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Here are a few quick items on the evening:

  • The guys over at Pinstripe Alley have a nice Q&A out with Fanhouse’s own, Frankie Piliere.
  • Brian Cashman on Hideki Matsui: “Hideki Matsui will be one of the best deals I ever made.”
  • Joe at River Ave Blues takes a look at whether or not Johnny Damon could still return to NY.
  • Earlier today, we heard that Joe Mauer had reached a preliminary extension with the Twins.
  • However, to the dismay of Minnesota, that report has since been shot down by Buster Olney.
  • Nick Swisher will be appearing as himself tonight on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

The show is on at 8 pm on CBS, so be sure to check that out.

Photo by Eric McCandless/FOX

Back in pinstripes again

Many fans have expressed their displeasure over the Yanks decision to go with Nick Johnson and cut ties with Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in recent days. Jason Rosenberg over at IATMS goes point by point expressing the reasons he doesn’t like the deal, so I thought it was a good opportunity to answer each one of his concerns directly.

Here’s his thoughts with my replies:

1-I thought that Cashman wanted a player who is capable of playing the OF to man the DH spot. Otherwise, just sign Matsui.  Like the Angels smartly did.

Answer-Matsui can’t play the OF. The Yanks tried to work him out there over and over again for the past few seasons and every time they did, his knee blew up. Nick Johnson can at least play 1 defensive position, Matsui can play zero.


2-Did Cashman panic when Matsui signed?

Answer-No, I’m sure Brian had a Plan A (Damon) Plan B (Matsui) and Plan C (Johnson). He simply reached his Plan C when Hideki signed and he saw Damon’s contract expectations were unreasonable in his view.

3-Heck, why not look at Vlad Guerrero?  Xavier Nady?  Nady would have been a nice DH and possible platoon for Grandy if his lefty woes got worse, not better. And possibly cheaper than Nick.

Answer-Guerrero is physically spent and Nady is coming off (his 2nd) Tommy John surgery. Nick Johnson’s a far better option than Guerrero or Nady.

4-Is this Cashman just trying to exert his will upon Damon and prove to all that he’s not going to be pushed over only because he has the biggest wallet?

Answer-Lets not make this personal, it’s a business decision.

5-If we’re to believe the contract terms, wouldn’t it have made infinitely more sense to re-sign Matsui? The difference is reportedly “only” $1M. Mice nuts to the Yanks.

Answer-You have to establish that one player is far better at this point of their career for the 1mm difference to make “ infinitely more sense“. That hasn’t happened, and I could credibly argue that the opposite is true.

6-Matsui’s proven.

Answer-Jason’s reference is to a small sample size in the World Series, but over the course of his 7 year Yankee career, Matsui is a .312/.391/.541 (.933 OPS) in the post season in 56 games. So chalk up one for Jason. The stuff about handling the DH role I don’t put much stock in. If anything Johnson’s fielding has declined so much that most teams think he’s better off being a DH at this point in his career.

7-Matsui’s Japanese-related advertising draws pays for his contract twice over, and then some. It’s about the money, right?

Answer-Sorry, but I don’t believe those numbers. Especially coming from a Japanese newspaper where you figure the source was close to Matsui, who was obviously a FA and trying to justify a big contract. Previous estimates had the Yanks earning 2-3 mil per year from Matsui’s deal. To use your term, mice nuts to the Yanks.

8-I wonder what Damon and Boras must be wondering right about now, besides “Oh, #$%^&*“. Aside from claiming there’s a mystery team ready to sign Damon to the same over-the-top contract that Bay’s “reportedly” about to receive.  But Damon is apparently living well on Planet Boras.

Answer-There were reports that Johnny lost a lot of money in some Bank scam when the financial markets crashed, and he was even quoted as saying “I cant withdraw my money” at one point. So I don’t blame him for taking whatever he can get. Its likely his last deal, and he has an (allegedly) ex-stripper wife  to keep in Armani G-strings.

9-I think Boras/Damon overplayed their hand. Though, there might be some goofy GM who thinks Damon is worth 3-4 years at $12-13 million per.

Answer-Damon won’t be the first client Scott Boras steers to a bad team for $, and won’t be the last.

10-Does the lower contractual amount free up more money to sign a guy like Sheets, as I have been lobbying for?

Answer-I think so, everyone from Girardi to Hal to Cash made it clear at the Curtis Granderson press conference that they’re in the market for another starting pitcher. We just have to see if Sheet’s demands are as crazy as Johnny’s were, which so far they are.

BTW-Make sure to check out Jason’s response below, he wanted to put his comments in proper context. 

