For a few weeks early in the season, Johnny Damon was the entire Yankee offense. At various times this season A-Rod was not yet back from hip surgery, Mark Teixeira was struggling in April, Xavier Nady was out (for the entire season now) and even Robinson Cano, who started so brilliantly with the bat, had begun to struggle, especially with runners in scoring position.
Damon sported a decent April with .295/.385/.500/.885 OPS with 4 homers and 10 ribbies, and in May he really hit well, hitting .304/.355/.565/.920 OPS with 10 doubles, six home runs, 25 runs scored and 21 RBI's, the most important stat on offense, including the two game winning HR's.
But in July, Damon has only put up a .227/.354/.364/.718 OPS with two homers and eight RBI's, three of which came in Thursday night's victory over Oakland. Defensively, he continues to be a nightmare, never looking sure even on the easiest of catches and still possessing that Little League throwing arm.
He does, however, lead the major leagues in broken bats.
Damon's 4 year/$52 million contract he signed before the 2005 season expires at the end of this year, and Damon seemingly has the ability to be an offensive force at the age of 36.
Despite his great start and production 2009 season, the Yankees should not sign the lefty hitting outfielder on a multi-year contract in the off season.
Many Yankee fans will disagree, and maybe even Yankees GM Brian Cashman will disagree, too. Both the fans and Cashman will think that the Yankees need Damon's offense and he could be a viable player for several more years.
Maybe he will, but the Yankees don't need him.
Even though Damon says he wants to stay in New York and play for the Yankees, he also has the desire to go for 3,000 career hits( he currently has 2,365). That means he needs to play four more seasons after 2009 and based upon a nice ending to 2009, Damon would for a three-year deal in the off season.
That is too much time for the Yankees, who need to continue to get younger as a team, not older. Without PED's in teh game today, getting younger and more versatile is the trend in baseball.
Think Kevin Youkilis and Ben Zobrist, not Johnny Damon.
The Yankees will likely be relieved of Hideki Matsui's contract (unless, of course, he has a big season, too and then the fans will want him back next year) and Xavier Nady, who has been nothing during his time with the Yankees.
They can therefore certainly afford Damon, but with youngsters Austin Jackson coming ready soon, and Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner becoming important parts for the Yankee team, is Damon (and a multi-year contract) what this team needs? The younger guys style of play is good for the team, so why bring back an aging player?
Where will the Yankees play him next year? Despite being only 22 and needing more seasoning at AAA, Jackson could be ready, Swisher is an New York media darling, while Gardner and Cabrera play great roles on this team and show they belong.
Damon won't play in left field as his defense is brutal and his arm is terrible. He looks timid out in the field, and just can not go back on this ball any more. Jackson, Cabrera, or a free agent signing (or trade) will patrol left field in 2010, especially if Matt Holliday impresses down the stretch for St. Louis.
Don't get me started on that free agent disaster waiting to happen.
Damon also can't exclusively DH, because where will Jorge Posada play most of his games next year? Posada is slowing down behind the plate (he is lazy and can't block pitches anymore) but will catch some in 2009, 2010 and 2011, as he is signed through those years.
As I mentioned previously, Montero is the next big bat for the Yankees.
The Yankees are all tied up with long term deals with Teixeira and A-Rod and don't need another aging, one dimensional player in Damon for the next several years. If Johnny wants to play towards getting 3,000 hits on one year deals for the next couple of seasons, that will be beneficial to both sides.
Brian Cashman could also offer Damon arbitration and seeing the landscape for aging veterans, hope that Damon accepts.
Seriously, with limited defense what National League team will take him? And where in the AL could he play?
Interestingly, Damon's best bet for 3,000 hits might be as a Yankee on a series of one-year deals hitting in front of Tex and A-Rod. Keeps him hungry and motivated. It is a much better scenario than going to play out his career in an unappetizing setting somewhere else.
Cashman needs to play hardball with Johnny Damon this off season, and let the broken bats fall where they may.