Lords of the Pine

As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the Yanks added Morgan Ensberg to the 40-man yesterday at a cost of $1.75m, a sure indication he will break camp with the big club. That means the Yankee bench opening the year will consist of Duncan (of/1b), Betemit (ss/2b), Ensberg (3b/1b), and Molina (c), in addition to the daily odd-man out of the Damon/Abreu/Cabrera/Matsui/Giambi contingent. It’s the best bench the Yanks have seen in a long time, skewed heavily toward power and obp, though there’s not much for speed and the defense is marginal (Ensberg is out of position at first, though historically capable; Duncan has a strong arm in right, but the jury’s out). Girardi has indicated he’d like to see speedy CF prospect Brett Gardner get a full year at Triple-A for further development, rather than languish on the bench in the majors; but he could well be up with the big club late in the season, if not sooner, a la Boston’s Ellsbury. If vaunted prospect Austin Jackson continues to make strides in AA, Brian Cashman will have considerable outfield flexibility.

24 comments… add one
  • I knew this was coming but I would have much preferred Gardner, and the Spring stats support that:
    Ensberg: 37 AB – .270/.341/.405, 5 2B
    Gardner: 28 AB – .393/.469/.536, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 SB, 0 CS
    I understand Gardner could still develop more, but I think he is what he is at this point – OBP, speed, good defense – I think of Brett Butler.
    With Abreu a free agent after the year, I hope Melky shows enough (.825 OPS) to at least be capable RF. Then, that’s a 2009 OF of Damon, Gardner, Melky with Ajax and/or Tabata hopefully available mid-season – significantly underpowered but good OBPs and above average defense. But that’s all wishful thinking.

    A YF March 22, 2008, 2:22 pm
  • I think the Yanks are making the smart move here. Gardner over Ensberg would leave only 1 real inf. reserve, and we saw with Melky that a rush-job isn’t always ideal. Ensberg’s a solid bench player. The spring numbers are too small a sample to indicate anything. Obviously, Gardner isn’t going to be a .393/.469/.536 player unless he’s starting at the bronx high school of science.

    YF March 22, 2008, 3:03 pm
  • yeah, i probably need andrew to explain to me how 2 doubles and 6 SB’s is < 5 doubles (with 9 more AB's). and how being able to score from 2nd on a single shouldn't add any value to those numbers either. so on days that damon plays the field, speed off the bench consists of betemit (5 SB's/5 CS's in 5 seasons). can anyone name these lefties in the NL Central that morgan has been feasting on? maybe mulder or lilly or... color this SF very happy with ensberg making the team

    sf rod March 22, 2008, 3:07 pm
  • Gardner would not have gotten regular AB’s with the Yankees big club, this was absolutely the right move. I can see where a player of his mold would have helped this team, 100% agree. Who wouldn’t want a speed guy with bunting ability and solid defense on their bench? Problem is if this kid is going to contribute in the near future he needs to play everyday. Sitting on the Yankees bench and playing once a week, if that, is not going to help him developmentally. It would be like making Horne or Marquez a long man. Unless AJax gets ahead of schedule and is ready for 2009 Gardner is scheduled to be part of this teams plans in 2009. This is the right move for his future.

    John - YF March 22, 2008, 5:55 pm
  • The problem is that Ensberg is exactly a 270/.341/.405 especially if he’s playing against RHP. Gardner would get on base more often than that, and be a pest once there. It’s okay though – we’ll seen Gardner change the team when Damon or Abreu hits the DL. And he could be pushing for Melky’s job by year end. Not bad – it’s been a while since The Yanks have had a player in that mold.

    A YF March 22, 2008, 5:59 pm
  • Nobody is arguing that Gardner isn’t good enough for this team. In my opinion he has the ability to replace Melky right now if he stumbles. But if they aren’t going to use him everyday or in a platoon it’s developmentally detrimental to the young man. Ensberg is what he his, that isn’t going to change. He’s the kind of guy you want on your bench, not a kid who needs regular AB’s and that figures in your future plans.
    Just so we are clear Gardner is good enough, but unless he is getting regular AB’s this is the best move for his future.

    John - YF March 22, 2008, 6:04 pm
  • Plus unless I am missing something Ensberg is a 1Bman and 3Bman so comparing lines is pointless unless Ensberg learns the OF or Gardner learns the IF. They would be playing different roles.

