New York Yankees Acquire Austin Kearns

Brian Cashman was not done after agreeing to a trade for Lance Berkman. Hours later, he went out and grabbed Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Austin Kearns for a player to be named later or cash. This trade isn’t as sexy as the one for Berkman, but is it as practical or just a busybody maneuver?

The Yankees have used Marcus Thames as their right-handed hitting backup corner outfielder. The key word there is hitting because while Thames’ defense is undesirable, his offense mostly makes up for it. His wOBA this season is .364 through more than 100 plate appearances. That’s good, but his line is propped up by a .369 BABIP that seems wholly unsustainable given what we know about Thames.

Kearns is the better fielder but the lesser hitter. Even against lefties, Thames has held the advantage recently and for their careers:

2010: Thames .373 (64 PA) | Kearns .315 (112 PA)
2009: Thames .345 (124 PA)| Kearns .287 (66 PA)
2008: Thames .369 (135 PA| Kearns .240 (99 PA)
Career: Thames .361 (755 PA)| Kearns .353 (1,021 PA)

It’s a false dichotomy to say the Yankees must decide between Thames and Kearns. Given their roster’s switch-hitting capabilities, they can afford to send down Juan Miranda and Colln Curtis and keep Kearns and Thames with Berkman arriving too. Maybe they choose against that route and simply like Kearns more than Thames. Whatever the Yankees decide to do shouldn’t change the opinion on this deal too much. They get a potentially useful player off the bench for the stretch run without giving up anything of great value.

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6 Responses to “New York Yankees Acquire Austin Kearns”

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  1. Ron A. says:

    I think you mean “false dilemma,” not “false dichotomy.”

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  2. TIm says:

    Kearns BABIP is .341 which is almost 40 points higher than his career average. Also, his UZR in the OF spots has been wildly inconsistent in his career. Just by watching him you can tell he is an average fielder at best, which is probably more than can be said about Thames. The Yankees aren’t giving anything up, but is this really any sort of upgrade?

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    • Joe Pawlikowski says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I’d say it’s a huge upgrade, mainly because he’s coming in for Colin Curtis. Yanks wanted a 4th OF who could hit and play the field. Kearns is that.

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      • Disco says:

        Plus it means Thames will never play the field again.

        Although I don’t think they should end the 3b experiment so soon!

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      • TIm says:

        I am just not sold that he can sustain his numbers. Time will tell. Playing in such a potent lineup could help.

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    • longgandhi says:

      When Kearns was with the Nationals, the centerfielders used to joke that he needed to wear a cowbell because he was a bull in a china shop in the outfield. Nick Johnson might confirm that appraisal.

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