There are a lot of opinions out there concerning the Yankees current outfield situation, especially with regards to left field. To better understand some of the decisions that Brian Cashman is facing, let's look ahead and see what the future holds for these positions.
I think we can safely assume that Curtis Granderson will occupy one outfield spot for the remainder of his contract through 2012. And if he plays well, he will be worth the $11 million that the Yankees would need to pay to keep him around for 2013 ($13 million option with $2 million buyout).
That leaves two positions open, and there are quite a few possibilities. One of the more intriguing options is Carl Crawford. If he is available via trade this summer, the Yankees would more than likely be in the mix. I would also expect Gardner to be part of the package for him, allowing the Rays to receive a player who could take over Crawford’s position. This could explain Gardner being the opening day left fielder. If he can prove that he’s more than a fourth outfielder, then his trade value would increase.
If there is a trade, or if the Yankees manage to sign Crawford next offseason, then that is more dollars added to the payroll, and could be part of the reason why the budget is rigid this offseason; save money now so you have it later. Not to mention that next season’s potential free agent market is very impressive (i.e. Joe Mauer, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, Victor Martinez, Carlos Pena). I would expect the Yankees to make at least one major signing next year.
Who else needs an outfield spot? Well, if the reports on Jesus Montero (pictured above) are correct, he’s getting his last chance to show that he can be a catcher. If he can’t (which is likely), then there is talk that he could move to the outfield. His bat is major league ready, and he could be the next Manny Ramirez at the plate, but he still needs a position to play, and the DH spot could be a bit crowded going forward.
After all, there are several potential free agent signings in the next couple of years (i.e. Pujols, Mauer, Martinez, Pena, Adam Dunn) that could crowd some positions and require someone to take over the DH spot permanently. Posada could also need increased time at DH over the next two years. The DH spot could also become a rest area for some of the Yankees aging players.
Then there’s our beloved captain. How long can we expect Jeter to remain at shortstop? Sure, he has worked on his defense in the past two years and made some improvements, but he is getting older and likely will not be able to stay at short for more than a few more years. I would expect him to change positions before his next contract is up, and with the corner infield spots filled and Cano established at 2B, that only leaves the outfield.
While there are too many possibilities and what-ifs to say exactly who will be patrolling the Yankee outfield in a few years, I think it is safe to say that all three positions will be spoken for in the near future. So enjoy the debate this year, because there’s a good chance that we won’t have another one like it for a while.