If the door was slightly ajar before Wednesday, it's certainly been shut completely on Johnny Damon's return to the Yankees. The final push came when New York signed free agent switch-hitter Randy Winn to what is reportedly a one-year, $2 million contract.
Winn, who can play all outfield positions, hit .262 with two homers and 51 RBI in 149 games for the Giants last year. He also brings speed, with 56 stolen bases in 63 attempts over the past three seasons.
But Winn, who will be 36 on June 9, had just a .318 on-base percentage and hit only .158 (19-for-120) from the right side in 2009.
The veteran should do fine as the Yankees' fourth outfielder, but this move did nothing to improve the team's shaky starting three.
Last year, Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher combined to bat .269 with 66 home runs and 232 RBI.
The projected 2010 lineup of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Swisher combined to hit .253 with 62 homers and 176 RBI in '09.
So why didn't New York just re-sign Damon, who is only seven months older than Winn? The answer appears to be money.
After the team inked Granderson from Detroit, Damon and his agent, Scott Boras, reportedly dropped their asking price from $13 million to $10 million, but the Yanks countered with $7 million per season for a two-year deal. Following the acquisitions of Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez, New York then indicated that it only had about $2 million to spend on an outfielder.
With Damon still dangling in the wind, it's hard to believe that the free agent would have rejected $7 million a year to return to where he had just won a World Series. So why is general manager Brian Cashman telling fans he couldn't afford to spend $5 million more to get a better hitter?
Last season, Damon hit .282 with 24 homers and 82 RBI and has been equally effective on the base-paths as Winn, swiping 68 bags in 79 attempts since 2007.
The Yankees did save some money this offseason, but they have done it while sacrificing prospects and talent in the outfield.
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Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.