First off, the fact that Johnny Damon is not returning should give current left fielder Brett Gardner a big confidence boost. By not re-signing Damon, instead opting for a cheaper player who isn’t likely to take a starting job from the “incumbent” Gardner, the Yankees are telling the young outfielder that they believe he can hold the position competently. I don’t have much faith in Gardner getting much better than he was in 2009, but there is still room to grow. With plus defense, a decent OBP (.340-.350?), and his speed, Gardner could be a net positive in left field for the Yankees.
Next we come to the “order of operations,” if you will (excuse me, I’m interning at a middle school and doing a little bit of work in math classes) for the outfield. Barring anything unforeseen between now and the beginning of the season, the regular OF alignment will be Gardner–Granderson–Swisher. Defensively, this outfield is pretty solid. Offensively, two-thirds of it is above average. The first man off the bench will obviously be Winn. As I discussed last night, he’s a good option at each of the outfield positions and can at least handle himself at the plate. Signing another bench outfielder will likely have a double-edged-sword type of effect on Rule V pick Jamie Hoffmann.
On the one hand, it will allow Hoffmann to develop at a slower pace. He will no longer be the first option off the bench, nor will he be an injury away from being a full time starter. On the other hand, though, it does mean fewer at bats for Hoffmann and the only way to grow as a major leaguer is with consistent trips the plate.
Frankie Cervelli will assume the back-up catcher’s duties and I don’t think we should expect anything from him that we didn’t expect frohttp://www.theyankeeu.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpm Jose Molina. Cervelli will likely bring a relatively weak bat to the plate, but should play above average defense behind the plate. I wonder, though, if he’ll be paired with any one pitcher. Perhaps Joe Girardi will pair Cervelli with A.J. Burnett as he did with the latter and Jose Molina in 2009. Another route that could be taken is pairing Joba Chamberlain with Cervelli. It seems as though Posada and Chamberlain never really got themselves on the same page, so maybe Joba would work better with Cervelli.
The last spot is the utility infielder’s spot which will most likely be either Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo. If it’s Pena, I’ll expect the same thing as Cervelli: good defense with an almost anemic bat. If it’s Russo, I’d expect a little more of the bat with a little less defense.
So, as of now, I’m willing to bet that the Yankee bench will be made up of outfielders Randy Winn and Jamie Hoffmann, with Francisco Cervelli doing the back up catching, and one of Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo playing all over the infield; let’s also not forget that Nick Johnson and/or Nick Swisher could play first base in a pinch. This bench may not have a ton of power, but it’s versatile and the parts are more or less replaceable if they do not perform.