    John - YF March 22, 2008, 6:06 pm
  • rumor has it, as of last nite, ensberg was on his way to arizona to join the dodgers at 3rd base (both laroche and nomar hurt to start the season).
    john- i understand why it makes sense to keep ensberg, with regards to gardners remaining options, but it doesn’t make the yanks better. i still have trouble calling morgan a 1st baseman as he’s played that position a total of once in his career. the problem i see is, an old outfield two nagging injuries away from having duncan starting in left. meanwhile you have 6 guy’s who own 1st baseman gloves on the 25 man roster.

    sf rod March 22, 2008, 6:32 pm
  • Rod, trust me I don’t like the 1B situation at all. But you have to make the best of what we have. As for it being an old OF, Gardner is just a phone call away. As far as it not making them better, I agree like I said. Having a Gardner type player on the bench makes most teams better, but at what cost when that player is a future contributor? He is best suited playing every day right now. I am glad they went in this direction because this only reinforces the focus on developing the farm system properly.

    John - YF March 22, 2008, 6:58 pm
  • Like I said, all things being equal, Gardner probably does deserve to make the team over Ensberg. But all things are not equal. Ensberg provides great value, and is a much, much more proven player than Gardner. Their on-base skills are not even close. Ensberg in fact has one of the best on-base differentials (isolated obp) on the Yankees, just edging over .100, which is obviously excellent. He also has prodigious upside, and has absolutely demolished left-handed pitching over his career. The thing is, he is a perfect bench player. Now you can start Ensberg at 1B and Duncan in RF against lefties, and sit Abreu (who becomes a capable pinch-runner for the game) and Giambi. It’s well-documented that Abreu gets seriously screwed up whenever he faces a tough left-handed pitcher. Sitting him against the likes of Kazmir would be a positive move, and the Yankees, now with actual baseball players on their bench, can do just that.
    Anyway, keeping Ensberg is the right move because if Gardner really is tearing it up middle of the season, there are bound to be major league teams in need of a corner infielder, or at least a bench player. Sweet, now the Yankees have a surplus and have a great piece in which to buy at the trading deadline.
    Honestly, it made absolutely zero sense to let Ensberg go. More productive players = better. Every day at bats for a young, in-need-of-development player = better. What’s to argue about?
    The fact that we are even having this discussion is a great thing for the Yankees. Remember when the bench consisted of Miguel Cairo and Andy Phillips? Or when everyone was ecstatic that maybe the Yankees finally had a real bench player when they brought Josh Phelps along for the ride? Or traded Shawn Chacon for Craig Wilson in 2006? Things are looking up. Yankees have flexibility in their roster that they haven’t had since 2003. Their 40-man roster is filled with players who can actually help. Their Spring Training has gone nearly (save a couple Pettitte nicks) flawlessly, health-wise. I look forward to a great season, where bullpen arms are actually used judiciously and young exciting players are actually used once in a while.

    AndrewYF March 22, 2008, 9:45 pm
  • Also, it’s worth noting that if an outfielder does get injured, the Yankees would actually have a guy in the minors who’s been getting regular playing time ready to step right in. With Gardner languishing on the bench, he’d probably be really rusty and not a capable replacement. The Yankees in fact have very good outfield depth.

    AndrewYF March 22, 2008, 9:53 pm
  • Spot on Andrew!

    John - YF March 23, 2008, 12:47 am
  • And just to show I don’t hate the guy, here’s a cool 10-minute interview with the man, Brett Gardner himself:

    AndrewYF March 23, 2008, 12:51 am
  • “Honestly, it made absolutely zero sense to let Ensberg go.”
    Perfect example where I simply disagree. Since Ensberg really isn’t a 1B, and the Yanks already have a 3B, that’s at least one sense to let Ensberg go.
    Another is the fact that Ensberg and Duncan have extremely similar skill sets. If you want Ensberg, then send down Duncan and keep Gardner. My point has always been that Gardner offers different skills that are much more likely to help the Yanks on a consistent basis.
    Abreu should sit against tough lefties. But how often is that? Not more than once every two weeks, esp. with Santana now gone from the AL. So maybe twice a month both Duncan and Ensberg will play in the same game. That’s not often enough to carry both.
    I don’t think Gardner has much more development left. He is what he is at this point. And that’s helpful to the team right now. But, like I said, it’s fine. We’ll see him by July, if not sooner.

    A YF March 23, 2008, 4:32 am
  • “If you want Ensberg, then send down Duncan and keep Gardner. My point has always been that Gardner offers different skills that are much more likely to help the Yanks on a consistent basis.”
    I agree A, but I don’t think that was ever an option. As for Gardner’s skills, like I said they are definitely beneficial to have on this team. That’s not even up for debate. Speed, solid OF defense, gets on base, all things the Yankees do not have on the bench right now. I don’t think anyone is arguing that he is not skilled or that he would help the team, because he certainly is and can. Once the shine comes off Duncan or Melky it’s nice to know the Yankees have options. Gardner will play for them this year, just not in April or May.

