Inbox: Signing Winn a win-win situation?

Inbox: Signing Winn a win-win situation?

I'm a little puzzled as to why the Yankees picked up Randy Winn. Is he really such a good defender that it outweighed his sub-standard hitting last season? Was it the budget?
Daniel H., Middletown, N.Y.

Well, you certainly weren't alone on that front, as we handled many e-mails curious about the signing. The Yankees had sounded the trumpet for a while that they were going after a right-handed-hitting outfielder, so when they signed a switch-hitter who struggled mightily against left-handed pitching last season, it didn't seem like the ideal move.

Reed Johnson looked at one point like he was going to be the guy, but in the end, the Yankees decided that Winn's positives could outweigh the negatives in 2010. He's been a solid, experienced player, a career .286 hitter whose defense rates as a plus in the corners, and he can still run the bases well.

Will he be an All-Star at age 35? Probably not, but it's important to remember that the Yankees aren't bringing in Winn for that. With a $2 million contract, he's there to give Brett Gardner an affordable run for his money, and it sounds like Winn would be the fourth outfielder -- backing up at all three positions -- unless Gardner just has a terrible spring.

"I know people have talked about Randy Winn replacing Johnny Damon, and that wasn't why we signed Randy Winn," Joe Girardi said this weekend. "We signed Randy Winn so we'd have depth to make sure ... that we have competition."

One thing's for sure -- between Winn (.158 batting average vs. left-handed pitching in '09) and Curtis Granderson (.183 vs. lefties in '09), left-handed batting practice pitcher Charlie Wonsowicz is going to go through a lot of ice on his arm this spring.

As it stands now, there are five pitchers that will compete to be the fifth starter in Spring Training. Which one of the five makes the most sense, and where will the rest fit?
-- John S., Carmel, N.Y.

Good question, but I don't think we can really know until they get down to camp and hash it all out. Joba Chamberlain said this weekend that he's heading down to grab the No. 5 spot, and the Yankees have told him to prepare as such. They'd love to see one of these guys take hold of the situation and make it an easy decision, especially if it's Chamberlain or Phil Hughes.

After those two, you're looking at Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre, and whoever doesn't get the No. 5 spot would be considered for a bullpen job, long-relief slot or a possible trade. Girardi talked a little bit about it over the weekend and wasn't about to pick any early favorites, making it sound like it really will be an open competition.

Here's as far as Girardi would go in a forecast, which is all you can do at this time, really: "We'll put the best guy that we feel can fill that spot and give us the best chance to win."

With Damon officially out of the mix, is there any chance the Yankees make a serious run at Rocco Baldelli?
-- T.J. C., Scranton, Pa.

Yes. Reports have been going around for some time that the Yankees are interested in Baldelli, but they appear to only be offering a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training at this time.

I have read a couple of articles about Jesus Montero and how some think he doesn't project well as a catcher. Would the Yankees consider moving Montero to one of the corner outfield positions?
- Anthony G., Belleville, N.J.

You never say never, I suppose, but my understanding is that Montero would not be a terrific fit in the outfield because he just doesn't run well. As one person in the know told me, "He's slow as molasses."

But he sure can hit, and the Yankees internally believe he can be a big league catcher, something he'll continue doing at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He might have made an ideal first-base candidate at some point, but since Mark Teixeira isn't going anywhere, it's probably going to be catcher or designated hitter when Montero makes his big league debut. That may happen as soon as this year.

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I think signing Nick Johnson was a huge mistake. What are his stats hitting in the two-hole, if any? I think the Yankees should try Gardner there. I just don't understand.
-- Chuck R., Troy, N.Y.

OBP, OBP, OBP. The Yankees love Johnson in the two-hole because he's an on-base machine -- at .426 last year, the only players in the big leagues who were on base more than him were Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols, who both took home their respective leagues' MVP awards.

Sure, Johnson might get lapped by Gardner in a foot race, but the thinking is that he'll be on base enough that Teixeira and A-Rod will have a ton of RBI opportunities. Johnson did almost all of his hitting out of the two-hole last year, hitting .298 (110-for-465) with seven homers, 52 RBIs and a .433 on-base percentage there.

Do you really think that Jorge Posada or Robinson Cano is going to be able to protect A-Rod in the lineup? I think it was a mistake not going after someone like Vladimir Guerrero.
-- Joe A., Pekin, Ill.

We'll see. I don't think that Posada is considered an easy out by any means, and the fact that he's been a No. 5 hitter in his career makes it not completely foreign. In fairness, he wasn't all that effective in the five slot in '09 (.177, 20-for-113), so take that for what it's worth.

The Yankees have talked for years about how they project Cano to hit higher up in the order, so my only caveat there if they go that route would be that he needs to correct whatever was changing his results with runners in scoring position last year.

I know the Yankees keep saying they're sticking to a budget, but left field is easy to figure out. They want Carl Crawford, so why don't they just trade for him now? Imagine his speed in the lineup.
-- Jeff R., South Burlington, Vt.

Can't debate you on that point; I think that Crawford is the type of player that general manager Brian Cashman would love to add if (or is it when?) they get the chance. However, the current stance between the Rays and Crawford's camp is that they're going to see if something can be worked out contractually.

The Rays may listen to offers, but it's difficult to see a trade going down before the season. Tampa Bay's motivation would be more to move Crawford at the All-Star break if they completely fell out of the race, and even if that happened, would they want to trade Crawford within the division?

There's a lot still to be answered, but the Yankees could offer Crawford 81 games on natural grass, close quarters with buddy CC Sabathia and all the resources -- financial and otherwise -- of playing in New York. He'd make a nice fit and you definitely haven't heard the last of that idea.

What is the status of Shelley Duncan? Why don't we hear anything about him?
-- Glenn L., Huntersville, N.C.

I've been getting this one a lot, so it must have slipped by a lot of people. Duncan has signed a Minor League contract with the Indians, so good luck to him there -- a nice guy who could use a fresh start. Speaking of Duncans and fresh starts, longtime farmhand Eric Duncan has signed with the Braves, to answer another e-mailer's question.

One major difference I noticed last year was the amount of fun the Yankees were having, day in and day out. Do you think that was due to Girardi loosening up or the new influx of players, and will it continue?
-- Tom H., Vancouver, B.C.

Girardi has already talked about thinking of new ways to bring the team together this spring, so my sense is that they'll continue to foster the same open atmosphere. Maybe they won't skip a day of camp to hold an all-out billiards tournament, but they'll find ways to do something fun. Hey, it worked out in the end, right?

They shouldn't have to try too hard for a good clubhouse. Some of that was due to Girardi recognizing the military perception that was out there -- "General Joe" and all that, which he said would have been different had he chosen a different haircut -- but I really believe it was more about the guys they brought in.

Sabathia gathered up about two dozen best friends in the first week of camp, and everyone seemed to take quickly to A.J. Burnett, Teixeira and Nick Swisher. There didn't seem to be an icy adjustment period of watching what you say and to whom, like the one Damon said he went through in 2006. It's a different mix now, and that's all for the better.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.