At 35, Yankee Left Fielder Johnny Damon is having one of his best seasons, posting a line of .289/.370/.532 with 22 HRs and 67 RBIs. His OPS stands at .902, good for #2 among AL Left Fielders for this season, trailing only Boston’s Jason Bay. At his current pace, he should easily finish the year with 30+ HRs and 90 RBIs out of the #2 spot in the lineup, which is almost unheard of production for most teams. Johnny Damon is making a strong case for another contract, but should the Yanks sign him?
Based on his production the easy answer is yes. As long as its a short term deal, given his age. But these decisions are never that simple.
First problem is his defense, which has been just short of ATROCIOUS! this year. If you plan on making him a full or part time DH next year, that takes turns at DH away from Posada (38) Alex (35) Jeter (36) and occasionally Tex. If Jorge DHs 2-3 times a week (good idea) and A-Rod and Jeter once a week, that doesn’t leave much time for Damon to play. Girardi has often made it clear he would like to have DH open to rotate some of his aging players through, which also serves to give his younger bench players (who are often better defensively than his starters) some playing time and keeps them sharp. DHing the older guys gives them half a day off and helps keep them fresh through the long season. Signing a full time DH means that’s not happening, and we’ve seen how Alex has struggled this year when he’s not getting regular time off. So you could argue that the production you gain with Johnny at DH full time lowers production in other areas.
Payroll implications will not be an issue for the Yankee LF, whoever it is. The Yanks have 26 mil coming off the books between Damon and Matsui, so even if they were to go out and sign a Matt Holiday (unlikely) or Jason Bay for the 15+ they will likely command, they would still be lowering payroll.
The final consideration is Austin Jackson. If the Yanks believe he will be ready to be even a part time player in 2010, then you have an outfield rotation of Swisher, Melky, Gardner and A-Jax. That’s the best defensive group we’ve had in decades, but could be lacking in pop. But with the way the new stadium is playing, power is the least of our concerns. Also, Melky has shown decent power this year, certainly enough for an everyday LF on a good team and at 25 may just be entering his prime production years. I could also see them bringing back Eric Hinske, who has fit in well here and shown good power coming off the bench. But its Melky’s 2009 season that really makes Damon expendable.
I love Johnny, but I don’t think he’s a fit for 2010.
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