Yanks interested in Reed Johnson for LF?

As the Yankees attempt to patch together their outfield after their most recent acquisition, in Tyler Kepner’s latest, we learn of the team’s left field plan going forward. The NY Times scribe writes that the Yankees are “not interested at all in the free agents Jason Bay and Matt Holliday,” two outfielders that simply do not fit the Yankees’ current payroll. Instead, given their decision to employ financial restraint this winter, the Yankees are interested in “several lower-tier free agents,” notes Kepner, including the “veteran Reed Johnson,” who is a career .282/.344/.411 hitter.

Johnson, at 33, is a right-hander with a knack for knocking southpaws (career .841 OPS against, versus a .707 OPS against righties). He established himself as a mediocre hitter and an excellent corner outfielder while manning left field (his career UZR/150 in left is 23.3) with the Blue Jays from 2003 to 2006. In 2007, however, lower back issues — a herniated disc and surgery to correct the issue — hurt both his offensive and defensive contributions. Johnson was subsequently released by Toronto and then signed with the Cubs, where, in 2008, he platooned with the remarkable Jim Edmonds to play center field (he also played some right field). In 109 games, Johnson hit .303/.358/420, primarily against lefties, although, in terms of defense, his glove was nowhere near as good in center as it was in an outfield corner. In 2009, Johnson hit .255/.330/.412, but his regular season ended prematurely after he fractured his foot via foul ball in July. Also, it’s important to note that the lower back problems he dealt with in Toronto continued to bother him in 2008 and 2009 as his back ultimately forced him to the disabled list twice during his stint in the Windy City.

Johnson, if healthy, could serve as a nice platoon-mate for Brett Gardner. Both would probably play excellent defense in left as they are similar in that regard. Johnson doesn’t have the speed of Gardner, but, even with back problems, his power is better. With the resources the Yankees have, a platoon seems like a poor resolution to their left field situation, however, with Joe Girardi behind the wheel (he did a good job “platooning” Melky and Gardner), it could work.

If the Yankees don’t like Johnson due to injury concerns and are interested in “several lower-tier free agents” like him, in that they are both inexpensive and useful, they could also turn to the recently non-tendered yet once promising Ryan Church, the 36-year old veteran Randy Winn, the rehabbing Xavier Nady, or even the ill-mannered Brian Giles, who Cashman has actually checked in on recently (or maybe Brett Gardner could earn himself a full-time gig).

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

12 thoughts on “Yanks interested in Reed Johnson for LF?

  1. AT

    Leave Brett Gardner in Center or Left Field. He batted .270, an on base of .345, 26 walks and 40 strikeouts. Speed and defense in the outfield is what needed. The lineup is deep enough to carry someone who hit .270 in the nine hole.

    Let Gardner play!!

    • I have no problem with him in LF and hitting 9th, he could steal 30 bases if he gets on base well enough, but I do think Xavier Nady or Eric Hinske should be brought in the be insurance off the bench for his bat. If he goes in a slump Nady or Hinske could pinch hit in a crucial spot and Hoffman could replace them defensively late if need be.

  2. EJ Fagan

    I’ve got no problem with a platoon. Eric Hinske should be in this conversation too though.

    • Xavier Nady and Eric Hinske should get a look, both provide a good bat and can play corner infield and outfield and they can be pinch hitters off the bench. I think Nady is more valuable to the team if he is healthy because he is right handed though and we lack right handed power off the bench.

  3. Brett Gardner will be the yankees centerfielder in 2010. Curtis Granderson will be in Leftfield and Nick Swisher will be in rightfield. The only pieces left are a utility player and maybe a relief pitcher. Otherwise the 2010 World Champion New York Yankee roster is set.

    • Actually they have already stated that Granderson will be the starter in CF all year long, so the best Gardner could do is LF and all indications are they want him as a 4th outfielder and are looking to at least platoon him if not find a starter for LF over him.

  4. Trev

    I realize that its a small sample size and it goes against the rest of his career numbers but might as well throw this out there. Gardner’s 09 splits: .291 .381 .400 against lhp, .264 .381 .373. against rhp. Kevin Long is supposed to be some sorta guru, any chance Gardner will be able to hit lefties like this for a full season? Probably not… ok this was pointless

    • Your numbers are wrong… He didn’t have a .381 OBP Vs RHP he had a 335 OBP.

      His splits don’t confirm anything from either season because they are exact really small sample sizes and even together don’t represent a full season, I don’t think he will hit as poor as his life time numbers but I do think it’s asking a lot for him to have a .350+ OBP in 500 ABs maybe he will get there eventually but I don’t he has developed enough to do it right now. Gardner is very fast but at times he almost loses the will to swing and he hits to many fly balls for a guy with his kind of swing and abilities. HE should think more Damon at his best with Boston with less power.

      2009
      .291/.381/.400/.781 Vs LHP in 55 ABs
      .264/.335/.373./708 Vs RHP in 193 ABs

      2008
      .125/.125/.125/.250 Vs LHP in 24 ABs
      .252/.316/.340/.656 Vs RHP in 103 ABs

      Career splits
      .241/.310/.316/.626 Vs LHP in 79 ABs
      .260/.328/.361/.689 Vs RHP in 296 ABs

  5. MJ

    Reed Johnson’s injuries should fit right in with Nick Johnson’s. Once again I have to point out how preposterous Cashman’s “younger and more athletic” mantra has been if he continues to go out on a limb for older, slower, broken-down players like Nick Johnson and now, potentially, Reed Johnson too. This comment also applies to Brian Giles, another old and broken player.

    If the Yanks must shop in the discount aisle, I’d take Randy Winn for his glove or take a flyer on Ryan Church who — despite being a limited player — I like because he hated his time on the Mets so much. Hitting a Subway Series HR against that fool Jerry Manuel would be kinda fun…

    • StandingO'Neill

      Gotta disagree with your stance here MJ.

      I think when Cashman says he wants to get younger he really does mean it, and when he says more athletic what he really means is players who are above average defensively. Granted we’d all love to see him bring in young 25 year olds but right now those players just aren’t there.

      He did acquire an athletic player in Granderson so you can see he’s committed to following that goal. I think what he’s trying to do is stay away from long term contracts with older players that would just hamstring the team long term. 5 years ago I guarantee you the Yankees would be all over Jason Bay just to stick it to Boston, even though his defense would make him a poor fit.

      Now he’s just taking his time, picking up players on one year deals until a younger, better fit becomes available via Free agency or a trade scenario.

      • MJ

        I hear ya but it’s still laughable that we hear “younger and more athletic” on one hand but then watch Nick Johnson joining the team on the other hand.

        Cashman wants to keep long-term deals to a minimum and I’m cool with that but if he’s going to shop in the discount aisle, he should be looking at guys that can play 162 games, not guys who play 100 games in a best-case scenario. Nick Johnson is Carl Pavano’s twin when it comes to ridiculous injuries on a weekly basis.

        • StandingO'Neill

          Perhaps but you can’t deny Nick Johnson is a heck of a player when hes in the lineup. A lot of his injuries were flukes, which you can lower the odds of that happening by keeping him at DH. I think its a good gamble. Besides its not like Matsui was the model of health.

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