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Monday, February 08, 2010
Marcus Thames returns to the YankeesPosted by Tommy Rancel at 6:47pm
It is one of those things you remember just because. Although he only played seven games for the Yankees that season, I still remember June 10, 2002 when the rookie Marcus Thames smashed a home run off Randy Johnson for his first career hit. Nearly eight years later, Johnson is newly retired and Thames is back in the Bronx. Signing a minor league deal with Yankees, Thames' job will remain similar to the one he had on in his first major league assignment;hit left-handed pitching.
The new version of the Yankees must ball on a budget; a $200 million dollar budget, but a budget nonetheless. After finding the price tag for Johnny Damon a bit too rich for their taste, New York has turned to cheaper alternatives to solve their left field void. With Brett Gardner already in-house, they have added Randy Winn and now Thames. Depending on the opposing pitcher, left field figures to be a rotating door.
When Winn signed there were immediate questions about his ability to hit left-handed pitching. A switch-hitter, Winn owns a career slash line of .280/.330/.432 against lefties. However, in 2009 he hit just .180/.184/.200 against them. When Looking at those numbers, I tend to go with the career sample size of nearly 1,200 plate appearances over the 125 of last season. There is also the 2009 .179 BABIP against southpaws vs the .301 career BABIP that would suggest '09 as an outlier. Nonetheless, the addition of Thames should easy any fears of Winn's potential shortcomings against left-hander.
As mentioned, Thames career started with a home run off a left-hander. From there he has continued to hit well against lefties to the tune of a career slash line of .256/.329/.516 against them. Combine that with Winn's slash line of .294/.353/.430 against right-handed pitching and you have the makings of a good, not great platoon. However, there is a problem; Thames is an awful outfielder.
In just over 2,200 innings in the outfield, Thames has put up a -15.8 UZR and a UZR/150 of -9.5. In a smaller sample size, his numbers in left field are worse. This is where Brett Gardner comes in. Less of a hitter than the other two pieces of the puzzle (although he was at least average in 2009), Gardner is a plus defender with speed. He would make a nifty caddy for Thames as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement.
Of course the Yankees could stick to the plan of a Winn/Gardner platoon and still use Thames. Assuming the Yankees carry Gardner, a back-up catcher, and a reserve middle infielder, there would be one spot on the bench for Thames as a right-handed power bat. He could also spell Nick Johnson a DH and would serve as an insurance policy in the event Johnson gets bit by the injury bug again. As far as fantasy is concerned, right now Thames is not a good option in any league. However, I would closely track his progress during Spring and if he does win himself a platoon job he could provide some cheap power for your squad.
Tommy Rancel is the Editor-In-Chief of DRaysBay as well as a contributor at Beyond the Box Score
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