Is it too early to think about 2009? It seems as though, in Yankee-land, it is not.
Toward the end of Jayson Stark’s latest (and voluminous) Rumblings & Grumblings, the ESPN columnist drops in a note about Jason Giambi and the Yankees:
Price of the Giambino: Two months ago, we would have set the odds of Jason Giambi’s returning to the Bronx next year at approximately, well, zero. But we’re hearing the Yankees have sent signals to Giambi that, assuming he stays healthy and reasonably productive, they would be amenable to bringing him back next year. There’s zilch chance they’ll pick up his $22 million option. But a modest one-year offer, on top of his $5 million buyout, apparently is no longer out of the question. Who’d have thunk it?
Who’d have thunk it? Well, outside of our own Jamal, approximately no one. We knew Giambi wasn’t going to be terrible all season; we didn’t realize he would start putting up MVP-caliber numbers over a significant stretch of the season.
Now, I don’t need to rehash Giambi’s numbers since he broke out of his slump. I’ve done that recently here and, in a more in-depth post here this week. Suffice it to say that Jason Giambi is having a stretch right now that ranks among his best in pinstripes.
So what are the Yankees to do next year and beyond? The Yanks hold a $20 million option or a $5 million buyout for Giambi. There’s almost no chance that the Yanks would opt to exercise that option. Stark’s sources speculate that the Yankees would be more inclined to exercise that buy out and sign Giambi to a much lower one-year deal.
There are of course a few factors involved in this decision. One of those factors lies with Jason Giambi. If Jason continues to mash this year, the odds are pretty good that he could land a deal longer than one year. He’ll have to decide if he wants to stick around New York or go for a longer contract. I highly doubt the Yanks would be willing to do more than a year-to-year situation with Giambi. Maybe they would give him a two-year deal with a lower salary but some high incentives.
The other factor, of course, lies with the Yankees. If Jason Giambi can be a productive offensive player, the Yankees will definitely look to bring him back. He hasn’t been terrible in the field this year, and he more than makes up for it at the plate. Furthermore, the Yanks seem to believe that Hideki Matsui is no longer as durable as he once was and are hoping to prolong Jorge Posada’s career by spelling him behind the plate as often as possible. Giambi could do a bit of 1B/DH platooning next year.
But if the Yankees want to go young — or younger — and take a long, hard look at Mark Teixeira in the off-season, they probably wouldn’t opt to retain Giambi and Matsui. Despite the age difference, I’d almost take Giambi over Matsui with that lineup. Of course, economics play into it too. If the Yanks are going to be paying Giambi $5 million not to renew his contract, they’ll probably want some of that money to go to on-field production and would thus be more willing to bring him back for the right price.
In the end, of course, despite Stark’s assertions, it’s way too early to be making this decision. We still have over half the season to go, and questions of frailty surround Jason Giambi. It’s interesting to think about it, and if Giambi stays healthy and keeps producing, the Yanks will have to make a decision this October that probably doesn’t have a right or wrong answer.