Yesterday, Joe Girardi suggested that Brett Gardner has not yet won the center field job, and went out of his way to praise the work that Melky Cabrera has done thus far in camp. Mark Feinsand had the following to say:
“I’m happy with the way Melky is playing; he’s really started to swing the bat,” Girardi said. “They’ve both played at a very high level. Gardy started a little quicker, but to me, they’re both playing at a very high level right now. It’s been a fun competition to watch.”
Gardner’s numbers (.382, three homers, six RBI, .447 on-base percentage) give him an edge over Cabrera, who is batting .242 with three extra-base hits, five RBI and a .342 on-base average. But Cabrera – who is out of minor-league options – appears to have done enough to make him the Yankees’ fourth outfielder, sharing backup duties with Nick Swisher.
Firstly, I do not know where Feinsand got the idea that Swisher has already been relegated to the bench, being that I have not seen anything from Yankee management to suggest that the competition in right field was over. Furthermore, there is no circumstance under which Melky Cabrera will be good enough to share anything with Nick Swisher. More to the point, Feinsand seems to believe that Melky’s solid spring, combined with the fact that he is out of options, makes him a good bet to make the team. The obvious question is, does Melky have a role on this team?
A fifth outfielder needs to be either exceptional at one thing or solid at everything, and Melky satisfies neither of those things. He is a solid fielder, but he is not that fast and adds nothing at the plate. Basically, he is not a legitimate pinch hitter or pinch runner, and I foresee no circumstance under which he would replace Gardner for defensive purposes. His sole role on the team would be to play center field when Gardner is pinch hit for by either Nady or Swisher.
While the Yankees do not have any obviously better options on the current roster, there is one free agent who can be had cheaply and who would be a great fit. I think the Yankees should sign Jim Edmonds to fill that final roster spot. He would be excellent in a part time role, as he is still a very good hitter and is adequate at all outfield positions. He certainly brings a lot more to the table than Melky Cabrera.
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