December 2009

Reed Johnson Could Be Platooned With Granderson

Can the New York Yankees repeat as world champions with a left-field platoon of Brett Gardner and free agent Reed Johnson?
I decided to look at the numbers and see if it would be a workable platoon by looking at the splits of Gardner and Johnson during the 2009 season. What I found was interesting.
Gardner, 26, missed about five weeks with a thumb injury and lost his center-field job to Melky Cabrera in late April. As a result he played in only 108 games and started just 63. Overall, he hit .270 with three home runs, 23 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.
Johnson, 33, was primarily a reserve outfielder with the Cubs last season. He played in 65 games and started just 36. Overall, Johnson hit .255 with four home runs, 22 RBIs and two stolen bases.
But if Gardner were to play in a platoon with Johnson, he primarily would just face right-handed pitchers. In 193 at-bats against right-handers, Gardner hit .264 with three home and 16 RBIs. He had a .335 on-base percentage, which is somewhat low.
Against left-handers, Gardner had only 55 at-bats but surprisingly he hit .291 with no homers and seven RBIs. His OBP was a very good .381. So as odd as it may seem, Gardner actually hit left-handers pretty well. It was right-handers that gave him some trouble.
Johnson gave left-handers fits. He hit .324 with a home run and 11 RBIs in 68 at-bats. Right-handers love to face him because he hit a miserable .206 against them with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 97 at-bats.
By just looking at these numbers I would be reluctant to make this a strict platoon. I would look to start Gardner in every game with the exception of games against what could be tougher left-handers such as Cliff Lee. 
I would keep Johnson as a reserve outfielder and only start him against occasional left-handers because he would have more value as a late-inning pinch-hitter against left-handers and a potential defensive outfield replacement for Nick Swisher.
The Yankees’ interest in Johnson may have more to do with Curtis Granderson and his inability to hit left-hand pitching. In 180 at-bats against left-handers last season, Granderson hit a miserable .183 with two home runs and nine RBIs. His OBP was a pathetic .245.
So it would seem rather than a platoon of Gardner and Johnson in left, Gardner looks to be given the everyday job in center field and Granderson and Johnson would platoon in left. This would make sense because Granderson’s fielding came into question last year with some of the poor routes he took to balls in center field.
The Yankee front office believes Gardner is the better defensive center fielder and that Granderson is better suited for left field. Johnson would give the Yankees an excellent defensive outfielder in left who can hit left-handers.
But, of course, the Yankees best option may be re-sign Johnny Damon instead of Johnson. In 171 at-bats against left-handers in 2009 Damon hit a respectable .269 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. In 379 at-bats against right-handers he batted .288 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs.
By starting Damon in left the Yankees could leave Granderson in center and Gardner could be a defensive replacement, late-inning pinch-hitter or pinch-runner and occasional starter. This was his same role in 2009.
The Yankees could also use Rule 5 draft pick Jamie Hofffman as a occasional starter against left-handers if he shows well this spring. Hoffman, 25, has some power and could be used in left field or right field. 
That could mean an outfield of Nick Swisher in right, Curtis Granderson in center and Johnny Damon in left against right handers and left-handers with Gardner and Hoffman on the bench.
THE DAMON MARKET

Because Jason Bay has signed with the Mets, I thought it would be interesting to see what possibilities exist for Damon aside from the Yankees. I looked at all the other teams in baseball and tried to assess the likelihood of signing Damon.
One thing that works to Damon’s detriment is his age (36). Another is the number of years and amount of money he is seeking. He has demanded four years at $13 million per season. Another huge negative is his agent is the ruthless Scott Boras, who many teams just avoid dealing with by not choosing his clients in drafts.
One other Damon problem is the fact Damon hit 17 home runs and drove in 42 runs at home and hit only seven home runs and drove in 40 runs on the road. His power is simply a function of Yankee Stadium and teams view him as more of a legitimate 15 home run hitter on another team.
Let’s see what Damon’s market may be:
AL EAST

Boston Red Sox – They have a vacancy in left with Jason Bay gone but they signed free agent Mike Cameron and the plan is now to play Cameron in left and Jacoby Ellsbury in center and J.D. Drew will man right. The Red Sox also have Jeremy Hermida. It does not look that Johnny will have a triumphant return to Fenway.
Tampa Bay Rays - Carl Crawford is entrenched here for one last season. He is expected to leave via free agency next winter but the Rays seem determined to make a run at keeping him rather than trading him in 2009. No market for Damon here.
Baltimore Orioles - The Orioles have a burgeoning star outfield of Nick Markakis in right, Adam Jones and center and young Nolan Reimold in left. They would seem to zero interest in adding Damon to the mix.
AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox - The White Sox are moving Carlos Quentin lo right and they seem committed to rehabilitating Alex Rios in center. They have signed Juan Pierre to play left and bat leadoff and I doubt they would want Damon at all.
Minnesota Twins - The Twins may have made a mistake with acquiring Delmon Young but they are stuck with him in left. Denard Span is in center and Michael Cuddyer is in right and Jason Kubel is the DH. No path for Johnny here.
Detroit Tigers - Carlos Guillen is the front-runner in left with former Yankees prospect Austin Jackson in center and the Tigers are saddled with Magglio Ordonez and his expensive contract in right. In addition, the Tigers have young outfielders Ryan Raburn and Clete Thomas. Considering the Tigers were shedding payroll all winter it would seem signing Damon is not in the cards,
Cleveland Indians - The Indians have Grady Sizemore in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right. They are looking to add youngster Michael Brantley in left. The Indians also have Trevor Crowe and they are still hoping Travis Hafner recovers to be
the DH. There would seem to be some possibility for Johnny here. But the Indians may be leery because of Damon’s asking price. 
Kansas City Royals - David DeJesus is planted in left and Jose Guillen is the right fielder. Career minor-leaguer Mitch Maier is in center. With Mark Teahen a free agent it would seem Johnny could end up back home in Kansas City. However, he would have to take a major haircut on that $13 million salary demand. The Royals won’t pay it.
AL WEST

Los Angeles Angels - The Angels are loaded with outfielders. They have Bobby Abreu in right and Gold Glover Torii Hunter in center. They also have former Yankee Juan Rivera in left and Gary Matthews and Reggie Willits on the bench. Considering former Yankee Hideki Matsui is signed to DH it would seem Damon’s demand in Anaheim is nil unless he can play third base to replace Chone Figgins. That is not happening, of course.
Oakland Athletics - The A’s signed Coco Crisp to play center and they have Ryan Sweeney to play right. That leaves Scott Hairston to play left with Rajai Davis as a backup. They could potentially bring back Damon as a DH and part-time outfielder. But they won’t pay the $13 million asking price. I doubt they would even pay $10 million.
Seattle Mariners - Ichiro owns right field and Franklin Guttierrez won the center field job with his solid play in 2009. The Mariners added Milton Bradley to play left and Ken Griffey Jr. is back for likely his final season as the team’s DH. No vacancy for Johnny here.
Texas Rangers - The Rangers have Nelson Cruz to play right and Josh Hamilton likely will play center again. Even with the loss of free-agent Marlon Byrd to the Cubs, it would seem that David Murphy and rookie Julio Borbon will compete in left field. The Rangers’ deal to bring in third baseman Mike Lowell to DH fell through. But the Rangers are in the process of being sold so they are not likely to be actively looking to sign free agents like Damon.
NL EAST

Atlanta Braves - The Braves acquired Melky Cabrera from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez trade and he could settle in as the right fielder with Nate McLouth in center and a platoon including Matt Diaz in left. It is doubtful that the Braves, who are so determined to shed salary this winter would add Damon to the mix.
Florida Marlins - The Marlins seem happy with their young outfield of Cody Ross (29), Cameron Maybin (22) and Chris Coghlan (24). They also do not seem too keen on adding to their payroll with free agents. Johnny would have to look elsewhere.
New York Mets - The signing of Jason Bay completes their outfield. Bay will play left, Carlos Beltran is in center and Jeff Francoeur is in right. Johnny need not apply here. After shelling out $66 million to Bay the Mets won’t be in the market for Damon.
Philadelphia Phillies - With Raul Ibanez in left, Shane Victorino in center and Jayson Werth in right, the Phillies outfield is set in stone. Damon won’t be receiving an offer to play here.
Washington Nationals - If the Nationals were closer to contention and needed a reliable veteran presence, Damon might be their man. But they have Josh Willingham in left, Nyjer Morgan in center and Elijah Dukes in right with veteran utility man Willie Harris available to play behind them. No chance they would make an offer.
NL CENTRAL

