Results tagged ‘ Matt Holliday ’

Nady Signing Raises Doubts About Yankees’ Goals

We have heard all winter that the New York Yankees could not re-sign Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui because of their restricted budget.
That also was the reason why the Yankees passed on “Cadillac” free agent outfielders like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay.
Then we heard that the Yankees were looking at low-cost options like Reed Johnson and Rocco Baldelli. General manager Brian Cashman also said that Xavier Nady was out of the Yankees’ price range.
When Matsui signed with the Los Angeles Angels for $6 million Cashman said Matsui never would have accepted $6 million from the Yankees. Do we know that for sure?
The Yankees, Cashman said, now have only about $2 million to spend on a right-handed-hitting outfielder.
Then the news comes Tuesday that the Chicago Cubs had signed Nady to a one-year contract for a guaranteed $3.3 million with about $2 million in incentives for games played. The deal is pending a physical to determine if Nady’s second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow is progressing on schedule.
Hmmm!
Since when do the Yankees pass on an outfielder who hit 25 home runs, drove in 97 runs and batted .305 in his last healthy season over a meager $3.3 million?
Ever since George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees the team has spent lavishly on free agents. For every signing of a Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter there have also been mistakes like Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa.
But Yankee fans never had a doubt that the front office was trying to put the best team it could on the field — until now.
This haggling all off-season with Damon has really been belittling to one free-agent signing the Yankees did not have to regret. 
Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, the self-proclaimed smartest man in baseball, determined Damon was too old and was breaking down at age 32. Rather than satisfy Damon’s demand for a four-year contract, Epstein dealt for Coco Crisp instead.
Four years later Crisp is long gone from the Red Sox roster and Damon is coming off four seasons where he played 141 or more games and averaged 19 home runs, 74 RBIs and batted .285. He also averaged 23 stolen bases.
Oh yeah, Damon has a weak arm in left field and he also has had issues with calf injuries. But he also has been on the disabled just once in 15 major league seasons. Damon also was the man at the plate in the World Series that took Brad Lidge through that long clutch at-bat that led to a single, a steal of second and the grand larceny of third that set the stage for the Yankees comeback victory in Game 4.
But budgets are budgets, I guess. The Yankees can’t afford Johnny.
That still does not explain Nady. Cashman told us he was out of the Yankees price range. Yet he signs for a piddling $3.3 million. What is going on here?
Nady did everything he could to help the Yankees after they traded for him and Damaso Marte in the middle of the 2008 season. In the deal to acquire Nady, Cashman traded the Yankees best outfield prospect in 20-year-old Jose Tabata.
This winter the Yankees traded their best outfield prospect in Austin Jackson to obtain Curtis Granderson.
I find it odd that the Yankees plead poverty on the one hand and on the other hand trade promising outfield prospects away to obtain guys like Nady and Granderson. Then when those veterans get to the end of their contracts we can’t afford to bring them back and the cupboard is bare of prospects to replace them. 
Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep the younger prospects in the first place? That way they can be signed for contracts like $2 million until they hit their free-agent years. My point is that I would feel a whole lot better going into the 2010 season with the Yankees trying to adhere to a budget if they had guys like Tabata and Jackson on the roster instead of Brett Gardner, Jamie Hoffman and Greg Golson.
That would at least mean that the Yankees were trying to fill a position of need with some homegrown talent instead of veteran retreads like Reed Johnson and Rocco Baldelli. If the Yankees fail to repeat as world champions in 2010 will Yankee fans exclaim “That is OK. At least they stayed within their 2010 budget”?
I don’t think so. I think Yankee fans will see a young Jackson playing well for the Tigers, a young Tabata progressing to the majors with the Pirates, a veteran Nady pounding home runs at Wrigley Field and a Damon getting clutch hits with whomever he finally signs and ask why aren’t they in Yankee uniforms.
This winter’s events also puts an awful lot of pressure on Gardner too. Though I like him a lot, if he hits .250 or ends up on the disabled list for three months than this whole winter dance of the dollar by Cashman will be wasted without another championship banner to display.
I sure hope Cashman knows what he is doing because it sure is looking gloomy to me.

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.”

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 . . . 

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.

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 . . .

Cashman May Be Less Busy At 2009 Winter Meetings




Gentlemen, start your negotiating!

