Overlooked in the Yankees’ weekend sweep of the Athletics was the not so subtle implication by Joe Girardi that left fielder Brett Gardner could wind up missing at least six more weeks of the season. Gardner’s return will largely depend on how he feels after swinging the bat this afternoon in Tampa, but regardless of the outcome, it’s time for the Yankees to proactively address the team’s glaring weaknesses in the outfield.
Last year, just about every defensive metric pegged Brett Gardner as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Meanwhile, Raul Ibanez was widely rated as one of the worst. Not surprisingly, this trade off has proven costly to the Yankees. Entering the season, Brian Cashman hoped to rely on the DH-platoon of Ibanez and Andruw Jones as outfield depth, but each player’s limitations have made that strategy unviable. As a result, Girardi has often been forced to choose between two very unattractive options: weaken the defense by playing Ibanez in the field or shorten the lineup by going with Jayson Nix or Dewayne Wise.
The Memorial Day standings reveal a high level of parity throughout the game. That bodes well for an exciting pennant race, but it could also signal a lackluster trade deadline. With more buyers than sellers, not only will fewer players be available at the deadline, but the costs could escalate as well. So, instead of waiting for the trade market to evolve, why not make a pre-emptive strike?
It isn’t easy to make a deal in May because most teams aren’t quite ready to pull the plug. However, that’s not the case for the Chicago Cubs, who have seemingly been in a seller’s mode since the first week of the season. What’s more, considering the close relationship between Cubs’ President Theo Epstein and Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman, the groundwork for a deal should be easy to establish. Now, all that’s left is to identify a trade target. And, as luck would have it, the Cubs just so happen to have a player who meets the Yankees’ need: David DeJesus.
The Brooklyn-born DeJesus is far from a superstar, but over a 10-year major league career, he has established himself as an above average hitter capable of playing solid defense at every outfield position. Because of this versatility, DeJesus would be a viable starter while the team is shorthanded and then transition to a super-sub once Gardner returns. Above all else, he would provide depth for every outfield position and, just as importantly, ensure that the Yankees would not have to compromise their outfield by playing Ibanez in the field. This would also have the added benefit of allowing Jones and Ibanez to concentrate on their intended role as a DH platoon and make both players available to pinch hit more often.
In addition to being a perfect fit on the current roster, DeJesus could also provide a backup plan for 2013. With one more guaranteed year at $4.25 million (and a 2014 option for $6.5 million), DeJesus would be a cheaper alternative should the team decide that Nick Swisher’s free agent demands are too exorbitant. Also, because the commitment to DeJesus isn’t significant, the Yankees could still afford to re-sign Swisher or pursue another free agent outfielder like Josh Hamilton or Andre Ethier.
Considering the flexibility he would provide both during and after the season, making a play for DeJesus seems like a no-brainer, depending, of course, on what the Cubs ask for in return. If GM Jed Hoyer and Epstein hold out for a blue chip like Mason William or Manny Banuelos, Cashman would have no choice but to walk away. However, it doesn’t seem likely that the Cubs would demand so high a price, especially in light of the extensive rebuilding process they will need to undertake. As a result, the Yankees might be able to come away with DeJesus for a more marginal prospect. Would an arm like D.J. Mitchell or Adam Warren be enough to get a deal done? How about Francisco Cervelli? It can’t hurt to ask, which is exactly what Cashman should be doing now.