Yankees Trade Rumors: Is Phillies' Shane Victorino About to Don Pinstripes?
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The New York Yankees have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting...and waiting for speedy left fielder Brett Gardner to get healthy for three months at this point. He was supposed to be out just a couple of days after suffering a right elbow injury back in April, but a couple days has turned into half the season.
And now it sounds like Gardner won't be back at all. As reported by Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger, Gardner suffered yet another setback in his rehab and has been shut down. He's due for an MRI, and all the signs point towards Gardner being lucky if he gets to play in the majors again this season.
If so, the Yankees can no longer afford to wait. They've been dealing with a hole in left field all season, and Gardner's latest setback gives them a perfect excuse to fill it via a deadline trade.
Ideally, they'll go get somebody with a similar skill set to Gardner, both in the field and at the plate, not to mention on the basepaths.
How about Shane Victorino?
This suggestion shouldn't catch you by surprise. The Yankees have been linked to Victorino for weeks, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Monday of this week that the Yankees have talked to the Philadelphia Phillies about Victorino already.
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Heyman noted that the Yankees have also kicked the tires on Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton, but he's the longest of long shots. Brian Cashman apparently thinks Victorino's price tag is too high as well, and he's on record saying that he's in no hurry to pay big prices just to make "marginal'' improvements.
But this was before Gardner suffered his latest setback. The signs were pointing towards Gardner making his return before the end of the month, but that ship has sailed. There is now more incentive for Cashman to deal for an outfielder than there was before.
Cashman is only going to avoid acquiring an outfielder to take Gardner's place in left field if he thinks Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez can continue to share the load for the rest of the season. That doesn't seem like such a bad idea right now, as Jones has hit five home runs this month and Ibanez recently hit a clutch grand slam to lead the Yankees to victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
And credit where credit is due, Jones and Ibanez have been getting the job done all season. Thus far, they've combined for 24 home runs and 65 RBI in just 365 combined at-bats. A lot of teams would love to get that kind of production out of two part-time left fielders.
But as Ken Davidoff of the New York Post pointed out in his Wednesday column, one can't help but be concerned about how long Jones and Ibanez are going to hold up in the long run. They've been a lot better than advertised, but Jones is 35-years-old and Ibanez is 40-years-old. The Yankees should be worried about wearing them out, as they're going to need their bats to be charged and ready to go when (not if) the postseason rolls around.
Hence the reason the Bombers should be so interested in Victorino. He's only 31-years-old, and he brings things to the table that Jones and Ibanez don't.
The one area where Victorino could really help the Yankees is in the field. He's probably lost a step from where he was a couple years ago, but he's still capable of covering a ton of ground. This makes him not unlike Gardner, who covered more ground than any outfielder in baseball in 2011 (see FanGraphs). In addition to taking care of left field, his range helped mask Curtis Granderson's defensive shortcomings.
Victorino is having a rough season at the plate, but he's by no means a useless offensive player. His bat still has pop, and he has something that the Yankees' offense has been missing ever since Gardner went down in April:
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This Yankees team does not specialize in manufacturing runs, and they rank 24th in baseball with 49 stolen bases. Their one-trick pony offense hasn't killed them this season, but it's something that could kill them in the postseason. It's going to be a lot harder for them to summon home runs when they need them in October. Having at least one speedster who they could put in motion when they need a quick run would be ideal.
Victorino can be that guy. He's stolen over 30 bases three times in his career, and he already has 19 steals this season.
All of this should appeal to Brian Cashman. The other thing that should pique his interest is the fact that Victorino is as attainable right now as he'll ever be. The Phillies are in no position to demand a lot in return for Victorino for three major reasons.
One, he's a free agent at the end of the season, and the new CBA doesn't compensate teams with draft picks if they fail to re-sign rental players. That lowers Victorino's value.
Two, Victorino is having a poor season. That also lowers his value.
And three, it's pretty much common knowledge that the Phillies aren't going to commit to Victorino beyond this season. With their season all but lost, the Phillies should take what they can get for him while they can.
The Yankees obviously aren't the only team out there interested in Victorino, but they rank among the more perfect suitors because they a) have a need for him and b) have the prospects to acquire him. The Yankees and Phillies are two teams that could easily do business.
To recap, there'd be no need for the Yankees to go out and get Victorino if Gardner was going to be back before the deadline, but the odds of that happening now are somewhere between slim and none. The Bombers could stick with the Jones/Ibanez left-field platoon, but they'll be pushing the luck given how old they are and how much wear and tear they've already accumulated. Victorino has skill that the Yankees need, and it won't cost an arm and a leg to acquire him.
For Brian Cashman, making a deal for Victorino would be a bold play. But in this case, acquiring Victorino is also a safe play.
He should go for it.
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