Houston Astros - The Astros are paying big money to Carlos Lee to play left. Michael Bourn finally showed signs he could actually get on base in 2009 and he is set in center. They Astros are also happy with Hunter Pence in right field. The Astros also are for sale and they not likely to offer Johnny a contract.
Milwaukee Brewers - With Ryan Braun in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Corey Hart in right the Brewers seem to be set with their outfield for 2010. Even if Gomez flops in center as he did in Minnesota, the Brewers have veteran Jody Gerut and some young outfielders they may try to advance before looking to add a veteran like Damon.
St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals are trying to bring back Matt Holliday to play left. They have Colby Rasmus in center and Ryan Ludwick in right. They could make an offer to Damon as backup plan if they don’t sign Holliday. But they may prefer a better home run bat such as Jermaine Dye instead. Damon’s arm would be a big liability in spacious Busch Stadium.
Chicago Cubs - The signing of Marlon Byrd for three years to play center field pretty much dries up Damon’s Windy City hopes. Alphonso Soriano is in left and Kosuke Fukedome is now in right and they are being paid top dollar. No chance Johnny signs here.
Pittsburgh Pirates - They have Lastings Milledge ticketed to play left, burgeoning star Andrew McCutchen in center and longtime minor-leaguer Garrett Jones gave them some offense in right field. Because the Pirates always seem to be in “dump payroll” mode, Johnny is not getting a big dollar offer here.
Cincinnati Reds - This is a possibility for Damon. Jay Bruce is set in right field and the Reds do have either Willie Taveras or youngster Drew Stubbs in center. Chris Dickerson was a major disappointment in left, hitting a weak .275 in 2009. Damon could help them as a leadoff or No. 2 hitter and a veteran presence in left. The question is dollars. The Reds will not offer Damon $10 million.
NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks - There is a possibility for Damon here because with Justin Upton in right and Chris Young in center, the D-backs could put Damon in left with Conor Jackson moved back to first base. The problem is that Eric Byrnes is still on the roster and because of that it is unlikely the D-backs will be ringing up Boras.
Los Angeles Dodgers - No chance here. The Dodgers have emerging stars Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right and they have Manny Ramirez playing for top dollar in left. If Johnny is play here it would be as a low-salaried backup and Damon will not accept the same role Juan Pierre played last season.
San Francisco Giants - There is a possibility here. The Giants did sign utility man Mark De Rosa and he could play left field. But he also could play the infield and only Aaron Rowand in center field is guaranteed a job. Because the Giants have a very good pitching staff, they need offense badly and a veteran like Damon could provide it. But will the Giants pay $10 million for Damon? 
San Diego Padres - This team also could use Damon and his bat. One problem is that third baseman Chase Headley was moved to left field to accommodate Kevin Kouzmanoff. So it is doubtful that Damon would be made an offer to play center in this spacious park. The Padres also do not have the money to play Damon what he wants.
Colorado Rockies - It is doubtful the Rockies would add Damon. They have Brad Hawpe in right and youngsters Derrick Fowler to play left and Carlos Gonzalez to play center. They also have Ryan Spilboughs, Eric Young Jr., and Seth Smith around to compete for playing time. There is virtually no chance Damon would be wanted here.
                                           *************************
So judging by this analysis, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman appears to be taking the correct tact with Damon and Boras in basically not budging from the one year, $7 million offer he left out there. The Yankees could possibly add another year making it two years at $14 million.
But Damon and Boras are rejecting this offer, hoping to get a two-year, $20 million to $23 million offer elsewhere. But the teams most in need of outfield help and offense are also the teams in smaller markets with limited payrolls.
So it would seem that until Damon seriously lines up another suitor, he will not get Cashman to budge off his offer. It would seem that Damon is being treated very similarly to Andy Pettitte.
Last winter, Pettitte declined a $10 million offer by the Yankees but when he did not receive offers from other clubs he had to settle for a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Yankees with incentives that brought the deal close to $10 million. Pettitte hated the offer but signed anyway and he received a $10.75 million contract this season.
Perhaps Cashman is low-balling Damon in order to make a stand on the 2010 payroll. But my question to him is why make stands on payroll on the good guys like Pettitte and Damon, who hustle, are great in the clubhouse and are veterans who contribute?
I would much rather the Yankees take hard lines on guys like Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Veras and Gary Sheffield, players who underperform or create problems in the clubhouse.
It would seem to me that the Yankees need Damon back far more than they realize. Hopefully it is not too late for sanity to return to the negotiations and Cashman can get it done.
I don’t believe for a minute Damon is gone until another team signs him. I refuse to think that way. Other Yankee fans should feel the same way.
Stay tuned . . .

Bad Dream: In Left Field For The Yankees, Ryan Church

The signing of Mark DeRosa by the San Francisco Giants to a two-year contract must have made Brett Gardner smile. He has dodged another bullet.
If the 2010 season started tomorrow, Gardner would be the Yankees’ starting left fielder. Though Gardner’s speed and defense are greatly valued the Yankee blogosphere is getting nervous because Johnny Damon remains out on the free-agent market.
General Manager Brian Cashman made it pretty clear that the last piece of the Yankees’ puzzle, left field, would not be filled by a “big-ticket” item. That ruled out Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. It also appears that because Scott Boras is representing Damon, even the 36-year-old outfielder looks to be too costly.
DeRosa was mentioned as a lower cost alternative. But the Giants signed him for two years and $12 million. Since when can the Yankees not afford $6 million a season for an outfielder? This troubles me because they offered Damon $7 million a season.
Now it appears that even our old friend Xavier Nady is out of the Yankees price range.
The names we are hearing are guys like Reed Johnson or  bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr. Those Melky Cabrera fans upset over the Javier Vazquez trade may have a good point if the discussion on replacing him have come down to Reed Johnson.
Johnson was a backup outfielder for the Cubs last season and hit .255 with four home runs and 22 RBIs and a breathtaking two stolen bases in 165 at-bats. He is an excellent outfielder with the glove but has not been a full-time starter since 2006.
Hairston’s value would seem to be more as a bench player because he is able to play so many positions. If the Yankees are considering him as an everyday left fielder they would wear the 33-year-old down. 
The Yankees’ front office is telling us there are plenty of free-agent outfielders out there. But if DeRosa is not in our price range, who the hell is? Endy Chavez? So Taguchi? Emil Brown?
I think it is admirable that the Cashman and the Yankees have a budget and are sticking to it. But when you see the alternatives out there it is scary to think one of these guys may be a starting left fielder for a world championship club.
Garret Anderson is out there. So is Rick Ankiel (There would be no worries about his arm in left). There also is Jack Cust and Marlon Byrd. How about Austin Kearns? Randy Winn is looking for work and he would fit in with his age at 35.
I hate to say this but it looks like Boras might have the upper hand here if the Yankees really want Damon back. I would look at these other possibilities and the fact Gardner is the starter and just laugh. I would hold the line on a two-year deal for $20 million.
The question is can Boras find another team interested enough to pay it?
Cashman seems to be banking that he won’t and is waiting Damon out. However, I will not concede Damon is gone until I see he has signed elsewhere. Damon will just have to swallow his pride a bit and accept less money to play with a team with which he is a perfect fit.
His swing is suited for the park, he is perfect No. 2 hitter and he fits in well in the clubhouse. Hey, Rasheed Wallace took less money to play for the Celtics so he could have a chance to win another championship. Why can’t Johnny?
Oh, I know what the reason is now: Scott Boras. Maybe Damon should follow A-Rod’s lead and park his pitbull and negotiate with the Yankees himself. It couldn’t hurt.
I am just trying to get over the nightmare I had last night. I was dreaming about opening day and Paul Olden said: “Playing left field for the Yankees, Ryan Church.”