The Winter Meetings opened this morning in the racing capital of Indianapolis and there are a litany of teams out to do some (Matt) Holliday shopping. Some teams are looking for a few good luxury items. Others are out for stocking-stuffer bargains. 

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman arrived with a far scaled-back shopping list compared to last season’s $435 million bonanza he eventually doled out to CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. After winning their 27th world championship, the Yankees are looking to use pruning shears on the roster rather than a hacksaw.

Cashman is always one to hold his cards close to the vest. Few expected him to land Teixeira after sitting out all of the early rounds of negotiations last season. What surprises are in store this season?

Let’s look at some possibilities:

THE PETTITTE DECISION

Cashman already knows that Andy Pettitte has decided that he wants to return to pitch for the Yankees in 2010. According to ESPN.com Pettitte rejected the Yankees’ initial offer of $10 million for one season.
Pettitte, who earned $16 million in 2007, rejected the Yankees’ offer of $12 million last season only to be left helpless as the free-agent market imploded. He was signed in late January for a base deal of $5.5 million with incentives that brought the deal to $11 million. So though Pettitte took a major salary haircut in 2008, he is looking to cash in on his success in 2009.
Pettitte was 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA but shined in the playoffs, having won all the important clinching games for the Yankees: the pennant clincher, the American League Division Series clincher, the American League Championship Series clincher and the World Series clincher. 
Pettitte is 229-135 with a 3.91 ERA in his career and he is third on the all-time Yankees win list with 192. He only trails Yankee legends Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing.
Sources say that Pettitte and the Yankees are likely to come to an agreement soon and the fact that Pettitte is aboard for 2010 would mean the Yankees now might not be looking for a top-flight starter such as John Lackey or Roy Halladay.
THE SECOND TIER

Before the Winter Meetings began, the Yankees convened organizational meetings in Tampa. Even “The Boss,” George Steinbrenner, participated in those meetings. Cashman also was given his budget for 2010 and it looks as if the Yankees want to trim $15 million off their 2009 payroll of $201 million.
That likely means the Yankees will not be actively pursuing the “big prizes” of Lackey, Holliday, Halladay and Jason Bay. 
Instead, the Yankees might be looking at second-tier starting pitchers like righthander Rich Harden and lefthander Randy Wolf. 
My sources tell me that Harden is of particular interest to the Yankees because scouting reports indicate he is healthy and coming off a solid season with the Cubs. He was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA but what has the Yankees excited about him is strikeout to walk ratio. He had 171 strikeouts and 67 walks.
Harden also just turned 29 and the Yankees feel he can put his past arm problems behind him. After his breakout 2004 season with the Oakland Athletics where he was 11-7 with a 3.99 ERA, Harden has been plagued by recurring arm problems.
In his past two seasons, he has made 51 starts and is a combined 19-11 with a 3.67 ERA with Oakland and the Cubs. He was 10-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 2007 for the A’s and Cubs before struggling last season.
But because the Yankees would only need him as a No. 4 starter behind Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte, Harden would not be counted upon to be the ace he was in Oakland and his past arm problems will certainly lower his price tag.
Wolf is older than Harden at age 33 but he is coming off a very good season with the National League West-champion Dodgers. He was 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA. Wolf, like Harden, also battled arm problems from 2004 through 2007. 
But Wolf has recovered to make 67 starts the past two seasons. He has averaged 161 strikeouts and 65 walks the past two years, which is better than a 2-1 ratio. Though Wolf is older than Harden, the Yankees look at Wolf as less of gamble health-wise.
Signing either one of these pitchers would give the Yankees some flexibility with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. 
Though the Yankees are not saying it because they can’t — yet — the front office now believes Chamberlain is better suited as a bullpen setup man and the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer.
After struggling last season with his command and showing an inability to go deep into his starts, Chamberlain’s postseason work out of the bullpen convinced the Yankee top brass that he could be of more value working in relief.
Hughes, on the other hand, would be returned to a starting role. But because of the same rules that applied to Joba, Hughes would be limited to about 130 innings as a starter in 2010. So Hughes likely would open the season as the No. 5 starter and then be shifted to the bullpen at midseason to keep his innings pitched down.
Chad Gaudin, who was acquired as a swingman last season, would likely take over as the No. 5 starter for Hughes.
The signing of either Harden or Wolf would also allow the Yankees to trade either Hughes or Chamberlain in a mega-deal to acquire Halladay from the Blue Jays. If Chamberlain is dealt, Hughes would be converted to a reliever and become a setup man in the bullpen. If Hughes is traded, Chamberlain would not be needed as a starter at all.
But the likelihood of a Halladay deal would fade if the Red Sox back out of the negotiations. The Yankees’ interest in Halladay is predicated strictly on keeping him from going to the Red Sox.
If the Blue Jays swung a deal for Halladay with the Cubs, the Yankees would be pleased because they would have saved their prize prospects like Hughes, Chamberlain, catchers Jesus Montero and Austin Romine and outfielder Austin Jackson. They also would save money in any long-term contract they would have to strike with Halladay to keep him from free agency in 2011.
So the Yankees just are in defense mode with Halladay. They will only get into the bidding if it looks like the Red Sox are close to getting him. Otherwise, they will look elsewhere.
THE OUTFIELD

