ibanez was signed to be a DH. Defensively, Ibanez isn’t that good. The Yanks have gotten by for a while (some 50 games) without Gardner, and may need to do so for some 25 or so more.
Gardner is expected back after the All-Star break. But what if he cannot come back this year? What if there is another setback? How much longer do the Yankees wait? SHOULD they wait?
Carlos Quentin is available, but it is being reported that the Yanks have no interest in him and don’t see him as a fit. I can see it. Quentin, 30 in August, is a .255 hitter with an OPS+ of 119. The corner OF doesn’t help defensively, and the Yanks feel as if they have enough of his type in the lineup. Sluggers (Quentin’s 162 g. average? .255-33-101, nice, but very Xavier Nady like? Remember the X-Man?) but average D, no speed. Quentin, of course, could not fill in for Granderson in CF. Swish has played CF, but you prefer he not.
Instead, they are looking for a “Gardner clone.” Someone who will provide good D. Who’ll bat at the bottom of the lineup. Who will provide a slow lineup with a bit of speed. Someone Gardner-like who’ll play LF, but who, now and then, could give Granderson a day off in CF.
Having read what they are looking for (on the Bronx Baseball Daily Blog, where I post the Classic Yankees series) in an article by friend of the blog Rob Abruzzese, one man immediately came to my mind as far as being a “Gardner clone,” who, if Gardner can’t come back, would provide the Yanks what Gardner does. Speed at the bottom of the lineup. A SB threat. Someone who hits lefty that would play LF, run down balls, and fill in at CF once in a blue moon.
That man? Juan Pierre.
Think about it and let me know what you think. I would appreciate your comments. Say, in mid- to late July, the Yanks find out Gardner can’t make it back, and the Phloundering Phils are still some 10 games out and are sellers. Pierre is only getting $800,000 this year. He won’t break the Yankees’ bank. He was hitting .326 entering tonight’s action. He has postseason experience, having beaten the Yanks while a member of the 2003 Florida Marlins. He has the speed to cover LF at the Stadium, having been a former CF. Pierre, besides the .326 average for the Phils right now, has 11 SB in 13 attempts. He is the active SB leader with 565.
Pierre doesn’t walk enough for my liking. Despite his .297 career batting average, his OPS+ is 85 due to his lack of power and his lack of drawing walks. But he’d cover the ground. He’ll be 35 in August, and hasn’t played CF since 2009. His arm isn’t that great but neither was Johnny Damon’s. Heck, another speedster without much of an arm was in CF when the Yanks won a couple World Series in the 1970s—Mickey Rivers, who was a skinny greyhound much like Pierre. It’s not like Pierre would be playing CF that often anyway (where he played from 2000-2009)—just enough to spell Granderson, what, once every 3 weeks?
Here is a 162 g. comparison:
Gardner .265-5-43, 47 SB in 57 attempts, OPS+ 92
Pierre .297-1-44 51 SB in 68 attempts, OPS+ 85.
Time will tell what happens. I sure hope that after the All-Star break, Gardner can come back, go back into LF, provide Gold Glove defense, and give the lineup the infusion of speed it needs.
But if he can’t, then I’d look to deal with the Phils and get the person who may be most like Gardner. It shouldn’t cost much. You’d want him only from late July through the end of the year, wouldn’t have to give up much, and you’d get him cheap.
That sounds like it could be Juan Pierre.