Coming soon: A first-base logjam

Ponson, Abreu lead Yankee charge
The sympathetic side of Carl Pavano

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.

Ponson, Abreu lead Yankee charge
The sympathetic side of Carl Pavano
  • radnom

    Maybe this means we pass on Tex and go after Milton Bradley instead? Use Damon at first next year and then try to sign someone when the free agent field isn’t so sparse (this is a great crop of free agents..but at 1B its basically Tex, Giambi, and then a whole bunch of crap).

    • Steve

      We have all heard the rumblings about CC and Burnett, but when it comes to Tex the silence has been deafening from the Bronx. I think they have a few trade ideas to explore first, and I don’t think Posada/Matsui/Damon will be our everyday 1B. After a disappointing 2008 they will go all out in 2009 for a championship run.

      I suspect Tex is Plan D for them in the off season. Which still may happen, since Boras often goes to January with his clients.

  • E-ROC

    If Matsui plays first, would the Yanks put Miranda at DH against righties and find a righty bat to compliment? In Peter Abe’s blog, Matsui said he used to play third and 1st base.

    I would keep Damon in LF unless the Yanks can get a ML ready arm.

    I don’t think Milton Bradley will come to the Bronx since he and Ron Washington have a good working relationship. Bradley says Washington is a father figure to him. Rocco Baldelli would be a good cheap choice to play CF and ultimately replace Damon or Nady when they leave.

  • Reggie C.

    I’m almost convinced that Tex will pass on the Yanks’s offer and he’ll stay with the Angels. I just know that’s gonna happen. While the Yanks are pursuing CC during the Winter Meetings, the Angels are gonna hammer out a deal with Tex.

    Damon at 1B isn’t terrible, but he’s gotta be able to make ALL the catches Giambi makes. Matsui at DH is practically a guarantee. But that leaves you with an OF of Nady and question marks. Does this mean that the CF spot is again a platoon and Joe G. will have to play the guy playing the best at the moment? Or does this now leave alot of money available to land a monster RH hitter: MANNY RAMIREZ.

  • beantownbosoxh8er

    what kind of FA status does Giambi have? If it is “A” do they even risk offering arb? I would like us to get something for him….
    IMO we can get the same defense from whom ever plays there. The offense might suffer a little, but he really is a base clogger and between Matsui and posada I think they would more then make up for it.

    • Reggie C.

      I think you dont offer Giambi arbitration. Yanks have to do this smart. Buy him out and let him walk. Remember that arbitration is a device that helps ballplayers. The rules won’t allow Giambi to take a drastic paycut so if he ACCEPTS arbitration , he’s all but guaranteed to come back at another 15M salary.

      Sorry. But that’s simply too great a risk to take. Buy him out and let him walk.

      • Steve

        For the bazillionth time, the 80% pay cut rule doesn’t apply to guys like Giambi. It applies to guys within their first 6 years of service time. They can offer Jason whatever they want.

    • Steve

      He’s a Type B. You get a supplemental pick as compensation.

      • steve

        i’m almost positive since they are declining his option and he signs elsewhere it doesn’t matter if they offer him arb or not …. we dont get anything in return

        but i could be wrong

  • The Scout

    There is at least one other choice. Trade for a talented younger first baseman under team control for several years, using some of the “assets” Cashman likes to talk about — specifically, the pitching assets (e.g., Hughes or Kennedy). This approach is consistent with the philosophy of getting younger and less expensive. Other teams that are in need of pitching may be interested in some of the Yankees’ better arms.

    Such an approach presupposes that the Yankees can build an effective rotation from within and through free agency. Sabathia or Sheets, added to Wang, Chamberlain, a returning Mussina, and possibly a returning Pettite would give the Yankees flexibility to trade one or more of their best pitching prospects for a first baseman entering his prime.

    • Mike W.

      I’ve said it a million times. We should at least look into what it would take for Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard.

      • steve (different one)

        and a million times it wasn’t that great of an idea.

        both are abysmal defensively and both have the body type that doesn’t age well.

        Howard has already started to decline.

        • Mike W.

          I hope you are coming up with a better idea than Posada/Matsui/Damon at first base then.

          Please start thinking outside the box. I am not saying they are the end all , be all of first basemen, but this team is in serious trouble for the forseeable future and we need to do something different than just start throwing 37 year old bodies into a position of supposed strength…

  • diony

    Pettite? Are you kidding me?

    If they’re going to sign a starter that would be C.C or Burnett (not both), and if someone is getting resigned that would be Mike Mussina.