From George King:

The Yankees and Nick Johnson are moving toward a one-year deal for the left-handed hitter to be the club’s DH, and it could be announced Friday morning.
Asked today by The Post if there was deal to be announced, Brian Cashman said, “Not at this moment.’’
Johnson has drawn interest from the Mariners and Giants to play first base, a position that isn’t available to him as a Yankee because Mark Teixeira is entrenched there…..
Considering Johnson’s extensive injury history — he missed all of the 2000 and 2007 seasons and appeared in 73 games in 2004 and was out for 63 games in 2003 — the contract is expected to include incentive clauses.
Johnson made $5.5 million a year ago and fits into the Yankees’ budget.
If Johnny Damon doesn’t return, Johnson could hit second between Derek Jeter and Teixeira, although his lack of speed is a detriment in that spot of the order. His power numbers should spike playing 81 games in Yankee Stadium.

There are real reasons to love Johnson as a Yankee. I’ll do a more detailed statistical analysis and projection if the Yankees do in fact sign Nick the Stick, but the important number to know is .402, his career OBP. Furthermore, Johnson has a reverse platoon split much like Hideki Matsui, and his lefty swing is a nice fit for the new ballpark in the Bronx. He would slot perfectly in to the now vacated number 2 slot in the lineup.

That being said, I am puzzled by this move. The Giants are apparently interested in NJ as well, as Ken Rosenthal reports:

Johnson, as reported by the New York Post, is discussing a one-year contract with the Yankees. The Giants, too, are offering one year, but have raised their offer to the $5.5 million to $6 million range, the source said.

I have made no secret of my preference for the Yankees to have Johnny Damon at DH this season. However, if Damon was not an option due to salary concerns, Hideki Matsui should have been the next option. Johnson is no cheaper, is not an appreciably better hitter, and is not a better bet to remain healthy. If the Yankees were going to bring in a DH at 6 million, it should have been Matsui. Signing Johnson while Damon remains on the market will suggest to me that Brian Cashman miscalculated the market on Damon when he let Matsui leave.

UPDATE: Ken Davidoff is reporting that the deal is done, pending a physical, for 1 year and 5.5 million.

Ouch

Posted by Steve S. at 7:10 am 11 Responses »
Dec 172009

This will take some getting used to. Best wishes, Hideki. Unless of course you’re playing the Yanks.

Photo from Chris Carlson of the Associated Press

Dec 142009

According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Angels are in “serious discussions” with free agent and former Yankee, Hideki Matsui. Buster Olney adds to the report, claiming that the Angels have offered Matsui a deal worth about $6.5M. If the Angels sign Matsui, he will ultimately assume the role once had by Vladimir Guerrero as the team’s designated hitter (Guerrero is currently a free agent, as well). A week ago, Mike DiGiovanni noted that Angels GM Tony Reagins expressed an interest in Matsui, although Ken Davidoff recently reported that the Yankees and Matsui were likely to reunite later this winter, which doesn’t appear to be the case anymore (if Starks’ report is accurate).

With Boston close to signing John Lackey, Godzilla to the Angels would be a double whammy for Yankee fans.

UPDATE (6:34 pm) — Done deal, according to Marc Carig. Matsui and the Angels have reached an agreement. No word yet on the contract’s details. Sad day for ‘Deki fans.

Dec 112009

Via Buster Olney (ESPN), we learn that in “the early conversations between the Yankees and Johnny Damon’s side, there appears to be a very wide gulf between what the team is willing to pay and what Damon expects to get paid in this winter’s market.” In fact, Jon Heyman (SI) tweets that the Yankees and Damon are $34M apart, as the Yankees are only offering $18 over two years while Damon wants $52M over four ($13M per). Clearly, the two parties view the market from differing perspectives (the Yankees’ view is more realistic). Perhaps the Yankees would be best served waiting until January to get a deal done. Then again, they may not be able to prolong the patient approach for such an extended period, as there are other priorities on Brian Cashman’s ledger.

One of those priorities is finding a DH. According to Mark Feinsand of the Daily News, “if Damon is unwilling to take a two-year contract in the next two weeks or so, a source said the Yankees would likely turn their attention to Hideki Matsui, who is willing to accept a one-year deal to return to the Bronx.” If you’re the Yankees and you can have Matsui back for one-year, whether or not Damon wants to come back, you do that deal.

With the Yankees apparently closing in on a deal to acquire All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson from the Tigers, the question becomes: What will the Yankees do next to complete their outfield. As I see it, they have 4 realistic options.

1) Sign Mike Cameron to play LF, have Melky move to right, and have Swisher DH. When the DH is needed for Posada or one of the infielders, move Swisher to right and put Melky on the bench. This would be a much better defensive team than last year and would have a lot more roster flexibility, but would lose some offense going from Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui to Granderson and Cameron. They would also get a ton of strikeouts from that outfield. In this scenario, it might make sense to bring in Xavier Nady or Reed Johnson to rotate with Melky and spell Granderson against the very toughest lefties.

2) Sign Damon to DH and have Melky in LF. When the DH is needed, Damon plays left and Melky sits. This option might provide the best mix of offense and defense for the Yanks, as they will have improved defensively from 2009 without losing a ton at the plate.

