Someone recently asked me -- and for the life of me, I can't remember who, or where -- if the Yankees can win with Brett Gardner in left field. You can imagine my answer, considering that they've already won quite a lot with Brett Gardner in center field. But with Jason Bay nearly a Met, I will assume that at least a few greedy souls in the Tri-State Area are demanding that the Yankees grab Matt Holliday, the last big-time slugger on the market.
But to what end? As usual, Dave Cameron puts everything in perspective ...
The Yankees have made a bunch of good moves this winter, adding Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez to a roster that was the best in baseball a year ago. Their true talent level, as currently constructed, is probably that of a 100 win team. The Yankees are going to be very good in 2010.
So, perhaps we should not be so surprised that New York is bargain shopping in left field, avoiding the likes of Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. They are at the other end of the win curve, and it doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of money there either. The marginal value of the 101st, 102nd, and 103rd win in terms of playoff odds is really quite small. And that’s approximately the upgrade that Holliday would represent over the current production that Gardner offers in left field.
The Yankees have entered the prime area of significant diminishing marginal utility. They are so good that adding another high quality player doesn’t help them that much in 2010, and because of the long term contract that is required, they’d be risking future flexibility to add wins that may actually matter for an upgrade that just isn’t necessary.
Two points here.
One, while it's true that replacing Brett Gardner with Matt Holliday improves the Yankees' chances of getting into the postseason tournament by just a little, we should also account for the fact that Holliday would also improve the Yankees' chances of winning the tournament.
But by just a little. Which leads us to ...
Two, Cameron's central point here is too often forgotten in the rush to judgment and the win-now mentality.
Yes, the Yankees can afford Holliday.
Yes, Holliday would make the Yankees better. Maybe a juggernaut, even.
But the only way the Yankees can fall into a habit of losing, someday, is by stockpiling too many players in their 30s with big long-term contracts. It's incredibly difficult to place a value on flexibility, but that value is real and important and Brian Cashman's awareness of that value is going to keep the Yankees on top for quite some time.