    John - YF March 23, 2008, 8:46 am
  • Ensberg does have a different skill-set. He plays first and third and gets on base. Duncan plays OF passably and 1B a bit less than passably. Morgan and Shelley aren’t clones of each other. What happens if last year was a fluke and Shelley just completely falls apart this year? It’s not like he’s a guarantee. I’m with John – it’s nicer to have options than to put all your eggs in one basket. Easter metaphor not purposeful.

    AndrewYF March 23, 2008, 12:56 pm
  • “What happens if last year was a fluke and Shelley just completely falls apart this year?”
    You send him down. Like I said, you don’t have to keep him and Ensberg right now. Problem is, Shelly has had the better Spring. If you’re only playing them together a few times a month, there’s little need for both. But fine, keep Ensberg. He’s going to start maybe once a week.
    Here’s a good article on Gardner:

    A YF March 24, 2008, 8:30 am
  • “But fine, keep Ensberg. He’s going to start maybe once a week.”
    Isn’t that the role of a bench player? I would much rather a thirty something start once per week then a youngster who is in this team’s future plans.

    John - YF March 24, 2008, 8:38 am
  • I don’t have a stake in the Gardner/Ensberg debate, but John’s position is totally logical. Why would it be a good thing to have a guy like Gardner fester on the bench when he could be gaining experience playing every day in the minors? The incremental upside cannot possibly be worth the possibly detrimental effects on riding the pine for extended periods of time. Plus there is the service time issue, from an economic standpoint.

    SF March 24, 2008, 8:48 am
  • “Why would it be a good thing to have a guy like Gardner fester on the bench when he could be gaining experience playing every day in the minors?”
    He’s ready now. More experience means little. He is what he is.
    And whereas you’d never pinch-hit Ensberg for Abreu or Giambi against say Okajima (thus the one start), Gardner could get into three or four games a week as a pinch runner/defensive sub. I can easily imagine a few times a week where Posada or Giambi getting on base late in a close game. That’s the perfect role for Garnder right now. By mid-season, he could be taking playing time from Melky.
    Right now, I’d rather the guy that could impact a few games each week than the guy that will impact maybe one. With both Duncan and Ensberg on the team, one won’t play much. Gardner would.
    Like I said, I’m fine. It will all work itself out by mid-season. I’m just not expecting much from Ensberg.

    A YF March 24, 2008, 9:17 am
  • “By mid-season, he could be taking playing time from Melky.”
    That may happen regardless of where he starts the season. He doesn’t need to be on the Yankees bench to do so.
    “He’s ready now. More experience means little. He is what he is.”
    It’s not about experience, it’s about playing everyday. He can only improve LT from playing everyday right now. It’s a long season, you don’t want him on the bench for 162 games. Call him up somewhere down the road. It’s almost a given he will be needed at some point with Damon and Matsui’s health and age issues. (See Sardinha, Reese, Thompson, etc…)
    As far as his usefullness you are right Gardner would be far more useful over the course of a week then Duncan, but Girardi isn’t sending him down. He’ll be up this year but not until Duncan stops being the apple of everyone’s eye.
    As for Ensberg that’s the only part we disagree on. I think this guy can be mighty good and very productive. He has never hit in a lineup like this. His shoulder has finally healed and he absolutely mashes lefties. That is something very useful to have on your bench. He also looks pretty good at 1B, by seasons end he could be the best defensive 1Bman we have (sans a Nick Johnson trade).

    John - YF March 24, 2008, 9:38 am
  • “It’s not about experience, it’s about playing everyday.”
    I’m not convinced he’ll ever be an everyday player with the NY Yankees. So that’s even more reason in my mind to see what he offers right now in a part-time role.
    “He’ll be up this year but not until Duncan stops being the apple of everyone’s eye.”
    Or Ensberg. :)
    Problem is, he’s done very little this Spring – not even one HR. Duncan, at least, has been hitting (and sliding). As for the defense, the Yanks have been a bit irrational the last few seasons thinking they needed a decent defender, with no bat at 1B. I’d rather they avoided that again.
    The funny thing is this really isn’t a big deal for me. I prefer Gardner but I know we’ll see him soon enough. I would like actual games to start though.

    A YF March 24, 2008, 9:53 am
  • While Gardner may not ever be an everyday player for the Yankees he certainly does fit into their future plans. It could be as a 4th OF’r. It could be as a starter. It could as a trade piece for some SP’ing in June. For all of the examples I gave him playing everyday is beneficial.
    As for it not being a big deal, you are the one who has hammered us over the head for weeks about Gardner. So it must be a little important to you. :)

    John - YF March 24, 2008, 12:00 pm
  • “As for it not being a big deal, you are the one who has hammered us over the head for weeks about Gardner. So it must be a little important to you. :)”
    Only because I have nothing else to complain about. :)

    A YF March 24, 2008, 12:52 pm

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