Sep 19, 2010, 07:26AM

The Forgotten Yankee

Who doesn't know it yet.

Brett gardner.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Carl Crawford, the Tampa Bay Rays All Star left fielder, is a free agent after the season. The general assumption is, like most premium free agents, Crawford has a fat deal and a cushy spot in the lineup waiting for him with the New York Yankees. Apparently no one has yet clued in Brett Gardner.

Gardner, a 27-year-old speedster, has patrolled left field for the Yanks most of the 2010 season. Coming into the year Gardner had a total of just 425 at bats over the last two seasons. He appeared to be nothing more than a stopgap for the soon to be pinstriped Crawford.  

As the Yankees battle the Rays for the AL East title, it's safe to say they wouldn't be there without Gardner. Despite hitting in the number nine hole for a good portion of the season, Gardner has scored 87 runs (as of Sept. 17). He's also stolen 42 bases and posted an impressive .389 OBP. Gardner has developed into the perfect table setter for the powerful Yankee lineup. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees decide to do during he offseason. Will they continue their habit of collecting big names and throw millions at Crawford or stick with the homegrown Gardner and his bargain basement salary?

If the Yankees aren't the top suitor for Crawford then where will he play in 2011? My guess would be Boston or the North side of Chicago. The Red Sox outfield was hammered with injuries this year and the brittle Mike Cameron is a free agent at season's end. Crawford would bring much needed speed, defense and athleticism to the Sox lineup. The Cubs would also be an intriguing option. With Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly coming off the payroll, and the chance that Aramis Ramirez declines his 2011 option, Chicago could be flush with cash. Crawford could team with youngster Starlin Castro to give the Cubs a dynamic top of the order. One possible sticking point could be that Crawford, a left fielder his entire career, would most likely play center in Chicago. Marlon Byrd would shift to right and Tyler Colvin would move to first base to accommodate Crawford's arrival. The courtship of Carl Crawford (and Cliff Lee) will keep the Hot Stove league interesting.

  • Crawford has stated many times that he doesn't want to be center fielder, he feels that he can't handle the position. What about Kosuke Fukudome? Do you really think they want to have him be the fourth outfielder again? They're going to be playing him next year all because of his huge salary. They have no reason to add anyone via free agency. Next year, they'll be rebuilding anyways. What's the point of adding Crawford? Have you forgotten about the Angels and the Tigers. Both have a huge need for him, and right now the Halos are said to be the favorite to get him and the Tigers have a ton of money coming off the books.

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  • The downside for the Tigers is that they're in Detroit, not exactly an attractive destination. The Angels will certainly be an option, but they routinely back away from the table once the big boys show up. I'd guess Crawford ends up in Boston, but he could play Right or Center for the Cubbies and they'll have plenty of cash to spend.

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  • One, players don't have to live in downtown Detroit, so I don't think that's a factor. Two, Crawford's going to the Yankees. Why? Because they can afford him and then flip Gardner to a team that wants a good player at good cost. The idea that the Yanks will EVER refuse a top free agent is nuts, mostly because of $$$. And who can blame them, it's what the market bears, not to mention subsidizes smaller market teams who pocket the revenue sharing and don't upgrade their teams. Say hi to the Pirates and Marlins, just to mention two.

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  • If it comes down to Detroit, Boston,the Yankees or Cubs there's no chance Detroit is winning that battle. Sure, the Tigers attracted Ordonez and Pudge a few years back but those two had limited suitors and Detroit still had to overpay. If Crawford goes to the Tigers I'll buy you dinner.

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