Damon, Yankees need to give a little
I like the idea of the Yankees signing Nick Johnson, but only if
they re-sign Johnny Damon, too.
This silliness needs to stop.
Damon and his agent, Scott Boras, need to realize that Damon
is 36, not 26. The Yankees need to realize that they are not some
mid-market club, but a big-money behemoth that can pay a little
more or a lot more, depending upon their mood.
The addition of Johnson as the team’s primary
designated hitter doesn’t preclude the return of Damon as a left
fielder/DH. At least it shouldn’t, unless the Yankees are
truly on a budget-slashing kick. At this point, I almost feel like
taking up a collection for them.
Johnson reportedly will cost the same as Granderson in 2010 –
$5.5 million. The Yankees gave left-hander Andy Pettitte a raise
from $10.5 million to $11.75 million. Damon is starting at a higher
number — $13 million — but why not give him a two-year deal at
that salary? The Yankees could trade right fielder Nick Swisher and
still claim they’re minding the budget, not that anyone buys
their little game of pretend.
General manager Brian Cashman was at his best last offseason
when he money-whipped the rest of baseball and bought three of the
best players on the market — left-hander CC Sabathia, right-hander
A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira. Obviously, the
Yankees can’t spend nearly half a billion every winter. But
for Damon, they can give a little, just as they did for Pettitte.
Of course, Damon and Boras need to give more.
We all get it, Scott: Damon is consistent. Damon is durable.
Damon, batting second, is a benefit to the Yankees’ leadoff
man, Derek Jeter.
But really, what rational individual believes that Damon will
be as good from 36 to 39 as he was from 32 to 35? And really, would
Damon rather go somewhere else simply for an extra year on his
contract? He is tremendously popular in New York, just as he was in
Boston. Yet, he’s on the verge of blowing it.
Cooler heads need to prevail, on both sides. Damon’s
best deal will be with the Yankees. And if Yankees lose Damon on
top of Hideki Matsui, they will be losing too much.
Much as a successful business needs institutional memory, the
Yankees need players who A) are proven in the post-season and B)
proven in New York.
Damon and Matsui qualify on both counts.
Exchanging them for Johnson and Curtis Granderson might be a
wash statistically — Johnson’s career OPS, when adjusted for
his park and league, actually is higher than Matsui’s, and
Granderson’s actually is higher than Damon’s. But
c’mon, which players would you rather see in October?
The equation, of course, is not that simple — Granderson,
28, is 7 1/2 years younger than Damon, and Johnson, 31, is four
years younger than Matsui. The Yankees cannot re-sign Damon at any
price; they already have too much money committed to older players.
Yet, they also cannot underestimate the importance of a player with
Damon’s skill, experience and moxie.
That great at-bat Damon had in the ninth inning of Game 4 of
the World Series, followed by his brilliant steals of second and
third on the same pitch … few players are savvy enough to pull
off such a sequence. Nothing against Johnson and Granderson –
they will be fine additions. But the Yankees would be foolish to
mess with too much with their collective DNA.
Swisher, 29, is the right guy to move; he will not improve
much on his 29-homer, 82-RBI season, and his over-the-top
gregariousness eventually will wear thin. The Braves love Swish,
and would love even more to obtain him for right-hander Derek Lowe.
The Yankees should pass on that idea – Lowe turns 37 on June
1 and has not pitched in the American League since 2004. Swisher
for prospects would be a better move, and the Yankees then could
sign some innings eater at a reasonable price to be their No. 4
I’ve got no problem with the Yankees refusing to give
Damon big money for three or four years. I’ve also got no
problem with Boras advocating for his client and trying to suck
every last dollar out of the biggest money-making machine in
sports. It’s business, and we’ve all become accustomed
to the familiar off-season song-and-dance.
Well, enough already.
Damon needs the Yankees, and the Yankees need Damon.
Get it done.