Vazquez Deal Gives Huge Boost To Yankee Bullpen

I find it funny how Red Sox Nation is treating the trade of Javier Vazquez to the New York Yankees.
I have seen many message board posts stating that Vazquez was a plus-4.00 ERA pitcher in the American League and that John Lackey is younger (he’s 31 and Vazquez is 33) and a better “money” pitcher.
OK. For arguments sake, let’s say all of that is true. But that the benefit is all to Lackey because of these reasons is very short-sighted.
The fact is this: The Yankees have added a pitcher that in 10 seasons has never pitched less than 198 innings. In effect, the Yankees have four pitchers who are capable of pitching 200-plus innings.
Vazquez is also a strikeout pitcher. In the new Yankee Stadium there is no better weapon against the longball flying out in the wind current in right-center than a strikeout pitcher. The Yankees have three of them in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez.
But the real reason that Vazquez helps the Yankees has nothing to do with the starting rotation. Vazquez in the rotation is huge boost to the bullpen.
For one thing, the Yankees starting four will provide the bullpen fewer innings that they will have to pitch. That gives pitching coach Dave Eiland and manager Joe Girardi an opportunity to use the bullpen judiciously and not have to tire any one pitcher out.
But the greatest boon to the bullpen is that it is almost a foregone conclusion that either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes are now free to become the setup man for Mariano Rivera.
That is not very good news to American League teams in 2010. 
Last season the bridge to Rivera was supposed to be Brian Bruney. Though Bruney admirably lost weight and showed great command in April last season, an elbow injury landed him on the disabled list twice.
When he returned Bruney was not the same pitcher he had been. His command was lacking and hitters pounded him every time he fell behind in the count. The Yankees chose to deal him to the Washington Nationals just as the Winter Meetings started.
Another bridge from last season, left-hander Phil Coke, lost his job in the bullpen to veteran Damaso Marte in the postseason and he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in the Curtis Granderson trade.
In the absence of a legitimate bridge to Rivera this season, it looked as if David Robertson was the odds-on favorite to take the job until the Vazquez trade. Though I remain a big fan of the young Robertson and see him as a huge contributor in the bullpen in 2010, Chamberlain and Hughes provide more peace of mind because both have pitched in that role before.
If I had a choice of the two, I would move Chamberlain to the bullpen because he has not proved to me that he can pitch with the same confidence and command as a starter. He also struggled keeping his pitch count down and could not stay in games long enough.
Switched back to the bullpen this postseasn, Chamberlain was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA. His ERA as a starter was 4.95. You tell me in what role he pitched better?
Remember that Hughes became the setup man by accident last season. He was supposed to have been sent down when Chien-Ming Wang came off the disabled list last season. But he stayed and with each relief appearance he got better until he was given the eighth-inning role exclusively in July.
But the Yankee brass has insisted that they think of Hughes as a starter and that he would begin the 2010 season as a starter. The confidence Hughes gained pitching out the bullpen should serve him well this spring.
Though Hughes would have to pitch under an innings limit of about 140 innings in 2010 like Chamberlain has the past two seasons is not a major hurdle either. Hughes, as the No. 5 starter, could start about 15 games or so and then shift to the bullpen at midseason in favor of swingman Chad Gaudin.
The Yankees bullpen next season will include Rivera, likely Chamberlain, Marte, Robertson, lefty Boone Logan (obtained along with Vazquez), Alfredo Aceves and Gaudin. If Logan or Aceves don’t pitch well there is some pretty good depth behind them.
Sinkerballer Jonathan Albaladejo has made the 2008 and 2009 teams by pitching well in the spring and he could do it again. Edwar Ramirez is still working to correct his flaws with his change-up and he made the team in 2009. The Yankees also have hard-throwing right-hander Mark Melancon available.
So the Vazquez siging, it would seem to me, would be a great boost to the bullpen. Can you imagine a stretch run with the Yankees having a bullpen of Rivera, Chamberlain, Hughes, Robertson and Marte? I would think that would be enough firepower to shut down any team after six innings.
And the Yankees will have a rotation that can easily pitch past six innings, if necessary.
So I am sorry, Red Sox Nation.
Though you seem to claim Lackey is better than Vazquez, you are missing the real point of the trade. The deal offers the Yankees what could be argued is one of the best bullpens in baseball.
I think the fact the Red Sox have lost Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner this off-season and they may lose Jonathan Papelbon to free agency next season would heighten the importance of depth in their bullpen.
Without depth in the bullpen in the American League East you are sunk. The Vazquez deal assures the Yankees have plenty of depth in 2010.
Your move, Theo Epstein!

Yankees Pick Up Another Gem Starter In Vazquez

The Boston Red Sox must feel like the executives at Pepsi every time they read the sales figures of Coke.
The New York Yankees trumped the Red Sox’ signing of free-agent right-hander John Lackey by acquiring Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.
The Yankees also acquired left-handed reliever Boone Logan and in return the Braves received outfielder Melky Cabrera, left-handed reliever Michael Dunn and minor-leaue right-hander Arodys Vizcaino.
That means in the past week the Yankees have reacquired firstbaseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson and Vazquez. Could Alphonso Soriano be the next former Yankee to return?
In Vazquez, the Yankees get a pitcher who is coming off one of his best seasons in the major leagues. Vazquez, 33, was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts for Atlanta. In 219 1/3 innings Vazquez gave up only 181 hits and struck out 238 while walking only 44 batters.
Vazquez was second in the National League in strikeouts and he finished fourth in the balloting for the NL Cy Young Award. 
Vazquez has also thrown more than 198 innings in the past 10 seasons and was an American League All-Star selection in 2004, his only season with the Yankees. He finished the 2004 season with a 14-10 record with a 4.91 ERA. He then was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the deal that brought Randy Johnson to the Yankees.
Since 2000, Vazquez has recorded at least 10 wins and 150 strikeouts each season, making him the 10th pitcher in major-league history to accomplish the feat. According to the Elias Sports Bureau eight of the other nine pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.
Vazquez joins a rotation that includes CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. Speculation now begins on whether the Yankees will shift Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to the bullpen. 
Common sense would dictate it would be Chamberlain, 24, because he was a disappointing 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA as a starter and 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in the postseason in the bullpen. Chamberlain spent the final two months of 2007 season as the setup man for Mariano Rivera and was 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA in 19 games. 
He started the 2008 season in the bullpen but was converted to a starter at midseason. His statistics as a reliever were again better but he finished the season with 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA and the Yankees stated he would be a full-time starter in 2009, albeit with a limit of about 150 innings.
Hughes, 23, pitched 42 games out of the bullpen and was 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. However, he was 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA in the postseason.  As a starter last season, Hughes was 2-2 with a 6.59 ERA in six starts. 
If Hughes is chosen as the No. 5 starter, he will be under the same innings limits Chamberlain was under the past two seasons. Because Hughes pitched only 86 innings in 2009 he would be limited to about 140 innings in 2010.
That could mean the Yankees might allow Hughes to begin the season as a starter and skip his turn whenever they can. The Yankees then could shift Hughes to the bullpen at midseason in favor of swingman Chad Gaudin, who pitched well for the Yankees as a starter down the stretch in 2009.
The loss of Cabrera in the trade, means that this blog was correct in its assessment last week that the Yankees have not completely shut the door on Johnny Damon.
In my last post I wrote the following:
(Jorge) Posada made it known this week that he would like the Yankees to obtain another starting pitcher to counter the Red Sox’ signing of John Lackey. But if the Yankees do not like the slim pickings on the free-agent market of Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland they possibly could swing a trade of Cabrera and some prospects to land a better starter.

