Monday, November 9, 2009

Off Season Preview: Outfield & DH

Good morning Fackers. So it's been just about four and a half days since the Yanks wrapped up the 2009 World Series, and about three days since the parade finished. Ready to stop celebrating and start thinking about next year yet? Me neither, but the reality of things is that the Hot Stove League is already underway. We've already seen a handful of trades, options exercised, buyouts paid, extensions agreed to, and free agency filings. The General Managers Meetings start today. It may be a bit of a buzz kill, but it's time to start thinking about the 2010 Yankees and who will make up that roster.

The biggest Yankee storyline this off season will be the situations involving Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. We'll assuredly take a look at both of them soon, but as we start our off-season coverage I'd like to take a broader view.

The Damon/Matsui situation(s) is/are really part of a larger issue for the Yankees: who will fill the outfield and DH spots next year? Nick Swisher is a lock. Barring a trade, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner will still be around. Austin Jackson waits in the wings. Damon, Matsui, and to a lesser extent Xavier Nady are candidates to be resigned. Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are big ticket names in the free agency pool, Chone Figgins is being mentioned as a potential left fielder, and second tier free agents like Vladimir Guerrero, Jermaine Dye, Mike Cameron, and Coco Crisp may also find their names cycling through the Yankee rumor mill.

In my opinion it boils down to this: amongst their own free agents, other team's free agents, or trades, the Yankees need to secure two players to fill a corner outfield spot and the DH spot.

We'll certainly run through all the options over the next couple of weeks (unless the Yankees do something quickly), but let me just state my own personal opinion right off: I want the Yankees to retain both Damon and Matsui. Part of that may be sentimental, in wanting to retain two of the more tenured members of the club. But it's also functional. Both are still useful players, despite some visible warts. But sometimes it's better the devil you know is better than the devil you don't.

The argument against this is multifaceted: both are old, both have varying degrees of physical malady and carry injury risk, both are defensively limited, both will be somewhat costly, and both will likely ask for more years and dollars than the Yankees should rightly commit. Critics of this idea will further note that the Yankees "need to get younger, more athletic, etc" and that the team needs to "open the DH spot" to periodically rest aging veterans Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez.

Those are valid arguments. But I think they are risks the Yankees can afford to take. Next year's bench should feature the likes of Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, and either Gardner or Cabrera. All are young, all are athletic, and all give the Yankees some measure of versatility. Meanwhile, I agree with the concept of resting the older position players through the DH spot.

But what happens if Posada, Jeter, and Rodriguez all get a day a week at DH? Each would be replaced in the field by an offensively inferior player (Cervelli, Pena). And who then would DH the remaining three or four games each week? If Damon is the answer to that question, does that mean some combination of Gardner, Cabrera, and Jackson take two of three outfield spots in those games? How much offense would they be giving up by doing all of that?

The next six weeks or so should answer these questions. There are better (and more expensive) options out there, but I'm going on record now as saying that I think the best option for the 2010 Yankees is to bring back both Damon and Matsui.


  1. I'm with you man. I understand that the Yankees need to get younger and more athletic, but they can't do that without giving up an insane amount of OPS points. If they need to sit Matsui on the bench for 20-30 games and DH Alex, Derek and Jorge, then so be it. But come playoff time, these guys are all going to be in the lineup, playing their respective positions. If one big guy goes down for extended time next year and Matsui is not around, we're gonna be lookin at a 2005-esque Kevin Tomphson/whoever is available situation in two of our normal position spots. Bring them both back.

  2. They can get younger and more athletic with AJax and Carl Crawford next season. If Matsui signs a 1yr, and Damon inks on for 2, then we can slide Crawford into LF next year with AJax in CF (either Malky or Gerdner backs him up) and Damon can finish his pinstriped career as the DH/4th OF. This would also allow the Yankees room for error in terms of injuries to their vets, and if they need to rotate the 30-somethings into the DH spot, then so be it. Let Damon or someone else sit for a day and use their bat off the bench. Come playoff time, this won't be a problem anyways.

  3. By "next year" I mean 2011. Sorry for the confusion....