Cashman’s only other real assignment this off-season is to find a leftfielder or designated hitter. 
Currently, the Yankees have an opening in leftfield with Johnny Damon a free agent. The same for DH Hideki Matsui. Insiders say in order to meet the team demands to trim some payroll, the Yankees can only offer a deal to keep one of the two.
Before the playoffs began, the Yankees reportedly were leaning on keeping Damon. But Matsui’s World Series MVP performance had them recalibrating their strategy. Matsui is the team’s only legitimate No. 5 hitter to protect Alex Rodriguez.
Matsui has also made it known that he does not wish to return to Japan and he only wants to play for the Yankees. But the sticking point is the health of Matsui’s knees. Matsui was unab
le to play the outfield last season and the Yankees are not sure if Matsui can play the outfield anymore.
Because manager Joe Girardi would like to rotate the DH position among his veterans like Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees might let Matsui walk and re-sign Damon.
But Damon and his “pain in the rear end” agent Scott Boras are seeking a four-year deal and the Yankees are looking to offer perhaps just two years. Damon also will be seeking more money. Matsui, because he was limited to DH and has fewer options, would cost considerably less to sign and he may accept two years.
Either way he goes, Cashman has a difficult choice to make.
TRADEWINDS

Lost amid Cashman signings of Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira was the “steal of a deal” Cashman made with the White Sox last season. 
Cashman shipped off utility infielder Wilson Betemit to the White Sox for outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher. Swisher originally was acquired to replace free agent Jason Giambi as the team’s first baseman.
However, when the Yankees decided to get into the Teixeira talks and landed him, Swisher became a backup outfielder. But when Xavier Nady blew out his elbow in April, Swisher eventually took over and became the starting rightfielder.
Swsiher ended up hitting 29 home runs, driving in 82 runs and had an on-base percentage of .371 because he drew 97 walks. 
In many ways, this may have been Cashman’s best off-season move because after the loss of Nady, Swisher saved the Yankees’ season by playing so well in right.
Rumors surfaced the Yankees were offering Swisher in trade talks this winter. But I have heard this is not true. Swisher is signed through 2011 and the Yankees can’t afford to deal Swisher with Damon and Matsui on the market as free agents.
But what deals might Cashman make?
The only crying need will be the bench because the Yankees likely will let backup catcher Jose Molina and utility players Jerry Hairston Jr. and Eric Hinske go to save payroll dollars.
Rookie Francisco Cervelli seems to deserve a shot to back up Posada and Ramiro Pena could end up replacing Hairston. The Yankees may look to make a trade for a backup outfielder to replace Hinske or Juan Miranda might be given a shot to make the team as first baseman and DH.
The Yankees do have some prospects they could deal. They also have a glut of relievers to dangle out as bait this winter. But the Yankees seem determined to keep Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves and David Robertson as the heart of their younger bullpen. The Yankees also will keep veteran lefty Damaso Marte, who redeemed himself with a sparkling postseason.
But do not be surprised if Brian Bruney is shopped. If Chamberlain returns as a reliever, Bruney would seem to be expendable. Young Mark Melancon could also go.
NOTE: After this was written, the Yankees announced they had sent Bruney to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later. The fact no prominent player was involved shows how little value Bruney had after two injury-marred seasons.
There also have been rumors the Yankees might deal Robinson Cano but I doubt this serious talk. There simply is no one in the organization ready to start at second base and it would seem silly to deal Cano’s smallish contract for a veteran who might demand more. So do not look for a return of Orlando Hudson to the Bronx.
RED SOX ARE BUYERS