The speculation on Yankees’ interest in Vazquez began when the veteran right-hander turned down a deal last week that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Angels. Vazquez declined the trade because he did not want to pitch on the West Coast.
That alerted Cashman that Vazquez was available and he quickly contacted the Braves to see what their asking price for Vazquez might be. By dealing Cabrera, the Yankees have obviously opened up left field with only Brett Gardner left to fill it.
That likely means Cashman feels he is close to bringing Damon back to the Bronx.
Damon’s agent Scott Boras was looking for a four-year, $52 million deal for his free-agent outfiielder client. But the Yankees balked at any contract over two years and were looking to bring Damon back for two years at $7 million per season.
But because no other major-league team is offering Damon a contract of three or four years, Boras later dropped his demands to two years at $26 million and then later down to two years for $20 million. So it appears likely that Damon could be getting close to a deal the Yankees for two years at somewhere between $7 million and $10 million the two sides are haggling over.
Don’t be surprised if that deal is locked up pretty soon.
If Boras stands firm and Cashman decides to let Damon walk, the Yankees do have a fallback position in free-agent utility man Mark De Rosa, who could play left field. De Rosa, a New Jersey native, also can play second base, shortstop and third base as well as the outfield.
It still remains doubtful that with the Yankees looking to cut at least $15 million in payroll for 2010 that they would get into the bidding for slugging outfielders Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. The Yankees did go over their budget plans in 2009 when Mark Teixeira expressed and interest in signing. 
But if the Yankees feel they have no other choice they could get into the bidding easily.
But the Red Sox are now in a much weaker position in improving their club for 2010. The torn ligament in Mike Lowell’s thumb voided the Red Sox deal to send the veteran third baseman to the Texas Rangers.
The Lowell trade was Step 1 in their shift of Kevin Youkilis to third base and their trade of right-hand pitcher Clay Buchholz and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and some prospects to the San Diego Padres in return for power-hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. 
With Lowell still on the roster, Youkilis must remain at first and the deal for Gonzalez is likely on hold. 
The Red Sox say they would like to keep Bay as the team’s left fielder. But their four-year, $60 million offer to him was rejected and the New York Mets have made it clear that he is the No. 1 target this winter.
The Red Sox are also having difficulty in their talks with Holliday because the Cardinals are aggresively bidding to retain him as protection for Albert Pujols. Holliday has also been a more productive hitter in the National League and could be looking sign with a team that keeps him in the NL.
Meanwhile the Red Sox are overloaded with outfielders in Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew and Jeremy Hermida, who they obtained from the Marlins.
It looks like Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has put Red Sox GM Theo Epstein in a difficult position of having to raise the Red Sox payroll just to keep up with the moves Cashman has made this offseason.
Even with the Marco Scutaro signing as the team’s shortstop, the R
ed Sox have a lot of holes to fill in their offense and their bullpen that will end up costing them a lot of money. The inability to get Lowell’s contract off the books has really complicated things beyond what Epstein could have imagined.
To be sure, the Yankees loss of Cabrera is significant. Just 25, Cabrera is coming off a bounce-back season in which he had 13 homers, 68 RBIs and hit .274. He also was the Yankees’ best defensive outfielder with a very good arm.
Dunn, 24, was originally slated to become the replacement for left-hander Phil Coke, who was traded to the Detroit Tigers in the Curtis Granderson deal. The converted outfielder, Dunn had a 6.75 ERA in four September appearances after splitting most of the season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton.
Vizcaino, 19, had a 2.13 ERA in 10 starts for Class A Staten Island last year. The Dominican Republic product was rated the Yankees’ third-best prospect by Baseball America.
It would appear that Logan will now replace Coke as the team’s second left-hander in the bullpen, joining veteran Damaso Marte. Logan was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the Braves. He also was a teammate of Vazquez when they both pitched for the White Sox in 2008. 
Cashman has already tried to head off speculation the Yankees are looking to sign Bay or Holliday.
“I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won’t be a big piece,” Cashman said. “So any speculation about some high-end player, with big ability and dollars attached on a large scale, would be inappropriate.”

Cashman, however, did not rule out the possibility of re-signing Damon. That may be a clue that the Yankees want the 36-year-old outfielder back — but only at their price.
Stay tuned . . . 

Damon, Boras Lose Game Of Chicken To Cashman

Johnny Damon and his agent, Scott (I’ll Bleed You For Last Dollar) Boras played a dangerous game of chicken with the Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees this winter and lost.
On Friday, the Yankees reached a one-year, $5.5 million deal with first baseman Nick Johnson to be the team’s primary designated hitter for 2010, which leaves Johnny Damon out in the cold looking in.
The Yankees will officially announce the signing next week when Johnson completes a physical but Damon and Boras should tale a lesson from Johnson. The former Yankee actually received more lucrative offers from other teams but chose to return to wear pinstripes again.
Boras initially told the Yankees he would not listen to any offers less than four years and $13 million per season. Cashman and the Yankees obliged Boras and did not make a single offer to Damon, knowing that the 36-year-old outfielder would not be offered a four-year contract by any other major-league team.
Cashman traded for Curtis Granderson in the winter meetings and immediately cast him as the team’s starting center-fielder. That pretty much shifted incumbent center-fielder Melky Cabrera to left field, Johnny’s old spot.
That was Cashman’s initial shot across the bow.
However, Boras was given a small opening to negotiate with the Yankees when Hideki Matsui decided not to wait to see what happened with Damon as he signed with the Angels for one year and a paltry $6.5 million.
That left Cashman and the Yankees a bit vulnerable because Matsui and Damon combined last season for 52 home runs and 172 RBIs. The signing of Granderson gave the Yankees back 30 home runs and 71 RBIs of offense.
So Boras pushed the negotiations and said Damon now would accept three years and $39 million — sticking to his pledge Damon would accept anything less than the $13 million a season he was making last season.
Cashman said no.
Cashman was banking on no other team in baseball willing to go even three years with Damon and certainly none would pay him $13 million a season. With more expensive left fielders like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay out there it was a risk with which Cashman was willing to take.
Boras decided to change tactics when rumors about the 31-year-old Johnson were swirling: he asked Cashman for two years and $26 million.
Cashman, no doubt with a heavy heart, said no. 
Finally, Boras came down to $20 million, the first sign in a crack of the armor Team Damon has shown throughout the winter. But, by that time, it was way too late. The Yankees received word that Johnson had accepted their offer.
With Johnson projected to be the team’s primary DH and bat second in the batting order, it would appear Damon is out of a job because he would not accept the Yankees’ firm offer of two years at $14 million.
Last season, Johnson split time with the Washington Nationals and the Florida Marlins. He hit eight home runs, drove in 62 runs and batted .291 in 133 games. But his big selling point is that the left-hand batter can draw walks. He drew 99 walks and his on-base percentage was  a healthy .426. His career OBP is .402.
Although the Yankees have first baseman Mark Teixeira to play 150 or more games at first and Nick Swisher to back him up, Johnson is noted as a better-than-average fielder at the position.
Johnson’s problem has been staying healthy. In seven major league seasons, Johnson has played 129 or more games in just four of them. The Yankees seem to believe the fact he will not play in the field will lessen his chances for injury.
The batting order against right-handers now appears to be:
Derek Jeter
Nick Johnson
Mark Teixeira
Alex Rodriguez
Curtis Granderson
Jorge Posada
Robinson Cano
Nick Swisher
Melky Cabrera
The left-handed lineup could insert Posada at DH and Francisco Cervelli at catcher with Granderson batting second, Posada fifth and Cano, Swisher and Cabrera moving up a spot with Cervelli batting ninth.
There is one lone possibility for Damon and Boras now. It could be to accept the Yankees’ two-year offer of $14 million with some incentives to bring it to $17 million or so. The Yankees might accept those terms if Damon is serious about coming back.
That would leave Damon back starting in left and Cabrera relegated to backup duty among the three outfield spots or potential trade bait for a deal for a pitcher. 
Posada made it known this week that he would like the Yankees to obtain another starting pitcher to counter the Red Sox’ signing of John Lackey. But if the Yankees do not like the slim pickings on the free-agent market of Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland they possibly could swing a trade of Cabrera and some prospects to land a better starter.
In the absence of that scenario, it looks like Damon will have to head elsewhere to end his career. For his sake, I would hope he would follow A-Rod’s lead and tell Boras to take a hike. Then he could march into Cashman’s office and hammer out his own deal.
Boras’ “tough-guy” stance has already cost him a lot of money. Teams around baseball will be reluctant to offer Damon much above the $14 million the Yankees have already tendered. The ball appears to be in Johnny’s court now.
But Cashman appears to have won the game of chicken.

