Brett Gardner: Your 2009 New York Yankees Starting Center Fielder
According to Alden Gonzalez of Yankees.com, FOX Sports is reporting that Melky Cabrera is once again being dangled as trade bait across the league.
Widely considered a step behind Brett Gardner in the race for the center field job for 2009, Cabrera is apparently no longer considered worthy of a roster spot.
This guarantees Gardner the permanent role for the upcoming season, as the team seems very reluctant to turn to Nick Swisher for the position.
Performing admirably thus far in the spring, Cabrera hit .295 with an impressive .392 on-base percentage in 17 games.
Though his confidence appears restored, he has been dwarfed by Gardner’s torrid performance.
Hitting .409 with a staggering .469 OBP, Gardner has also shown consistent gap power. He has collected seven extra base hits, while leading the team with a .750 slugging percentage.
Gardner’s speed has already changed the entire dynamic of the Yankee lineup, and has added a dimension not available since Rickey Henderson manned New York’s outfield.
I am by no means carving Gardner’s bust for Cooperstown, or comparing his skill set to that of Henderson’s.
In terms of pure speed, however, Gardner has a similar ability to completely disrupt a battery’s rhythm and comfort level.
If the reports are accurate, it can only be assumed that the Yankees have become enamored with the play of “center fielder of the future” Austin Jackson this spring.
Jackson was sent back to the minors hours after hitting a monstrous grand slam against the Red Sox on Tuesday, but a quote from Yankees manager Joe Girardi after the game was telling.
Girardi essentially stated that he would not at all be surprised if Jackson was back with the ‘big club’ in 2009. Jackson’s 3 HR and 10 RBI spring was enough to turn heads fast enough to create whiplash.
If his accelerated progression has given the Yankees confidence in his post all-star break status, Cabrera is even more expendable.
The question now is…will anyone bite on Cabrera? His spring renaissance should result in a few nibbles, but what should the Yankees honestly expect in return?
Girardi seems committed to Cody Ransom at third base while Alex Rodriguez rehabilitates his surgically ‘repaired’ hip.
However, if a package of Cabrera and an "Alan Horne type" could net the Yankees a proven setup reliever, it would be difficult not to accept.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and what Girardi and GM Brian Cashman’s reactions to the report will be.
Cabrera’s time in the Bronx may soon be over, but it appears that center field has been left in good hands for 2009 and beyond.
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