Is Brett Gardner Really Going to Be the Yankees’ Left Fielder?

We were traveling yesterday when the Javier Vazquez trade went down — we e-mailed Joe and BML that the Yanks were getting a “Vaz-ectomy,” because it’s extremely difficult to be funny while driving a car and e-mailing — so it wasn’t until late last night that we realized … whoa, some Yankees fans are upset about this trade? What? We assumed it was because they were huge Arodys Vizcaino fans, because they’d scouted him in the Arizona Fall League or something, but no: They actually thought the Yankees got the worse end of the deal, straight up. Five pitchers threw more than 200 innings and had more strikeouts than innings last year: One was Javier Vazquez. None were CC Sabathia or A.J. Burnett. You got that guy for a fourth outfielder? Why are you not doing cartwheels?

Yes, yes, there is history, and there are people still caught up in 2004, as if there were some sort of Yankee Stadium Pressure megavitamin that Vazquez simply refuses to take. The Yankees just got one of the top fifteen pitchers in the game for a spare part and a prospect the Yanks didn’t have room for anyway. What’s not to like? Brian Cashman is having a ridiculously good off-season.

But … that leads to the question that truly, behind it all, answers the question of what kind of organization the Yankees are: Can they really, really start the season with Brett Gardner in left field?

That is not meant to be an insult to Gardner, who, as Tyler Kepner points out in a comprehensive Gardner’s-the-man-now-dawg piece this morning, actually had an on-base percentage above the league average last year and could be an ideal, speedy No. 9 hitter in front of Derek Jeter. He’s fast, he’s an outstanding defender, and he hustles and does all those gritty, understated things we love from our utility players. During the playoffs, he was an ideal late-game weapon for Joe Girardi. Get him on base, and look out. You win championships with guys like Brett Gardner.

But do you win them with him playing left field? Brett Gardner? Really? Shouldn’t this open the door to a return from Johnny Damon, or even — lo — a run at one of the two free-agent left-fielders out there, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay? We mean, the free-agent market is weak this year, but it has one strength: left field. Right where the Yankees suddenly have an opening. They’re really not gonna kick the tires on Holliday and Bay? They’re really not gonna extend a (discounted) olive branch to Damon? Really?

Kepner says: No, they’re not.

The Yankees say there is no chance Damon will return — “some people removed themselves from the process,” as Cashman put it — and they are not interested at all in the free agents Jason Bay and Matt Holliday.

Cardinals fans out there (ahem) hoping to see Matt Holliday dropping easy fly balls in left for the Redbirds next year might take some comfort in that statement. And Johnny Damon may be kicking himself that the Yankees have moved on without him. The Yankees just might have decided that they love Brett Gardner in left field, that there’s no need to sign any of those fellows, even at cheaper rates than those players might have expected. It might not be a negotiating ploy to get Damon back in line. They might love Gardner out there.

But we will believe it when we see it.

Is Brett Gardner Really Going to Be the Yankees’ Left Fielder?