Cashman In Difficult Bargaining Position Now

I have received a lot of e-mail in response to my post yesterday about how, in my opinion, Brian Cashman blew it by allowing Roy Halladay, John Lackey and Hideki Matsui go in one day.
I thought I might want to clarify some points I was trying to make.
Cashman said himself before the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis began that he was seeking pitching. He said that although they had signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett last season that adding depth to the pitching staff was always a priority.
The re-signing of Andy Pettitte for a year for $11.75 million did a lot to help that effort. But I doubt that Cashman was just referring to Pettitte when he meant adding a to the rotation.
The signings of Randy Wolf by the Brewers and Rich Harden by the Rangers signaled that the pitching market was very thin behind these two starters. Cashman also said that the Yankees were “kicking the tires” on Halladay and Lackey.
Now I know that Halladay would have cost a prospect like Jesus Montero and Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. I was not in favor of a deal like that. In fact, I posted an item on my blog saying as much on Nov. 23.
But I thought the Yankees could sign Lackey and not lose any prospects or players on their roster. The only thing they would have lost is two draft picks in the amateur draft. Lackey should have been the No. 1 target all the way. I posted an item on Nov. 18 about that.
But Lackey instead signs a five-year deal with the Red Sox and now the Red Sox have just about shipped out Mike Lowell to the Rangers. They are close to signing outfielder Mike Cameron. Their next step is to package a deal including Clay Buchholz and their best prospects for Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres.
The Red Sox would then boast a batting order of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Cameron, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro. They will have a rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. They still have Jonathan Papaelbon and Josh Bard in the bullpen.
That is a pretty good team.
The Yankees are now left to pick over the leftovers of what was a very thin Thanksgiving bounty. The pitchers left are Ben Sheets (who is looking for $11 million), Juston Duchscherer, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland.
Duchsherer looks to be the No. 1 target based on the fact he is a two-time All-Star and his bout with clinical depression has deflated his value considerably.
My point has been all along that if the Yankees were serious about moving Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen as so many insiders told me this winter, than they should have been more aggressive in looking to sign Lackey, Harden or Wolf.
Remember also that Phil Hughes will be under the same innings limits that Chamberlain was under last season. Hughes will only be able to throw about 130 innings in 2010. That means he will only be able to start for about half the season before being relegated to the bullpen.
That would mean that the Yankees would have to plug Chad Gaudin in the rotation in July. So let’s say, for argument sake, that the Yankees sign Duchsherer as their No. 4 starter. That would mean the Yankees would have to go down the stretch with a rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, Duchsherer and Gaudin.
Now is that better than the Red Sox quintet? No! Not even close.
My point is the Yankees would have even been better with a rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, LACKEY and Gaudin. Or even HARDEN and Gaudin.
Cashman would be vindicated if he signs one of those pitchers and they pitch well. Remember, too, the Yankees traded Ian Kennedy and let Chien-Ming Wang become a free agent so there is very little margin for error.
What would happen if the Yankees lost Pettitte for the season with an injury? Depth is the starting rotation is paramount. The Yankees just don’t have that right now.
That was another point I was trying to make.
As with Matsui, I was only trying to point out that allowing Matsui to sign with the Angels for one year and $6.5 million may come back to haunt the Yankees.
I am not saying this because it is Matsui. Cashman made it clear the Yankees would likely only sign either Johnny Damon or Matsui and not both. My issue is with the timing of the signing.
As long as Matsui hung out there, the Yankees would have leverage over Damon, whose agent Scott Boras is seeking a four-year deal at about $12 million a year. With Matsui out of the equation and Cameron signing with the Red Sox, the Yankees might be forced into offering Damon a rich contract to come back.
The Yankees might have to shell out $36 million over three years to Damon now and Boras is in a position to get it. Boras knows that the Yankees do not want to get into a bidding war for Jason Bay or Matt Holliday. He also knows that Damon is the best player available after that pair on anyone’s wish list.
So instead of being able to get Damon for two years at $20 million it looks like Boras has the Yankees right he wants them. That is tragic when you consider that Matsui likely would have accepted a one-year deal with the Yankees for considerably less than what Damon is now going to get.
Signing Matsui may have meant he would have clogged the DH spot because he would not have played the outfield. But he also was the only legitimate hitter the Yankees would have had to bat in the fifth spot behind Alex Rodriguez.
Let’s plug in Damon to the lineup and say he will be the DH and remain the No. 2 hitter behind Derek Jeter. Then you have Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera to follow. When Posada is rested you will have a lineup of Jeter, Damon in left field, Teixeira, A-Rod, Posada at DH, Granderson, Swisher, Cano and Cervelli.
Now let’s say that Damon does not sign and the Yankees elect not to make a run at Bay or Holliday.
The Yankees lineup would be Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-Rod, Posada, Cano, Swisher, Juan Miranda at DH and Cabrera. When Posada is rested it could be Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-Rod, Posada at DH, Swisher, Cano, Cabrera and Cervelli. But of the Yankees say they want to DH A-Rod, Jeter or Teixeira? That means a lineup with Ramiro Pena and Carvelli in the lineup on the same day. That is a very weak lineup.
Perhaps Cashman can fix this by signing Damon. Perhaps if Damon decides to go, the Yankees can make a run at signing Xavier Nady back. Nady could provide a solid power and run production bat from the fifth or sixth spot in the order and Matsui’s bat would have been replaced.
If it goes any other way, the Yankees will be left scrambling to make up for the 28 home runs and 90 RBIs they lost when Matsui headed for LaLaLand.
That is the reason I believe Cashman may have blown it. And I am sticking to that opinion.

