Free Agent at the End of the Season: Johnny Damon
There aren't too many players, who put up some of the best of numbers of their career at 35 years old.
But Johnny Damon is doing just that.
Even though Damon is past his supposed prime, he's still putting up fantastic numbers. While Damon remains a sub par outfielder with questionable arm strength at best, his offensive ability makes for a power hitting and run scoring machine.
So as Damon turns 36 next season, let's see what the market holds for this one time idiot turned Yankee:
The Case for Damon
When it comes to offensive production, there is nothing that Damon can't do. He can hit for a high average (.286 this season), get on base (.368 OBP in '09), and hit for power (24 HR so far). Additionally, he is still one of the top run scorers in baseball (100 runs scored). Damon hits both lefties (.281 this season) and righties (.289 this season) with equal aplomb. And yes, even at the age of 35, Damon still has 10 steals this season.
Whatever team that signs Damon will be acquiring one of the most well rounded offensive players in baseball today.
The Case Against Damon
Damon has one of the worst outfield arms in all of baseball. At this point in his career, watching Damon throw is painfully bad. Don't expect him to gun down any runners at the plate any time soon.
For the past two seasons, Damon has actually been a well above average defensive left fielder for the Yankees, which is stunning given his lack of arm strength. But Damon's superior range made up for it and made him an asset in the outfield. However, this season Damon's range has taken a nosedive and not surprisingly, fangraphs note that Damon's UZR has taken a dramatic decline from his '07-'08 levels and now sits at -8.9.
While there are a number of quality free agent corner outfielders out there this offseason, the one other corner outfielder that has a skillset similar to Damon is Bobby Abreu. Both guys are supposedly past their prime, but both are still very, very productive at the dish and not particulary good in the outfield.
Elias Ranking: Type A
The Yankees can afford to offer Damon arbitration. It's a win-win situation. If they can't come to terms with Damon on a long term deal they would get two draft picks or Damon's services in 2010. A raise from the 13 million he got this year is a huge risk, but I wouldn't count this option out just yet.
(rankings courtesy of MLBTR)
(2 years/$22 million with a third year option for $13 million)
Here are some comparable contracts:
-Raul Ibanez (3 years/$31 million)
-Adam Dunn (2 years/$20 million)
Damon's 2009 season has really put him back on the map as one of the game's best offensive talents. I have no doubt that he'll be paid for it. I don't think there's any doubt that the best place for Damon next season is back in pinstripes, where he's carved out a nice niche hitting behind Derek Jeter, scoring tons of runs, keeping the locker room loose, and hitting lots of home runs because of the Yankees ridiculously short right field.
The dollar amount here seems right because of Damon's production this season and I feel very comfortable giving Damon a two year deal because he's shown no signs of decline.
And you know what? If Damon is still able to produce after two years, then a $13 million dollar option is not a horrendous idea.
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