3) Sign Matsui to DH, with Melky being the everyday left fielder. This is probably their worst option, being that when the DH is needed, Matsui will sit and another sub will join Melky at the bottom of the order.

4) Sign Matsui to DH, and sign one of the cheaper outfielders to split LF with Melky (Nady, R. Johnson, Thames). Basically, this allows you to replace Melky in LF with a better bat on days that Matsui is on the bench.

Personally, I like the first two options, but I could understand a preference for Matsui over Damon. Thoughts?

Nov 062009

From Pete Caldera (NJ.com):

“My work’s going to start again tomorrow,” general manager Brian Cashman said outside the home clubhouse early Thursday morning, while players and staff were still celebrating their World Series-clinching victory over Philadelphia in Game 6. “That’s the way it is in the front office.”

Caldera goes on to outline the specific areas that the Yankees will have to address over the winter, such as starting pitching, the Matsui versus Damon issue (essentially, the left field and DH issue), and the bullpen. Sorting out their bench, which was surprisingly strong this season after a series of smart decisions, is also a priority.

Picking up where Caldera left off, Joel Sherman (NY Post) writes that most team officials he has spoken to indicate that the Yankees will likely have a low-key winter, one in which they’ll exercise financial restraint after picking up most of their expensive toys (CC, Teixeira, Burnett) a year ago. Guys like Jason Bay, John Lackey, and Matt Holliday—Sherman says the Yankees like Holliday, but could afford to pass on him (even if Boston is interested)—appear to be out of the Yankees’ price range. The last-minute Teixeira deal might have been a bank buster for Hal Steinbrenner.

To shore up their lineup, Sherman speculates that the team will push to resign Damon to a one-year deal, then possibly pursue Carl Crawford as Damon’s successor once Crawford becomes a free agent after 2010 (unless the Rays sign him to an extension). He also notes that the Yankees could dangle Robinson Cano as trade bait for another pitcher—Felix Hernandez, perhaps—although such a blockbuster seems unlikely (if Matsui signs with another team the Yankees will need to retain their offense).

Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

Oct 222009

Via Marc Carig, we learn that Hideki Matsui—not Jorge Posada—will DH in today’s game. For the past 2 days, there had been some debate as to whether or not Posada would DH given his numbers against Angel starter, John Lackey. Girardi’s decision to start Matsui as the DH allows Posada to come in later for Jose Molina while keeping Matsui in the lineup, simultaneously.

Oct 192009

From Jon Heyman (SI):

The reason Girardi employs Hideki Matsui as his DH over Posada is that Girardi and Yankees higher-ups believe Matsui is a slightly better offensive player. Girardi was merely being diplomatic when he claimed the reason Mastui’s getting the starts at DH over Posada the games that Molina catches is because Masui is more accustomed to DHing. That was the p.c. answer, but not the right one.

So, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees think Hideki Matsui is a “slightly better” offensive player than Jorge Posada. Now, while I don’t want to deviate from my primary point, I actually agree if we’re viewing this from a strictly offensive perspective. Obviously, Jorge is more valuable when you factor in his position, however, a comparison of the two is not the main point here. Rather, I’m interested in what it means for Matsui to be viewed as a better hitter than Posada by Joe Girardi and various other Yankee personnel.

If we are to believe Heyman and his assertion that the Yankees consider Matsui a “slightly better” offensive player than Posada, then, I ask, do the Yankees consider Johnny Damon a “slightly better” offensive player, as well? I doubt that they do given Posada’s switch-hitting prowess, plate patience, and power. Therefore, if the Yankees think Matsui is a better hitter than Posada, wouldn’t that mean that they’re more inclined to bring him back in 2010 rather than resign Johnny Damon? After all, one is “slightly better” than Posada and the other, in my opinion, isn’t really on that level, offensively. Clearly, I’m trying to glean some insights (probably too much) from Heyman’s comment.

Also, to clarify, I’m speaking in regards to the designated hitter role in 2010—not left field. As Bill Madden notes, the Yankees see Damon as a “liability in the outfield” (the correct viewpoint), meaning that they’re willing to bring back one of the two—Matsui or Damon—as the 2010 DH. If the Yankees truly believe that Matsui is a better run producer than Damon, wouldn’t he then have the advantage? Then again, Damon can roam the outfield in a pinch and, despite his poor fielding, that does provide some roster flexibility when trying to rest other players. It’s a tough call, really.

I actually think that Matsui is probably the best choice for the DH role, as he has been extremely successful there this season. That doesn’t necessarily mean the end for Damon, though. If the Yankees can’t find a suitable left fielder, perhaps a one-year deal for Damon wouldn’t be too bad. However, I doubt he’ll duplicate his numbers from this season and his defense will probably decline further. What do you think? Who would you like to see return if you had to choose between the two players? Or, perhaps you’d like to see someone else brought into the fold?

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