Lackey, Halladay, Matsui Gone As Cashman Blows It

December 14, 2009 could be considered Black Monday for the New York Yankees and General Manager Brian Cashman.
In the span of just about five hours, the Yankees lost Roy Halladay to the Phillies, John Lackey to the Red Sox and Hideki Matsui to the Angels. It is unclear how serious the Yankees were in trade discussions with Halladay and free-agent negotiations with Lackey. But losing both was a huge blow if the Yankees really wanted another quality starting pitcher.
The signings last week of both left-hander Randy Wolf by the Brewers and right-hander Rich Harden by the Rangers has left the Yankees looking at a smaller and less than stellar field of pitchers from which to choose.
They include former Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets, former A’s starter and reliever Justin Duchscherer, former Rockies right-hander Jason Marquis and former Cardinals right-hander Joel Pineiro. That hardly screams that the Yankees have the division locked up with a signing of any of the four.
Perhaps the deal to bring Andy Pettitte back and the trade talks obtain Curtis Granderson last week left Cashman spread too thin to pull the trigger on a deal for the quality pitchers that were available. 
Neither Sheets or Duchscherer pitched in 2009. 
Sheets was 13-9 with an 3.09 ERA in 2008. He was a free agent last season but did not receive any offers because he had to undergo surgery to repair his right elbow. He is apparently seeking an $11 million contract for 2010 because that was what he was earning in 2008. The Yankees may be reluctant to go that high with him because of his long injury history even at age 31.
Duchscherer, 32, was a 2005 All-Star as a reliever with the A’s and was chosen as an All-Star in 2008 as a starter. He was 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts. But he underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery last March and ended up missing the rest of the season due to what was diagnosed as clinical depression.
Duchscherer’s agent is allowing teams to talk with the pitcher’s therapist in order to assure teams he has overcome the problem. The advantage to signing Duchscherer is that he made $3.9 million in 2008 and would come a lot cheaper than Sheets. He also is more versatile than Sheets in that he could pitch in the bullpen, if needed.
Marquis, 31, was 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA for the Rockies last season while Pineiro, 31, was 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA with the Cardinals. The question with these two veterans is can they pitch effectively in the American League. There also is a question whether can Pineiro can duplicate his success without Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, who excels at turning reclamation projects into effective starters.
Without a deal for another starter, it would be safe to assume the Yankees will enter the 2010 season with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in the rotation. There were indications from some Yankee insiders that the Yankees wanted to move Chamberlain back into his setup role for Mariano Rivera based on his excellent bullpen work during the 2009 playoffs.
If that indeed was what the Yankees wanted to do and Cashman swung and missed at Halladay and Lackey, there may be criticism coming his way for not being more aggressive with the pair or with negotiations for Wolf and Harden, at the least.
Any way you slice it, Cashman is looking at long odds to get quality at the back end of the rotation now.
The Lackey signing is particularly galling because he went to the Red Sox. The Red Sox, who have so many holes to fill on their offense that it might bankrupt their operating payroll, chose instead to cement another gun in their rotation to go along with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. They also look to be adding insurance in case Tim Wakefield does not recover from a serious back issue.
The Matsui signing also puts Cashman in a difficult position regarding free agent Johnny Damon.
Damon and his agent, million-dollar shark Scott Boras, are seeking a four-year deal in the $48 million range. The Yankees, reluctant to commit to Damon that far at age 36, are countering with a two-year offer of about $18 million. 
Boras has history on his side since the Yankees offered four-year deals to Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera two years ago. Now Cashman may have to bite the bullet and give Damon a three-year offer of $36 million or so to keep him in the fold.
The Red Sox took one of Cashman’s fallback positions away by signing outfielder Mike Cameron to a free-agent contract. 
Matsui signed a one-year deal with the Angels worth a very cheap $6.5 million. I know that Cashman saw Matsui as strictly a DH but having at DH at $6.5 million would have allowed Cabrera to play left and Damon could have been left hanging to try to shop his four-year mega-payday elsewhere.
If Damon signs elsewhere, the Yankees would be forced into entering the bidding war for Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, which would really drive up the Yankees’ payroll. 
Losing Matsui for a piddling $6.5 million may be a crushing blow if the Yankees don’t pony up to Damon’s demands now. All I know is that Boras is smiling because he knows he has the Yankees and Cahman by the short hairs.
That is not a good position to be in and it is all Cashman’s fault.

Yankees Have Few Holes Left To Fill For 2010

The Winter Meetings in Indianapolis are over and the New York Yankees were pretty busy during that time. The welcomed free agent pitcher Andy Pettitte back into the fold, acquired center fielder Curtis Granderson and traded away pitchers Brian Bruney, Phil Coke, Ian Kennedy and their No. 1 young outfield prospect in Austin Jackson. They also will have a chance at looking at the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, outfielder Jamie Hoffman. But where does General Manager Brian Cashman go from here? Let’s take a brief look position by position:

CATCHER

The Yankees have Jorge Posada signed for two more seasons and after his 2009 season it looks like he is healthy again, still productive with the bat and adequate enough in the field. The Yankees chose to let Jose Molina go as a free agent and it is not likely he will be back in 2010, The Yankees were very impressed with the way Francisco Cervelli played when Posada and Molina were hurt and he would provide a cheaper and younger option to Molina. In the minors, the Yankees have two great prospects in Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Montero has been mentioned in potential trade talks for Toronto Blue Jays’ ace Roy Halladay. But given the deal that sent Jackson to the Tigers for Granderson, Cashman may be leery about trading the second best blue-chip prospect in the Yankees’ system. With Posada getting older it would seem unwise to trade either at this point.
FIRST BASE

The Yankees are set here for another seven years with Mark Teixeira proving to be everything the Yankees could have hoped for when they signed him as a free agent last winter. Finishing second in the Most Valuable Player voting showed Teixeira’s value to the Yankees. Nick Swisher will remain as his primary backup but that could change if Cuban-born Juan Miranda makes the team in the spring. If Hideki Matsui is not signed to be the designated hitter, Miranda may be given a shot to replace him as well as be a backup at first.
SECOND BASE

There was a rumor going around Robinson Cano might be traded but it does not seem likely that it would be possible. Cano is still just 27 and he is signed for another two years. He is also coming off a bounce-back season where he hit .320 with 25 home runs and 85 RBIs. The Yankees do not have anyone in their system to replace him. So if the Yankees were to trade Cano they would have to look at getting a second baseman back in a trade or through free agency. Orlando Hudson would be a possibility as a free agent but he is not the hitter Cano is though he is a Gold Glove fielder. I do not see any changes here.
SHORTSTOP

I will be real brief here: Derek Jeter. Seriously, Jeter is signed to a deal that expires after the 2010 season but the Yankees chose not to negotiate a new deal with Jeter because he is coming off one of his better seasons. He won the Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove and finished third the MVP voting. But the Yankees will certainly look to keep their “franchise symbol” player for the rest of his career. So there are no real worries here.
THIRD BASE

Compared to last spring, the Yankees are exhaling a great sigh of relief they have Alex Rodriguez signed to a long-term contract like Teixiera. A-Rod overcame a heated steroid controversy and hip surgery to re-establish himself as one of the best players in the game. His postseason also exorcised a lot of past demons. A-Rod has no worries going into 2010 and he can honestly say he won a championship.
RESERVE INFIELDER

The Yankees chose to let Jerry Hairston Jr. go as a free agent. They have not precluded re-signing him. But they do have other options. Reports say the Yankees might be interested in free agent Mark DeRosa, who can play all the positions Hairston can except center field and has a better bat. The Yankees also have a homegrown alternative in Ramiro Pena, who is 24 and hit .287 in 115 at-bats with the Yankees last season. Pena can play second, short and third and plays them all very well defensively. If the Yankees are looking to cut payroll, Pena might be the choice here and let the pricier Hairston and De Rosa go elsewhere. The Yankees also have a minor-league reserve candidate in Eduardo Nunez, who is 22. Right now it looks like Pena and Nunez will battle for the job this spring with Pena the odds-on favorite.
RIGHT FIELD

Nick Swisher took over this position last year when Xavier Nady went down with a ligament tear in his right elbow in early April. He is just 29 and it looks as if he has found a home in New York. Though he hit just .249, Swisher more than made up for it with 29 home runs and 89 RBIs. He also walked 97 times and had an on-base percentage of .371. The Yankees no longer have Nady on the roster and he is a free agent. The Yankees could seek to bring him back at a cheaper price and shift Swisher to left if they did not re-sign Johnny Damon. They also might consider Nady as a cheaper option to use at DH if they do not re-sign Hideki Matsui. But Nady will draw a lot of interest from small-market teams looking for cheaper alternatives to add power rather than bidding on high-priced stars like Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. The Yankees are likely to let Nady go.
CENTER FIELD

The trade for Granderson last week was not a total shock. It had been talked about since November. But it is not often a world championship team trades for such a talented outfielder. Since the incumbent Melky Cabrera and backup Brett Gardner were known for their defense, Granderson is not really much of a defensive upgrade. With the bat, it is a different story. Granderson hit 30 home runs and drove in 71 runs as a leadoff hitter for the Tigers last season. The Yankees see his left-hand stroke as perfect for the short porch in right field in Yankee Stadium and 40 home runs may be possible. But Granderson also is a career .208 hitter against left-hand pitching and he strikes out twice as much as he walks. So patience is not a Granderson virtue. 
LEFT FIELD

Melky Cabrera, right now, is the team’s left fielder. For those tired of seeing runners take advantage of Damon’s arm, this might be a blessing. Cabrera has an arm that would make runners think twice about trying score on him in 2010. He also bounced back nicely from a dreadful 2008 season to hit .274 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs. But either of two things happen: The Yankees sign Damon or Matsui as free agents and they become the primary DHs or Cabrera is used as trade bait for whatever the Yankees might be looking for such as Halladay. Because is just 25, he has great trade value and could be dealt. But if the Yankees sign Matsui, Cabrera would likely stay put because Matsui, in the Yankees’ view, may not be able to play the outfield anymore on his bad wheels. But if Damon is signed instead, Cabrera looks to be relegated to a backup outfielder or in prime position to be traded. The Yankees have a lot of options here.
RESERVE OUTFIELDER

Gardner, 26, looks to be the No. 1 candidate here. But the acquisition of Granderson most adversely affected him. Gardner entered 2009 as the Yankees starting center fielder. Now he looks to be, at best, a off-the-bench player in 2010. The trade of Bruney to the Washington Nationals also brought worse news: Gardner will have competition for the job in the spring. The Yankees acquired outfielder Jamie Hoffman from the Nationals. The Yankees had asked the Nationals to select Hoffman so they could
trade Bruney for him. Hoffman, a former hockey player, brings that tough mentality with him to the diamond. Hoffmann, 25, split most of this season between Triple-A Albuquerque and Double-A Chattanooga, batting .291 (104-for-358) with 69 runs, 23 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 64 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 54 walks and a .390 on-base percentage. If Hoffman fails to make the roster the Yankees will have to offer him back to the Nationals for $25,000. So Gardner will have a major fight on his hands.

