Tyler Kepner, in his story about last night’s game, has an interesting notebook item on 2009:
With Jason Giambi a free agent after the season, two Yankees outfielders said Saturday that they would be willing to play first base next season. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon said they could learn the position if needed, though catcher Jorge Posada might have to play there as he builds strength in his shoulder. “A lot of players at the end of their careers are able to do that,” Damon said. “I think being somewhat athletic might be able to help me adjust to that.” While Joe Girardi said he expects Matsui to see a “substantial amount of time” as the designated hitter, Matsui said he would prepare himself to play the infield and outfield. “As long as I get a little work in, I should be O.K.,” he said through an interpreter.
How altruistic. Damon and Matsui, two free agents-to-be, are offering to prove that they can be more than just over-the-hill outfielders. I’m putting the Yanks’ desire to resign either of these two after 2009 at slim to non-existent, and they both know it. Here’s a prime chance for them to increase their values.
But more importantly, this tidbit gives us a glimpse at something we’ll discuss more next month: The 2009 first base hole. The Yanks probably won’t bring back Jason Giambi as the everyday first baseman, and they’re going to have to figure out what to do with Jorge Posada. While some Yankee-watchers have advocated for a lineup with Jose Molina, the offense he doesn’t bring far outweighs the defensive contributions he makes. Posada needs to catch.
So the choice — the fork in the road — will be one of either the stop-gap path or the high-priced free agent path. The Yanks could opt for a patchwork first base with Damon and Matsui, Posada and perhaps Giambi now and then with Juan Miranda potentially in the wings. Or they could go for broke and sign Mark Teixeira to a contract that will be too rich and too long. Neither option is ideal, and both will provide a lot of discussion fodder once the end of October rolls around.