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. 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!!

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

  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.

  4. 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

  5. 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…