The Red Sox signing of Marco Scutaro to take over their revolving door at shortstop shows they intend to be aggressive in addressing their needs at the Winter Meetings. 
But because Jason Bay rejected their ridiculous low-ball offer of four years and $60 million and the signings of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito by the Braves, the Red Sox are going to have to dole out some serious bucks to get back into contention in the AL East.
If they lose Bay, they will be forced to overspend to get Holliday. If they really want Halladay, they are going to have to part with Clay Buchholz and three or so other minor-league prospects.
If they do that, they will not have a package of players on hand to pry first baseman Adrian Gonzalez away from the Padres. And GM Theo Epstein really covets Gonzalez. Sources say he wants him more than he wants Halladay.
But any way you slice it, the Red Sox have a lot of holes to fill plus their desire to unload Mike Lowell this winter. They also are rumored to be shopping Jonathan Papelbon before he walks as a free agent in 2011. 
But if they do not land Bay or Holliday to play left, they may be sunk. 
The Mariners are making a big run at Bay because Bay is a native of nearby British Columbia. The fact they have signed Chone Figgins shows they are legitimate players this offseason.
Rumors also have it that Holliday would prefer to remain the National League because of his hellish brief stay in Oakland last season. That would be very bad news for the Red Sox.
You can honestly say their payroll will have to increase dramatically this winter. If they win the championship in 2010 can the Yankees claim they bought it?
Stay tuned . . .

Yankees Might Want To Pass On Granderson

The first big juicy trade rumor of the Hot Stove season came out of the recent winter meeting in Chicago. 
The Detroit Tigers, a team steeped with a huge payroll and yet not getting much in results on the field in the American Central, have dangled centerfielder Curtis Granderson as trade bait.
Granderson, 28, is an excellent fielding ceterfielder who is coming off a season in which he hit 30 home runs, drove in 71 runs and hit .249 for the Tigers. 
In his past three seasons with the Tigers, largely as the team’s leadoff hitter, Granderson has averaged 25 home runs, 70 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 108 runs scored and a .277 average.
 
Granderson also was the starting centerfielder for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic last spring.
The Yankees were mentioned as a potential landing spot for Granderson because the Yankees might lose outfielders Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon to free agency. The word came out of Chicago via SI.com that General Manager Brian Cashman met with the Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski in Chicago.
If the Yankees are willing to pony up some top prospects and young major-league stars, Granderson is all theirs. But that is the stumbling block. Trades are dicey because you may want to hold on to 22-year-old outfielders like Austin Jackson, who may prove to be more valuable and better than Granderson.
The Yankees also have a good young third baseman in Brandon Laird, the brother of Tigers catcher Gerald Laird.
The other problem is the Tigers surely will want to talk about pitchers like Phil Hughes, David Roberston and even Joba Chamberlain. I am not sure the Yankees can afford to be shipping out any of their young pitchers for Granderson.
Here is another big downside to acquiring Granderson: You may have to sit him every time the Yankees face a left-handed starter. Granderson simply can’t hit them to save his life.
In 180 at-bats against left-handers last season, Granderson had two home runs, nine RBIs and batted a paltry .183. And should you choose to platoon Granderson with another Yankees centerfielder you do not have any choices.
Melky Cabrera most likely would shift to left to replace Damon and even if Damon was re-signed, Cabrera is a better hitter from the left side. Backup centerfielder Brett Gardner bats left-handed also. 
Could the Yankees bear with a starting centerfielder who hits .183 against lefties to play every day? I am not sure it makes sense.
Plus, Granderson is not a typical leadoff hitter. He strikes out nearly twice as much as he walks. In his last two seasons he has averaged 71 walks and 126 strike outs. That means he is not the patient hitter like most of the Yankees are.
He also is not a gifted basestealer, despite the fact he is very fast. He had 23 triples in 2006. Though he has a 85% success rate on the bases the past three seasons, Granderson never has reached the 30- or 40-steal mark scouts had predicted for him. 
On the surface Granderson appears to be a good alternative for the Yankees. But when you dig a little deeper you can see why the Tigers may be willing to shop him now. In my opinion, Cashman and the Yankees should take a pass on him
BAY WINDOW

