We’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers — or perhaps we should say, “We’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers!!!” — and not only is Brett Gardner still slated to be the Yankees’ opening-day left-fielder, he won’t even have to seriously compete for the job in spring training. Yes, we’re surprised, too.
Gardner’s not necessarily a bad player — you’ll recall that he won the center-field job out of spring training last year — but it’s all very … un-Yankeelike. There’s no big-money free agent in play anymore, and no overhyped prospect now that Austin Jackson is gone. Just the best available guy within the organization, however limited his potential.
Still, we won’t believe Gardner is really the starter until he actually trots out to left field at Fenway Park on April 4. It’s not so much that we believe the Jermaine Dye rumors from a few weeks ago (we don’t), but despite the fact that the Yankees reportedly haven’t had contact with Johnny Damon since Nick Johnson signed, it’s hard not to notice that offers for Damon on Scott Boras’s terms aren’t exactly rolling in. The Yankees aren’t opposed to bringing in a left-fielder; they just want to do it on their terms. (Other available outfielders at this stage include Xavier Nady, Rocco Baldelli, Reed Johnson, and Jonny Gomes.) Still, the longer Damon waits, the more his price will drop. And just like we won’t believe Gardner will start for the Yankees until we see it, we won’t believe Damon isn’t in the mix until he signs on someone else’s dotted line.