ESPN reporter, Buster Olney tweeted more about the Yankees ongoing effort to trade beloved starting pitcher AJ Burnett last night. The front office has been in contact with the Pirates, and is most notably interested in right fielder Garrett Jones. Though they’re willing to pay for $25 to $27 million of Burnett’s remaining contract, the Pirates are not interested in moving one of their few potent bats. Though the deal may not go through, the attempt tells us what the Yankees are looking for on the trade market.
Last year, left-handed hitter Garrett Jones hit for a .243/.321/.433 triple-slash, a 107 OPS+, and a .328 wOBA. Against right-handed pitchers, his numbers in 2011 were more impressive, hitting .262/.346/.462, a 117 OPS+, and .351 wOBA. There is no secret that the team has been looking at left handed hitters to counter Andruw Jones in a DH role, but Garrett’s position, contract, and age confirm other characteristics the Yankees are potentially targeting. Though Jones isn’t young, he’s certainly not old at 30 years, coupled with a contract that keeps him under team control until after the 2015 season, this tells us the Yankees are looking at long term solutions. Another key is his poisiont, and although he’s spent time at first base, he has primarily played the corner outfield positions. With Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones looking at free agency in 2013, targeting a right fielder with so much team control may indicate the Yankees are looking for a long term option to replace them in the future.
Garrett Jones may not be the balanced switch hitter that Swisher is, or have the ability to knock around left handed pitchers like Andruw Jones, but the Yankees may see something different in him. A year before he hit an atrocious .147/.181/.279 against lefties in 2011, he hit a much more respectable .220/.261/.360 in 2010. The major culprit in such a drop off was a decrease in his line drive rate, which fell from 19.4% to 14.3%. The difference in batting average on balls in play was a drop from .258 to .170. Garrett Jones was completely lost against left handed pitchers in 2011, but if anyone has proven they can fix splits, its Yankees’ own batting coach Kevin Long. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, who struggled with splits in the past, posted better numbers against lefties than righties in 2011. If Garrett Jones sees any improvement in his own splits, he could become an everyday replacement for Nick Swisher.
In the words of Theo Epstein, “Whenever you look at a player you always think about things you can do with them.” The Yankees aren’t blindly asking for players for AJ Burnett, and their interesting in Garrett Jones tells me that they’re looking at potential bats to replace Swisher next year. If worst comes to worst, the team is looking at a regular fixture for their bench, but this buy low type targeting has paid off very well before.
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