So Long, Johnny Damon: Why the New York Yankees Should Just Say Goodbye

GregCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24:  New York Yankee Johnny Damon poses for a photo at the top of the Empire State Building on November 24, 2009 in New York City. Johnny Damon was a guest speaker to proclaim today as Jimmie Johnson Day in NYC. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the winter meetings over and the non-tender deadlines past, news is coming in very slowly.

I'm sure there will be a ton of signings over the next few weeks since there are seemingly endless numbers of free agents available.

The most recent bits of news that have been passed along are in regard to Johnny Damon. Brian Hoch tells us that Damon's agent Scott Boras doesn't think Johnny deserves a pay cut and is still looking for a three-year deal worth $13 million annually.

Now, Boras doesn't expect to actually get that much. I mean, as an agent it is your job to start high and get your client the best deal possible.

So I have no problem with Damon's current demands, but I don't think he'll get anything close to a three-year, $39 million deal. Brian Cashman has increasingly shown a stubbornness that is great for bargaining. George King checked in with Damon, and negotiations have not yet even begun.

I have the feeling that Cashman has the upper hand here. In early or mid-November, we heard that the Giants were interested in Damon, but we haven't heard him connected to any other teams since then. Depending on the type of deal that Damon demands, I'm not sure he really is the best option available for the Yankees at this point.

After Bobby Abreu signed his deal, it looked like Damon was in line for a similar deal—around two years and $20 million. I don't know for sure if that's what he'll get, but that's what I'm basing my thoughts on.

The Yankees are allegedly working under a budget. I'm sure they would be willing to break the bank for the right player, but I don't think that player is currently available on the free agent market. Signing Damon for $10 million a year would definitely eat up a chunk of the remaining budget.

While the other guys I'm thinking of don't have the big name that Johnny Damon does, it's likely that they'll provide just as much value to a major league team. There have been major strides towards valuing defense appropriately over the last year, but a player like Damon is still overvalued while a guy like with inferior offensive skills but superior defensive skills is undervalued.

On that front, I see plenty of players available who are good bets to replace Damon at a fraction of the cost. Just to name a few, I think Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd could rival Damon's expected production in 2010. I'm not going to pretend to know what it will take to get a player like these two signed, but I imagine it will be a lesser commitment than what it would take to get Damon signed.

Adding a left fielder on the cheap who is superior to Melky Cabrera gives the Yankees a ton of flexibility and options. As Cashman recently said, there are a ton of designated hitters looking for jobs who will be signed on the cheap.

Whether that means bringing Hideki Matsui back or signing a Jack Cust or Jim Thome, it doesn't matter. Going with this LF/DH plan would allow the Yankees to unload Melky (I don't think they'll be able to get much for him) and leave them with the payroll flexibility to go out and sign a starter that they like.

Basically, I think that if the Yankees let Johnny Damon walk away, they'll end up with a better team on the field in 2010 than if they held onto him. Past that, they also won't be locked into a contract with a poor-defending 37-year-old outfielder in 2011.

Obviously, if you want a rotating DH system, this isn't likely a move you agree with. How about you just start your DH in 110 games or so? That would still allow everyone to get suitable rest without sacrificing a spot in the lineup.

The more I think about it, the more this game plan makes sense. I think that's why we haven't seen Cashman get aggressive with Damon, and that's why he won't succumb to Boras' demands. There are better options out there, and I have faith in Cashman to analyze them and get the best product on the field. This all begins with letting Johnny Damon go.