In the last two days, we’ve seen both Mark DeRosa and Jason Bay agree to terms with the Giants and Mets respectively. While the Giants will play DeRosa at third, they could still use him in left field and other places. Bay will obviously play left field for the Mets, earning at least $66MM over at least four years. That leaves two fewer landing spots for Damon than there were this time last week.
What does this mean for the “former” Yankee outfielder? The meaning is a likely return to Pinstripes for Johnny. His options are dwindling rapidly, and the Yankees do not appear to be major players for the other remaining big-ticket position-playing free-agent, Matt Holliday. I’ve already discusssed the option of Jermaine Dye (ugh) and since then, that “rumor” has been thankfully debunked.
This basically leaves three choices: try and bring back Damon at the right price, go get a small-time outfielder to be part of a left-field platoon with Brett Gardner, or just stand pat with Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann as the outfielders.
The best choice performance wise is probably the first choice: bringing back Damon. While his defense was poor last year, his offense helped make up for it and Damon was still worth 3.0 WAR. But, can we realistically expect Damon to be worth that much when he’s a year older both on the field and at the plate? Can we also expect his price to come down? It seems as though Damon’s shown little willingness to let his price drop. If he doesn’t come at the right price, the Yankees will definitely pass.
Cost wise, the third choice is clearly the best. Gardner and Hoffmann are very inexpensive, but of course, they can definitely not be counted on to produce. If he doesn’t do well in Spring Training, Hoffmann may not even be on the team.
Perhaps, then, the Yankees will need to strike a balance between the two and sign someone at a lower cost to platoon with Gardner. There are a few candidates, including Reed Johnson. Versus left handed pitchers in his career, Johnson has a career line of .313/.378/.463/.841 with a ridiculous 23.3 UZR/150 in 434 games in left field, which is where he’s spent most of his time. A Gardner/Johnson platoon could prove effective. The other possible candidate is Xavier Nady, who also hits lefties well in his career: .308/.383/.471/.854 and he also sports a positive UZR in LF, at 1.8/150. However, it appears he has priced himself out of the Yankees market.
All three of these options are viable. The first and third would definitely help the Yankees, and the second wouldn’t sink them completely–though it wouldn’t be all that great, either.
So, readers of TYU, what do you think the Yankees should do?