Center of attention
The team is seemingly set, save for one very key position: Center field.
New York has two primary options at this point: Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Of course, Johnny Damon or Nick Swisher could be used as emergency options, but they are better served in left and right field, respectively.
To say Cabrera's 2008 was disappointing would be an understatement of massive proportions. He regressed in every category (His raw batting line went from .273/.327/.718 to .249/301/.642) and earned himself a demotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 15. The problems that cropped up in an otherwise successful 2007 (lack of hustle, overaggressiveness at the plate, sliding into first base) multiplied in 2008, leaving manager Joe Girardi with virtually no choice but to explore other options.
The option, in this case, was Gardner, a high-OBP hitter with oodles of speed. In his 127 AB with New York, he was just mediocre, posting a line of .228/.283/.582. He did, however, have 13 stolen bases in that time, as well as two walk-off hits. He also ended the season hot, going 10 for his last 29, including three multi-hit games during a six-game hitting streak to close out 2008.
In my view, the answer is Gardner and the reason is the aforementioned speed. Batting Gardner at the bottom of the lineup would, in effect, give Girardi back-to-back leadoff men in front of Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui. The increased RBI opportunities for the big boys should lead to an improved offensive output.
The speed also gives him plus range in center field, which should improve as he learns the intricacies of the position. His arm is already decent, as his five assists in 2008 exhibit.
If given a chance, I think Gardner can be a viable everyday option center field, and certainly an adequate-at-worst stopgap until Austin Jackson arrives next season.