What had been rumored during the off-season has apparently began to take form today. According to reports, the New York Yankees have begun the transition of moving Curtis Granderson to left field and replacing him in center field with Brett Gardner. The move was floated around during the off-season.
Since becoming the Yankees regular starting left fielder in the 2010 season, Gardner has been one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders. He has compiled a defensive WAR of 5.3, despite playing just 16 games last season. He’s also posted 20 outfield assists and had just five errors during the same time.
Meanwhile, Granderson has been of little value to the Yankees defensively. In his three years with the Yankees, he’s posted a defensive WAR of just 0.6. Each season, his defensive WAR has gotten worse, going from 1.6 in 2010 to -0.3 in 2011 and falling further last season to -0.7.
The move to switch the two outfielders should help the Yankees. Moving Gardner to center field is a no-brainer, as he is clearly the Yankees best outfielder, evidenced by his better defensive WAR numbers than Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki, whose had a negative defensive WAR in each of the past four seasons.
While left field in Yankees Stadium has been notorious for its difficulty (its historically been called “Death Valley” for it’s vastness where fly balls go to die), Granderson’s speed is ideal for the position. Ichiro clearly has the better arm of the three, which makes him perfect for right field. Plus, despite his negative defensive WAR numbers, Ichiro has been better in the outfield than last year’s Yankees right fielder, Nick Swisher.
With the Yankees relying less on power and looking at their run totals falling this upcoming season, defense will be of the up most importance. With the switch of Gardner and Granderson, they’ll save themselves some runs scored, and take a little pressure off of the offense.