Reports say that outfielder Jason Bay turned down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Red Sox to test the free-agent waters this winter. This can’t be good news for Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, the self-proclaimed “smartest man in baseball.”
Epstein obviously hoped this dreadfully underwhelming offer would coax Bay into not seeking other offers. But it looks to me like Epstein was merely playing to the Boston media and Red Sox Nation rather than really being serious with signing Bay.
It is no secret that the Red Sox really covet Matt Holliday and they want him more than they want Bay. Though they both are great right-hand power hitters, Holliday is considered the better hitter of the two.
If the Red Sox fail to sign Holliday and a Bay with wounded pride spurns the Red Sox too, there will be hell to pay for Epstein. 
The team is already in the market for a shortstop and it is no secret they want to find a replacement for Mike Lowell at third base. They could solve that by trading for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and moving Kevin Youkilis to third.
But they also have issues in right field, uncertainty about whether David Ortiz will continue to decline and they may need another starting pitcher. They also have to decide if they want to make a long-term commitment to Jonathan Papelbon as their closer or deal him before he becomes a free agent at the end of 2010.
Whatever course they decide to do about Holliday and Bay, this off-season is going to cost the Bosox some young prospects and awful lot of currency to get back into contention with the Yankees in the American League East.
The fact that the Cubs are in the bidding for Blue Jays’ ace Roy Halliday also can’t be good news to the Epstein either. The more suitors get into the game, the more talent the Red Sox will have to part with for Halliday and we know how Epstein like to operate: Give up nothing and rob the other GM blind.
I am not sure it will work this winter. Theo better keep that gorilla suit pressed and cleaned.

Lackey Likely Yankees’ No. 1 Free Agent Target

Earlier. we reviewed the Yankees seven free agents and assessed whether they would likely be kept or not. Another aspect that could determine their fate is whether the Yankees intend to shop seriously in the free-agent market to patch holes or replace what they are losing. Last season, General Manager Brian Cashman jumped in with both feet and came up with two starters and a first baseman. Will he do it again or will he just dip his toe in the water? Let”s see what is out there.

OUTFIELDERS

There are only three potential outfielders in whom the Yankees might have an interest: Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. You could plug in Chone Figgins here also because he can play the outfield as well as the infield.

Holliday is considered the cream of the crop. After having two monster seasons with the Colorado Rockies in 2006 and 2007, Holliday’s numbers slipped in 2008 (25 HRs, 88 RBIs, .321 average). Knowing his free agent season was looming, the Rockies dealt him to the Oakland A’s and Holliday’s stock dropped even further.

Though Holliday was surrounded by non-power hitters like Orlando Cabrera and Kurt Suzuki in a punchless A’s’ lineup, he did himself no favors by hitting .286 with 11 HRs and 54 RBIs in 93 games before the A’s traded him to the Cardinals. 

Holliday then became a beast again, pounding 13 home runs, driving in 55 runs and batting .313 hitting behind Albert Pujols. He helped lead the Cardinals to the Central Division championship, though his horrific error in leftfield cost the Cardinals dearly in the playoffs.

The Cardinals would love to have him stay and they do have enough Budweiser dollars to keep him. But the Cardinals have made it clear they will not get in a bidding war with the Yankees or Red Sox. The Red Sox would seem to have the most interest because they are not sure they can sign Bay and Holliday is a better player in their view.

The Yankees could sit it out entirely if they plan to re-sign Johnny Damon and/or Hideki Matsui. But I do think that Cashman will at least take a pulse on what Holliday is looking for in terms of dollars and years and see if the Yankees can make a reasonable bid. But it stands to reason that if the Yankees do land Holliday, Damon and Matsui are gone.

Holliday would give the Yankees another strong right-hand bat. The Yankees likely would bat Alex Rodriguez third, Mark Teixeira fourth and Holliday fifth and Holliday’s presence would certainly give the Yankees a true Murderer’ Row in the power slots.

Signing Bay would accomplish two things: It gives the Yankees another powerful right-hand bat to replace Matsui and it creates a big hole in the Red Sox outfield if they can’t sign Holliday to replace him. 

Bay, who came to the Red Sox in midseason trade from the Pirates to replace Manny Ramirez, had 36 home runs and 119 RBIs and hit .267 in 2009. Though the Red Sox would love for him to return, Bay has a chance to cash in on a huge payday because he and Holliday are the only true power hitters in this year’s free-agent crop.

Because the Red Sox also have so many other spots on their roster to fill, Bay or Holliday could drive up their payroll for 2010 considerably. There are also other teams in the mix who have the money to make a run at the two outfielders.

