So, who exactly is the new guy? Let’s start at the beginning–kind of. Winn went to Santa Clara University and was drafted by the Marlins in the third round of the 1995 Amateur Draft. Randy did well in his first three years in the minors, never posting an OBP below .340. Then, in 1997, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took Winn as the 58th pick in the expansion draft.
It was with Tampa that Winn would make his Major League debut in 1998. He played in 109 games in that campaign, posting an uninspiring .278/.337/.376, good for an 83 OPS+. Most of his time in Tampa–1998 to 2002–was not anything special. However, in 2002, Winn made the All-Star team and finished the season with a .290/.360/.461, good for a 120 OPS+.
For that good season with the D-Rays, Winn was rewarded with a trade to the Mariners for Antonio Perez. In two and a half seasons with Seattle, Winn hit well. He had a 104 OPS+ and had a solid 76% stolen base rate. In the middle of the 2005 season, Winn was traded to the Giants for Jesse Foppert and Yorvit Torrealba.
From ’05-’09, Winn was an average player. His OPS+ was 100. However, in 2009, he was pretty bad. His OPS+ was a measly 75 and his wOBA was .302, his lowest since a .290 mark in 1999. Randy is a switch hitter who has shown no significant platoon split. His OPS vs. RHP is .765 and his OPS vs. LHP is .758. He could play in a strict platoon with Brett Gardner, but Joe Girardi needn’t feel worried about putting Winn in there against a right handed pitcher as well. Even after a putrid 2009 (which we’ll get to again in a second), his career line now sits at .286/.344/.418/.762, which is good for a 99 OPS+. In terms of wOBA, Winn is at .334 for his career which is either average or slightly below, depending on the year.
Of course, his offense is only part of the story. Winn has also spent significant time, at least 430 games, at each outfield position. His career UZR/150 for the OF is a solid 5.7. In Winn, the Yankees have a bench OF who can solidly play each position if need be.
Obviously, his awful season last year gives us pause. What was behind it? It doesn’t seem to be much of a BABIP issue, as Winn had a .314 BABIP last year. It was down from his career BABIP of .327, but a jump that small is not all that significant. The biggest batted ball difference I could find was that Winn was hitting the ball in the air more. His line drive rate was a career high 22.3%, but his ground ball rate fell to a career low 45.5% and his fly ball percentage, 32.1%, was his second highest ever and was a few points above his career average. It would seem that if Winn was able to hit more ground balls–presumably ground balls through the hole–he’d end up with more hits. I’m not a scout and I didn’t watch Winn play all that much–except maybe games Tim Lincecum was pitching–but from these numbers, I can infer that when Winn hit the ball in the air, he wasn’t driving it (1.4% HR/FB!) and that was leading to more outs.
At the plate, Winn’s discipline faltered a bit. His Out of Zone swing percentage was a career high (in a bad way) 26.8%. In fact, Winn’s swing numbers were up all over the place. His overall swing percentage was 48.6, a career high. The big problem was the fact that Winn’s contact rate was at around 81% for the second straight year, which is below his career average of around 83%.
What will it take to get those numbers trending the right way? Perhaps it will be as simple as changing lineups. By hitting towards the bottom of the potent Yankees lineup, Winn might improve. After all, he’ll likely have a good amount of men on base in front of him and the pressure won’t be on him to be a top-of-the-order-hitter. Kevin Long, the Yankee hitting coach, could also help Winn get his discipline and swing back to where it was pre-struggles-of-2009.
What can we expect from Winn in 2010? A quick glance at the projections shows us a wOBA ranging anywhere from .306 (CHONE) to .325 (Marcel). It’s likely that Winn will likely be somewhere in the middle of that. Is that okay? For a starter, no. But I doubt Winn will be a starter. If he continues to play solid defense, I can live with a lighter hitting Winn. There is, however, some hope for Winn to rebound.
Simply enough, Winn was terrible last year. There is little chance that he does that poorly again. Of course, then, the only way to go is up. In terms of numbers, let’s look at some numbers from 2002-2009 for Winn. On the left will be wOBA and on the right will be wRC+ (weighted runs created+, same scale as OPS+):
Those numbers are not spectacular, but they are definitely solid. There are two stand out years there: 2009 and 2006. They stand alone as very bad years that we wish not to see again. However of the last eight seasons, they are the only subpar seasons. While Winn doesn’t have incredible upside, it would seem that 2006 and 2009 are the outliers and Winn is, in fact, a solid player; this doesn’t mean Winn will instantly get better or perform to his past levels. He is 36 years old and it’s very possible he’s in decline. However, it’s also unlikely that he does as poorly as he did in 2006 and 2009.
When I first heard of this deal, I had a ‘WTF? Really?” moment. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it and I wasn’t exactly happy with it. Upon brief reflection, though, I’m satisfied with this deal. $2MM is not a lot of money, especially for the Yankees. If Winn is a complete and total failure, he can be cut without much of a hit being taken. For his career, Randy Winn has essentially been an average player and the Yankees are paying him as such. It’s also clear that Winn is not being brought in to be an impact player. He is simply a role player, a bench player, a complement. If Winn can give the Yankees a season of 1.0-1.3 Wins Above Replacement, this deal will be a win (awful, awful pun) for the Bombers.
He may not be the flashiest name and he may not be the best player, but guys like Winn have an important spot on a team like the Yankees. He can spell all three outfielders when needed, his .344 career OBP shows us that he’s not an automatic out, and his cost is hardly prohibitive. So, Randy, on the off-chance you’re reading this, welcome to New York, welcome to the Bronx, and most importantly, welcome to the Yankees.