Or off, actually. The Yankees are essentially releasing Winn. As Steven Goldman writes, Granderson is hardly the first, or the best; the Yankees once released Jimmy Wynn, and they once released Tommy John ...
In baseball, teams make these cold, hard decisions every day. That being the case, if even great players can be released when they no longer have a role, why is Randy Winn so special? Rosters are small these days. Winn hasn’t hit since 2008, making his only reasonable role that of defensive replacement. Assuming continued health on the part of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner, that’s not so necessary to have on the roster just now, and in any case is a very
limited use of a roster space. What’s more, Greg Golson, another guy who can catch but can’t hit, is still in the organization, so if the Yankees need to dip back in the glove-only department, they’re covered.
It goes without saying that the above is premised on the notion that the Yankees accept the idea that Granderson needs to be platooned, which they probably don’t. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t. If you count this year, Granderson’s production has declined in three consecutive seasons, and overexposure to southpaws is a big part of that. I know they had grand ideas about helping Granderson solve this problem, but to the point that he got hurt there was no evidence that he had made any progress whatsoever. There’s no shame in this, and Granderson is still a very fine player who should be quite valuable for the Yankees. He just needs a little help sometimes, just like 95 percent of the players in the game.
The Yankees seem committed for the moment to a four-man outfield, with Swisher in right field, and some combination of Granderson, Gardner, and Kevin Russo manning the other two slots (with Russo, an infielder by trade, generally restricted to left field). Does it really matter whether it's Gardner or Granderson who's platooned? If we accept that 1) Granderson's the better hitter, and 2) the platoon differential, ultimately, is roughly the same for the great majority of players, then Granderson would seem to be your man ... Unless defense is considered, in which case the scales balance quite a bit. Or even shift in Gardner's favor, because Gardner's young career suggests Gold Glove-quality defense.
Of course, we knew all of this in March. So, I think, did the Yankees. They just couldn't quite stomach the notion of turning a $25 million center fielder into a left fielder. Let alone a platoon left fielder. Maybe now they can, though.*
* Granderson earns $5.5 million this year, $8.25 million in 2011, and $10 million in 2012, with a guaranteed $2 million buyout of a 2012 club option.
Still, the math is tricky. So is the psychology. Players of Granderson's stature (and salary) aren't typically given a reduced role shortly after turning 29. Can you imagine what his agent will say to Brian Cashman?
All this might be moot ... except suddenly it's again looking like a three-team race for two playoff spots, and it's far too early for the Yankees to just assume they'll be one of the two teams. You think running a baseball team is easy work?