Would the Yanks consider Josh Willingham?

I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but given my obsession with walks I couldn’t help but notice that Josh Willingham is tied for second in the National League in bases on balls, with 19.

RAB touched on the (unlikely) possibility of a trade for Willingham as a left field solution back over the winter, and concluded that unless the Nationals were blown away they really had no reason to trade him, given that he’s under team control at a relatively cheap price through the end of the 2011 season.

However, Willingham’s strong performance thus far in 2010 (.286/.446/.471; .423(!) wOBA, good for 9th-best in the National League) got me thinking about whether the Yankees might prefer to work out a deal of some kind with the Nationals after the season than overpay for Carl Crawford.

While Crawford’s certainly come out of the gate playing like a man in the last year of his contract (.313/.374/.500; .381 wOBA), there has already been plenty of speculation over whether Crawford is worth whatever ridiculous contract his agent is sure to ask for.

Both Willingham and Crawford will cool off considerably by season’s end, although ZIPS’s updated projection now has Willingham wOBAing an impressive .379 for the rest of the way, finishing the year at a career-best .387 wOBA; while Crawford is projected to wOBA .358 for the remainder of the season, ending the year at .362, which would actually only be the 4th-best mark of his career.

On the defensive end of things, I can’t say I’ve seen much of Willingham in the field, but he appears to be able to play a somewhat passable left field (-7.6 career UZR), although he can’t touch Crawford (101.9 career UZR).

Willingham will also be 32 next season, while Crawford will be entering his age 29 season. And again, Washington is unlikely to trade away one of its top three hitters unless it receives a package it can’t say no to, and I’m not even sure what kind of package the Yankees could put together that makes sense.

Still, Willingham would clearly represent a far cheaper alternative to yet another huge contract, and while we’ve all been pleasantly surprised with what we’ve seen from Brett Gardner thus far, he certainly won’t be a .374 wOBA player for the rest of the season (ZIPS Update has him finishing at .327) and it’d be great to get some power out of left field.

4 thoughts on “Would the Yanks consider Josh Willingham?

  1. Willingham is one of those players that seems like he's rumored to go to the Yankees every year–and yet nothing ever gets done. I wouldn't mind acquiring him, but with the way that Washington holds on to assets, I doubt they'd trade him for anything less than a king's ransom.

  2. Hi Larry,

    I've watched Crawford most of his entire career, but I don't know hardly anything about Willingham beyond what you've provided… and after thinking about it for about 30 seconds, I dont really want either of them. I love crawford, but if Gardner keeps taking walks the way he has in April (7 walks!), I can live with him there for now. Willingham is 32 and his UZR is not impressive – that worries me a bit!

    ~jamie

  3. Brett Gardner!!! What does he have to do to convince you!

  4. Andrew — I agree a trade for Willingham is probably pretty unlikely, but he does represent a compelling alternative. Also, Cashman hasn't been shy about making deals with Washington in the past.

    Jerry — As I wrote, Gardner's had an impressive month, but there's nothing in his track record to suggest he can sustain a .374 wOBA. I'm happy to be wrong about Gardner, but let's see a full season's worth of at-bats before we give Gardner the left fielder's job for the next X years.

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