STARTING ROTATION

The signing of Pettitte to a one-year deal for a reported $11.5 million last week means the Yankees will have their postseason trio of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Pettitte back next year. The rest of the rotation is on flux but Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are slotted as the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, at this time. With the Yankees, according to Cashman, “kicking the tires” at free agent John Lackey and possible trade target in Halladay, the Yankees have made no secret they are looking to add a starter. However, any trade for Halladay could mean the Yankees lose either Hughes or Chamberlain as well as prospects such as Montero. The Yankees have also made some moves to make sure they have some depth in the rotation. They decided to tender offers to right-handers Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre. However, at the same time, they did not tender an offer to Chien-Ming Wang, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.  The Yankees have said they would like to keep Wang but $4 million is the lowest amount for which they can sign him and they are unsure of when he will be able to pitch. His agent said Wang is ahead of schedule and could be ready on May 1 but the Yankees would rather sign him to lower contract with incentives. The Yankees also could use Alfredo Aceves as a starter next season depending on whether he is needed there more than in the bullpen. There also is speculation that the Yankees’ search for another starter could be a way to move Chamberlain a more comfortable role as the setup man — a job he used to have.

BULLPEN

This area of the team is the strongest on the team and the reason why Cashman felt he could safely trade away Bruney and Coke. Mariano Rivera is set as the closer and the Yankees are happy with the way Damaso Marte pitched in the playoffs last season. They also like the development of 24-year-old right-hander David Robertson last season. Aceves was dependable as a long man for the most part last season and could return to that role. The Yankees also have Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, youngsters Mark Melancon and Michael Dunn to audition for jobs. They also could have Chamberlain back if they make a deal for a starter. Gaudin and Mitre can also slide into bullpen slots. This is the place of least worry on the club. All are under contract and there appears to be plenty of depth. Do not look for anymore deals involving these players and I doubt Cashman is looking to add another arm unless it is another left-hander to replace Coke.


Pettitte Signs For One More Season In Pinstripes

WINTER MEETINGS
DAY THREE

Yankees General Manager Brain Cashman has been so visible at the annual Winter Meetings in Indianapolis that some scribe actually said he saw him delivering room service trays.
It would not be a stretch considering Cashman has already pulled off a three-team trade that garnered the team a new center fielder in Curtis Granderson, dealt away erratic right-hand reliever Brian Bruney and today he welcomed back Andy Pettitte back in pinstripes.
Pettitte, 37, agreed to the terms of a one-year deal for a reported $11.75 million on Wednesday.
This assures the Yankees will return one of their most reliable starters in 2009. Pettitte was 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA and won all three of the Yankees’ clinching playoff and World Series games. He was 4-0 with a 3.52 ERA in the playoffs.
But Pettitte informed the Yankees after the World Series that he was considering retirement and would let the Yankees know if he intended to pitch for one more season. Pettitte did that through his agent Randy Hendricks over the weekend.
Pettitte has a career record of 229-135 with a 3.91 ERA and he is third on the Yankees’ all-time wins list behind Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing with 192 victories. This season he became the all-time winningest pitcher in the postseason with 18 wins.
His 148 wins over the past 10 years, which makes him the winningest pitcher in baseball over that period. 
Pettitte made it known that he was not pleased with the contract he signed last season. After making $16 million in 2008, because the free-agent market imploded last season Pettitte was offered a base contract of only $5.5 million with incentives that brought the contract to $10.5 million.
Though Cashman believes the 2009 contract Pettitte signed was “fair,” the 2010 contract is devoid of incentives and gives Pettitte a slight increase in pay.
Somewhat hurting Pettitte’s and Hendricks’ bargaining position was that Cashman knew that if Pettitte was returning to pitch in 2010 it would not be with any other team but the Yankees. Pettitte made that perfectly clear to the Yankees.
IS THE DOC IN?

You would think with the Yankees’ troika of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Pettitte all signed and coming back next season there would be less pressure to participate in the Roy “Doc” Halladay sweepstakes but you would be wrong.
The New York Post reported today that the Yankees have told the Toronto Blue Jays and their GM Alex Anthopoulos they are willing to part with major prospects to land the right-hander.
The Yankees, having parted with their best athlete and top all-around prospect in outfielder Austin Jackson in the Granderson deal completed on Tuesday, are apparently serious about emptying their holster of more prospects.
The Blue Jays, who lost starting catcher Rod Barajas to free agency, reportedly covet minor-league catcher Jesus Montero. They also seem interested in acquiring either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes.
The Post quoted sources as saying that no deal is likely to be completed by the end of the Winter Meetings. But they did say that a deal could be struck soon as the Blue Jays intensify their efforts to unload their ace pitcher, who can become a free agent next winter.
Though Halladay has a no-trade clause in his contract, he informed the Blue Jays that he would accept a trade to a club with a chance to go the playoffs because Halladay wants to play for a winning team and perhaps the chance to win a World Series.
The Denver Post indicated that the Yankees are not the frontrunners for Halladay. The Angels and Red Sox have also offered large packages for the former Cy Young Award winner. 
But it appears Cashman’s interest is not as casual as once thought and he now envisions a rotation of Sabathia, Halladay, Pettitte and Burnett. If Cashman lands Halladay the Yankees could lure David Wells out of retirement to pitch as the No. 5 starter and still win 115 games.
The only question is will the cost of Montero and a Hughes or Chamberlain be worth it in light of the loss of the 22-year-old five-tool star in Jackson?
LACK-ING COURAGE

Reports indicate the Yankees are also involved in talks to sign John Lackey, perhaps to cover their bases if they do not land Halladay.
Lackey is generally accorded to be the best free-agent pitcher available this winter and he is seeking a deal similar to the one A.J. Burnett signed with the Yankees last winter. 
The big advantage of signing Lackey is that — because Lackey is a Type A free agent — the Yankees would only have to part with two selections in the annual baseball draft next summer and they can keep Montero and their two best young pitchers in Chamberlain and Hughes.
Don’t be surprised, though, if Cashman is just paying lip service to these potential deals for Halladay and Lackey in order to drive up their cost to the rival Red Sox. Cashman is aware the Red Sox have a lot of holes to fill on their roster for 2010, including having to offer a mega-deal contract to either retain outfielder Jason Bay or sign free-agent outfielder Matt Holliday.
If the Red Sox fail to land one of those two outfielders they will be hard-pressed to compete because of their other problems in right field and at third base. Driving up the cost of Halladay and Lackey will make it harder for the Red Sox to fill their other needs.
Remember the Yankees front office asked Cashman to reduce the Yankees’ 2009 payroll of $201 million by $15 million for 2010. To land Halladay or Lackey would seem to pushing the payroll in the opposite direction.
WELCOME MATSUI

On Tuesday, Cashman met with Hideki Matsui’s agent Arn Tellem in what Cashman referred to as an “informative” session.
“[Tellem] answered certain things for me that I’ll be able to utilize in my meetings with my staff and talk to ownership about, too,” Cashman said. “I got some information that was important.”
Cashman indicated that if the Yankees were to sign the World Series MVP it would only be as a designated hitter. That would stand to reason since the Yankees traded for a new center fielder in Granderson and they have Melky Cabrera available to play left field if free agent Johnny Damon signs elsewhere.
The Yankees have said they likely will sign either Damon or Matsui and not both. It now appears after the Granderson deal that either Damon and Matsui would be signed to play DH. Matsui has a pair surgically repaired knees and Damon has chronic calf issues and he has a weak arm in left.
Damon told the New York Post he does not believe the Granderson acquisition affects his chances of returning to the Yankees at all.
“I don’t think it affects what I can still do,” Damon said. “Either they come out and pursue me or they don’t. I still know how to play baseball and will make any team better.”
Stay tuned . . .

