The demotions of Weber and Winfree leave Marcus Thames as the only non-roster outfielder left in camp. Thames, unlike Weber, is right handed batter and that's something specific the Yankees are looking for in their fifth outfielder. With Curtis Granderson's well-documented struggles against left handed pitching, lingering concerns about lefty swinging Brett Gardner's ability to hold down an everyday job, and Randy Winn coming off the absolute worst season of a right handed batter vs. lefty pitching in the past 55 years, the team wants a lefty masher for the fifth outfielder spot.
It's been assumed that Thames has all but won the job since Jamie Hoffmann was returned to the Dodgers last week. But, Joe Girardi said last night that Thames is not yet assured a spot, and Brian Cashman has said repeatedly over the past week that the Yankees would continue to monitor the trade market and waiver wire for other options.
Interestingly enough, another option came available just yesterday. The Seattle Mariners have decided to waive Ryan Garko, whom they signed just last month after he was foolishly non-tendered by the Giants. The Mariners, perhaps the most run prevention focused club in baseball, decided that Casey Kotchman's defense, Mike Sweeney's clubhouse presence, and an open roster spot were more valuable to the team, despite Garko's economical $550k contract, two remaining options, and rather potent bat relative to the rest of their roster.
Garko, like Thames, mashes left handed pitching. His career line of .313/.392/.495 in 485 PA against southpaws is actually better than Thames' .256/.329/.516 line in 691 PA. Garko's also four years younger and has two years of arbitration eligibility left.
The potential fly in the ointment is that Garko isn't really an outfielder, with just twelve games of professional experience there. However, Thames is a poor outfielder as well. And with plus defensive players in Gardner and Winn, the team could afford to sacrifice some defensive proficiency in the fifth outfielder spot in exchange for offensive prowess.
Garko is of some value defensively, as he's a passable first baseman and was a catcher for the first three years of his pro career. While he shouldn't ever again don the tools of ignorance unless it's an absolute emergency, his ability to play first would be of use to the Yankees. Nicks Johnson and Swisher figure to be Mark Teixeira's back ups should he need a day off or miss some time due to something like a hit by pitch square on his elbow. The pitfall with that arrangement is that if Teixeira were to miss more a few games at a time, the Yankees would be shifting one of their regulars to first base and replacing him with an offensively inferior player such as Winn. Garko's presence on the roster would safeguard against that.
Garko projects as a close to a 1.0 WAR player this year and his $550k salary is easily absorbable. With two open spots on their 40 man roster and more than $2M of payroll flexibility following the release of Chad Gaudin, the Yankees would be wise to place a claim on Garko if he falls that far down the waiver wire.