Alright, now that I've sort of tackled the infield issues, I'll move onto what I think should happen in centerfield for the Bombers in the 2009 campaign.
For lack of a better word, centerfield has the potential to be an absolute clusterfuck next year. Melky Cabrera will want to take back his old spot. Brett Gardner will want to prove that he can play (hit) at the Major League level. Austin Jackson may come off a hot playoff run for Trenton, turn it into a great fall in the Arizona Fall League, and in turn, have a great spring and make a case for being on the ML roster.
Okay, the A-Jack prediction is a little lofty, and I don't think he'll be ML ready til mid-2009 at the earliest, but I like to dream.
Coming into spring, the Yankees will have to look long and hard at Melky Cabrera. 2008 was an absolute disaster for him. His hitting regressed like crazy despite good fielding and it culminated with a stint in AAA with Scranton.
Brett Gardner hit poorly in his (limited) playing time with the Yankees, but displayed great speed and good tools at the plate, mostly his eye.
I'm obviously stupid for listening to this, but Steve Philips, genius that he is, suggested last night on Baseball Tonight that the Yankees may inquire about Nate McLouth of the Pirates. Nate had an absolutely fantastic year, but I wouldn't like to trade for him. Yes, I believe in the breakout season, but something about McLouth screams "fluke" to me. That's just me, though--maybe I'm wrong. I guess if a good offer were made, I'd consider it; but if the Pirates want to move McLouth, I'm sure they'll strike while the iron is hot and get too much for him. Basically, on gut reaction, I wouldn't be in support of this move.
So if I'm in charge, if I'm Joe Girardi, my Opening Day center fielder is...the young Brett Gardner. He may not have displayed incredibly flashy numbers this season--save for some game winning hits and a 10/11 SB/CS rate (as of 9:15 PM, EST after his second steal tonight), but the tools are there. His Isolated Power (SLG-BA) isn't exactly where I'd like it (.046), but his Isolated Differential (OBP-BA) is good at .067. That power will start to come around when he learns how to hit at the major league level. I think teaching him that by throwing him in the fire is a good idea.
His arm isn't great but with a CF, I'd rather have good speed and range than a good arm. Gardner has already shown that he can be an effective CF and in limited time, he is 5 Fielding Runs Above Replacement and 4 Above Average. Compare that to Melky Cabrera's 17 FRAR and -2 FRAA and Johnny Damon's 3/-2 totals. Though this is a small sample size, I feel more comfortable with Gardner in center. His arm may not be as strong as Melky's, but he can cover more ground than Cabrera and could probably beat Johnny Damon in a foot race while running backwards.
In closing, Gardner should play center, Melky should either be a fourth outfielder or be in the minors, and Johnny Damon has no business playing the outfield anymore.
That's all for now. Congratulations to the Captain for setting the Stadium hit record--here's to "rebounding" next year and starting off the new Stadium right.