What should have been a rather minor free agent acquisition turned into a coup de grâce for many Yankee fans.
Brian Cashman signed former San Francisco outfielder Randy Winn to a small, one-year contract the other day and all hell broke loose in Yankeeland.
Certainly not for the mighty Yankees, for whom money has never been a prohibitive issue.
Certainly not for Brian Cashman who doled out $423.5 million last year for three players alone. Heaven forbid the ninth spot in the Yankee lineup be someone who is not a perennial All-Star.
Before we look at Winn's addition to this team, let's take a moment and go back to about the same time last year, when Cashman brought in a player coming off a down year, but had a track record of being a pretty good ballplayer.
Nick Swisher didn't have a particularly great 2008 campaign. In his first year with Ozzie Guillen's White Sox, he hit .219/.332/.410 while being shuffled all over the lineup and the ball field. It was Swisher's first season being a below average (92 OPS+) offensive player.
Cashman, in need of a first baseman following the departure of Jason Giambi, swapped a handful of spare parts for Swisher and penciled him into the everyday lineup as the starting first baseman.
The signing of Mark Teixeira pushed Swisher into a backup outfielder's role until Xavier Nady was lost for the season early in the year. After that, Swisher proceeded to put up impressive numbers and acclimated himself almost seamlessly to New York.
Swisher hit .249/.371/.498 and had his best season to date. Cashman bought low and took the risk that 2008 was an outlier rather than the beginning of a trend.
Fast forward to now, when Winn is the player with a track record of success coming off a down offensive season. True, Swisher was entering the prime of his career when Cashman bet on a rebound and Winn is decidedly exiting his, but the train remains similar.
Winn hit a pedestrian .262/.318/.353 last season in the moribund San Francisco offense, but hit .303/.358/.435 in the two year stretch prior to 2008. In six of the past eight seasons, Winn has posted an above average OPS+.
So maybe his low BABIP numbers played into his down year as Swisher's did in his. But even if Winn repeats last year's offense, his defense and ability on the basepaths helps this Yankee team.
Many Yankee fans screamed for Johnny Damon to return, but Cashman, operating under a budget, couldn't offer anything close enough to Damon's liking. Whether or not someone else will is yet to be seen.
Even if they accepted Damon was not going to come back for pennies on the dollar, they continued to throw names out there that they thought would be a better fit for the Yankees than Winn.
Reed Johnson! Rocco Baldelli! Jonny Gomes!
Winn does two things at an elite level—run the bases and defend. The other names floated out there don't do anything at an elite level. Maybe Gomes runs into a fastball every once and a while. Maybe Johnson makes Sportscenter's Top 10 plays once a month.
But that's not what the Yankees need.
The Yankees need flexibility, both financially and on the field. Winn gives them both.
The Yankees' general manager is coming off a year in which his team won a championship. I trust he knows what's best for his team better than I do.