The Mets, the Cubs and the Angels certainly have the resources to sign either one. The Yankees interest in Bay will only come if (1) Holliday signs elsewhere and (2) they have decided not to make an effort to keep Damon and Matsui.

Figgins might be an interesting signing for the Yankees. No. 1, Figgins is a very talented and versatile player. The Angels played him at third base out of necessity but Figgins has also played second base, shortstop and in the outfield.

Last season he raised his on-base percentage to a sparkling .395 by drawing a career-high 101 walks. He batted .298 with five home runs and 54 RBIs and he stole 42 bases and scored 114 runs. His horrible postseason aside, Figgins has been a thorn in the Yankees’ side for years at the plate, in the field and on the bases.

He could solve the Damon “problem” by taking over in either left or centerfield for Damon and batting leadoff ahead of Derek Jeter. The captain has distinguished himself in both spots and really would not care if he hit second again. 

Figgins is 31, which is usually when the wheels starting slowing down some. But, make no mistake, Figgins would be the best speed player the Yankees have had since the days of Rickey Henderson and manager Joe Girardi likes the speed game to go along with the power game.

Of course, any signing of any of these players would not only be bad news to Damon and Matsui, they also would be bad news for Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson — young players who will be trying to take starting jobs in the next two seasons. 

Gardner’s stock has fallen some since he did not play well after he came back from a broken thumb that shelved him for two months. He enters 2010 as a backup outfielder. Jackson is considered two years away from helping the Yankees but is the best outfield prospect the Yankees have had since Bernie Williams.

STARTING PITCHING

There is only one real big fish swimming the free-agent stream and that is righthander John Lackey, the ace of the Angels with a 102-71 record and a 3.81 ERA in eight major-league seasons. Lackey shook off early elbow problems to post an 11-8 record and a 3.83 ERA this season.

The Angels would love to have him back, but because Lackey is the only real Type A starter this winter, he is going to reap a big bonanza in contract offers. Teams all over baseball need pitching and Lackey could be a No. 1 starter for most teams.

The Yankees are going to have an interest. A real interest.

For one reason, they are unsure if Andy Pettitte will return for another season. If he retires, they lose 14 regular season wins and a bulldog in the playoffs. Lackey would not be a bad replacement because he has 12 career postseason starts and he is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in those outings.

Another reason Lackey would make sense to sign is that, even if Pettitte decides to return, he can be a great fourth starter and allow the Yankees to shift Joba Chamberlain back to his former eighth inning bullpen role. Comparing Chamberlain’s stats as a starter to what he did in the bullpen in the postseason is no contest.

Chamberlain is better suited to be a reliever despite Cashman’s claims that he is a starter. We all know plans can change. Just ask Phil Hughes.

Speaking of Hughes, he will enter 2010 as a starter again, but he will be restricted to about 130 innings pitched. The likely scenario will be that Hughes will start the season in the rotation and shift to the bullpen in favor of swingman Chad Gaudin at about the All-Star break to keep his innings down.

That is all the more reason to h
ave Lackey in the fold. 

It also stands to reason the Yankees would like to have four pitchers they can count on in the playoffs. Though the three-man rotation ended up with the Yankees winning a championship, neither CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett or Pettitte pitched “lights-out” baseball in their second World Series starts. Lackey’s presence would mean the Yankees would not have to use that tactic again.

Finally, the Yankees are not sure what they have in Chien-Ming Wang. First, they are not sure they will re-sign him. They may choose to let him go and try to re-sign him for less money. Coming off serious shoulder surgery, it is unclear when Wang will be able to pitch. In addition, it is unknown if he will regain his 19-win form.

Lackey will draw interest from a number of teams, including the Cubs, Mets, Red Sox and the Rangers. But the Yankees do have the money to pony up to bring him to the Bronx. My guess is he is the No. 1 player on Cashman’s list of free agents.

The only other Type A starter is veteran lefty Randy Wolf and I do not think the Yankees will have much interest in him. 

I think Cashman will pull out all the stops to sign Lackey and he likely will pass on Bay and Holliday unless another depressed market drives down their prices. But also do not be surprised if Cashman makes a run at the cheaper option of Figgins to replace Damon and the Yankees decide to bring Matsui back.

Those moves would make the Yankees stronger for a run at championship No. 28 in 2010.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.