Yanks Deal A-Jax, Coke And Kennedy For Granderson


WINTER MEETINGS
DAY TWO

The future is now in the Bronx.
The New York Yankees and General Manager Brian Cashman mortgaged the most valuable piece of the team’s future in Austin Jackson by trading him to the Detroit Tigers for Curtis Granderson.
The rumored three-team deal between the Yankees, Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks was agreed to in principle by the three teams Tuesday morning in Indianapolis.
The Yankees received the 29-year-old center fielder Granderson from the Tigers and they sent their five-tool center fielder of the future in Jackson to the Tigers. The Yankees also sent left-hand reliever Phil Coke to the Tigers and right-hand starter Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks.
The Tigers and Diamondbacks also swapped three right-hand starters in the deal. The Tigers received Max Scherzer and pitching prospect Daniel Schelereth while the Diamondbacks picked up Edwin Jackson.
Granderson, who hit .249 with 30 home runs, 71 RBIs and 20 stolen bases last season, brings his left-hand bat into new Yankee Stadium, where he could take advantage of the short  porch in right field. However, he hit only two home runs and batted .183 in 181 at-bats against left-handers last season. He also strikes out more than twice as much as he walks.
Patience is not a Granderson virtue.
But Granderson is a very good defensive outfielder and he will take over as the team’s center fielder. Melky Cabrera, who played center field most of last season, likely will move to left field.
GOOD NEWS FOR MATSUI?
The Yankees reportedly are interested in signing one of their two outfield free agents: Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. It is hard to read into the Granderson deal directly but it would seem that Matsui might be the choice for the Yankees to sign now.
Granderson likely would become the Yankees leadoff hitter and Derek Jeter would return to bat second. Damon, who hit .282 with a career-best-tying 24 home runs and 82 RBIs last season, is seeking a four-year deal at age 36. He spent most of his career as a leadoff hitter but was moved to second last season.
The Yankees are reluctant to go any further with Damon than two years guaranteed and perhaps a club option for a third season. But the Yankees are sure to let Damon go if any team offers him three or more years.
That would be good news for Matsui, who although he could not play the outfield last season still hit .274 with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs in only 456 at-bats. Matsui also is the only player the Yankees had on the roster in 2009 that could adequately protect Alex Rodriguez in the No. 5 spot in the batting order.
But either way, the Yankees are not likely to play either Damon or Matsui in the outfield on a regular basis now. Matsui has had surgery to both knees and Damon’s weak arm is a real liability to the Yankees. This past season a National League team scored a pitcher from second on a single to Damon and teams were even running slow-footed catchers from second base on him.
It appears both players would be limited to DH for the Yankees if they were signed.
YANKEES PART WITH A-JAX
But the biggest loss for the Yankees is the 22-year-old Jackson, who hit .300 with four home runs, 65 RBIs and 24 stolen bases at Scranton-Wilkes Barre last season. Scouts rated him the best athlete in the Yankees’ organization and they projected he would eventually hit for 20 home-run power at the major-league level.
The Tigers likely will give Jackson a chance to make their major-league roster in 2010 and replace Granderson as the team’s center fielder.
The Yankees also traded Coke, 27, who was 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA with two saves last season as the team’s primary left-hander out of the bullpen. Coke lost his job in the postseason when Damaso Marte, finally recovered from a shoulder injury, pitched better than Coke in the playoffs.
The Yankees also dealt 25-year-old right-hand starter Ian Kennedy. Kennedy actually made the Yankees’ roster in 2008 as a starter but was quickly sent out after posting an 0-4 record with a 8.17 ERA in nine starts. 
His 2009 season was marred because of an aneurysm discovered under his right armpit. He had surgery to repair the problem on May 12 and returned to pitch in August. Kennedy posted a 1-0 record and a 1.59 ERA in four starts at Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He also shined in a stint in the Arizona Fall League, which encouraged the Diamondbacks enough to ask for him in the deal.

ONE AND DUNN

The one saving grace is that Cashman did manage to hold on to left-hand reliever Michael Dunn, who the Yankees’ lone representative in the Futures All-Star Game this fall. Dunn, 24, a converted outfielder, also pitched well in the Arizona Fall League.

Though Dunn is a strikeout pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, he still needs to work on his command of the strike zone. Once he conquers that he likely will replace Coke as the team’s second left-hander in the bullpen.

Dunn was originally reported to have been joining Coke in the trade to Detroit but Cashman likely realized it did not make much sense to trade the second- and third-best left-hand relievers in the organization in one deal. 

Dunn is a very good prospect and keeping him out this deal was a big coup for Cashman.

MORE MOVES?

With Granderson aboard what other deals are lurking for the Yankees?

Cashman, who never let on the Granderson deal was in the works, likely will continue to play it close to the vest. But it would appear that with Kennedy gone and the Yankees close to re-signing Andy Pettitte that the team will not be too active in a potential free-agent signing of John Lackey or a trade for Roy Halladay.

The reason is that Cashman has been asked to cut $15 million in payroll for the 2010 season.

Lackey would be looking for a deal similar to the deal the Yankees gave A.J. Burnett last season and any trade for Halladay would have to include negotiations to extend his contract past 2010 and would cost similar money that CC Sabathia received last season.

That would not exactly jive with the Yankees’ desire to cut payroll and get younger. But, then again, the Yankees did not exactly meet that goal with the Granderson deal. Granderson will be paid $5.5 million this season but his contract jumps to $8.5 million next season and $10 million in 2012.

HARDEN FAST RULE

The Yankees might be looking for bargain free-agent pitching help. With veteran left-hander Randy Wolf looking to be headed to the Brewers, the Yankees might turn their sites to Rich Harden, a 29-year-old right-hander who was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 31 starts with the Cubs last season.

Harden, whose career has been marred by arm problems, has now made 51 starts his last two seasons and he is combined 19-11 in those starts. The Yankees may feel he is cheaper alternative to slot as a No. 4 starter and would allow the Yankees to move Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen and Phil Hughes back to a starter in the No. 5 spot.

The Yankees having already dealt Brian Bruney and Coke may be signalling that Chamberlain may return to his setup role ahead of closer Mariano Rivera.

Hughes, who likely would be limited to about 130 innings under the same rules that applied to Chamberlain, could be switched to the bullpen at midseason to hold down his innings pitched. The Yankees use swingman Chad Gaudin as a No. 5 starter to replace Hughes.

WANG’S STATUS IN LIMBO

The Yankees are unlikely to offer arbitration to Chien-Ming Wang, which will make him a free agent. But the Yankees might look to retain him at a lower price tag. 

Wang, who had surgery to repair his right shoulder, may not be able to return to the mound until June, is currently working out and rehabbing his shoulder in Taiwan. It is unclear whether Wang will be able to harness the sinker that was his trademark pitch when he won 19 games for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007.

Wang suffered a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot running the bases in Houston in May 2008 which ended his season. Last season, he started the season with an 0-4 record and an ERA over 30 before the Yankees discovered he had a weakness in both hips as a result of not being able to work out on his injured foot in the winter.

Wang spent a month on the disabled list and seemed to be rounding back into form when he injured his right shoulder. Wang had surgery to repair his labrum and missed the rest of the season. By re-signing Wang at a cheaper cost as a free agent, it will give the Yankees another pitching option for 2010. 

Stay tuned . . .


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.