    They rather want to see what Hughes, Wright, Kennedy or Aceves have to show, instead of giving a bunch of money for a 37 year old declining pitcher like Andy Pettite. I know he’s a true yankee, and the championships, but is time to let him go.

    At 1B, I doubt they’ll go for Tex. They’re going to use Miranda. The guy is putting nice numbers in AAA. Miranda against right hander hitters, and agaisnt leftys we can use Posada at 1B, and Molina as Catcher. (to rest Posada).

    Juan Miranda definitely deserves a shot. He’s an underrated prospect. And I think he can learn to hit leftys on the majors. He’s wayyy a better hitter than Wilson Betemit.

    • The Scout

      Note that I said “possibly” Pettite. There are other options, too. You rate Miranda higher than the Yankees do. He is strictly a platoon type and, to be kind, a poor fielder — in short, another version of the stop-gap approach. As for Miranda learning to hit lefties in the major when he has failed to do so against weaker lefties in the minors, well, I certainly would not call that a plan.

      The larger point I made is that there is a third option for first base — using some of the organization pitching talent that is near-ready for the majors in exchange for hitting/position talent that is low-cost. The Yankees might approach CF the same way, although there the in-house options seem more promising.

      • diony

        You’re going to trade starting pitching for a 1B? Unless is Ryan Howard or Prince Fielder, then no.

        They shouldn’t resign Andy Pettite, I don’t know why everyone wants him back? He was supposed to be a “second half pitcher” and look at that. He’s a 4th starter at best. Earning $16 million.

        They’re not going to trade Hughes when his value is the lowest. Same with Kennedy, I can assure you that.

        They’re going to check the market for a trade for a 1B. But I doubt they’ll get one.

        CF is not an issue. They have Damon/Melky/Gardner that can play there. On LF we have Nady. And on RF we have Abreu is quite possible that he will be back.

        As for the starting pitching

        C.C
        Wang
        Mussina
        Joba
        Hughes/Kennedy/Aceves/Wright

        I don’t know why people want Burnett so much, he’s 31 and have suffered tons of injuries on his career. Do we want another Pavano?

    • Steve

      -Yes, Pettitte. Andy is willing to go year to year at this point where Moose will get 2-3 year offers on the open market. So the marketplace will decide who stays and who goes. Also, what Moose has done this year at his age is almost unheard of, so its a safer bet to assume he can’t repeat his results this season. Andy’s numbers have been fairly typical of his career, so it appears that he’s simply a victim of bad luck this year. Which is not unusual for a ground ball pitcher like him.

      -I expect the Yanks will sign BOTH CC and AJ Burnett. Word is they will be dangling their two your pitchers (Hughes/IPK) for position players at 1B and CF.

      -You will see Matsui at 1B before you see Miranda, and Hideki is Plan E at this point. There’s 2-3 trade possibilities and Tex before that.

      • dan

        What “word” are you talking about?

        And if they sign Tex, what do they do if/when Posada can’t catch anymore?

        • Steve

          “what do they do if/when Posada can’t catch anymore?”

          Then Posada becomes the world’s most expensive backup catcher.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

            Or he could, you know, DH.

            • Steve

              That too.

  • http://knickerbockerchatter.blogspot.com Bruno

    Trade for an everyday C and play Posada at 1B, he’s done behind the plate.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      And you know this utterly baseless statement is true how?

  • dan

    What’s the long-term answer at first base? If they believe that the first baseman from 2010-2011 will mainly be Posada, then they only need to worry about filling in the spot for 2009.

    If you think about it, this all depends on who the starting CF is next season.

    • RustyJohn

      Exacatly- since it is unclear what Posada is going to be able to do next year as a catcher, I’d rather they went and used Matsui as the DH, Damon/Posada at first and part-time in left/catching and then find a suitable back-up cather and a quality center fielder.

      This team needs to get younger and that doesn’t involve Giambi- Posada would hopefully be able to transition to 1st base full time in 2010

  • Hitman

    Molina is a virtual gold glover. He sucks as a hitter but his defense is enough to outweigh that. Molina should be the fulltime catcher with Cervelli backing him up. Jorge can DH and play first base. Either Damon or Matsui need to be traded.

    • dan

      Damon and Matsui both have no-trade clauses and are being paid $13 million next season. Find a team to trade them to.

      And why would you want to trade them anyway?

      • steve (different one)

        Damon has a partial NTC. he can be traded.

        • dan

          Didn’t know that…. any idea who he blocked?

  • dan

    Just for kicks, the 2009 free agent first basemen….

    Nick Johnson
    Adam LaRoche
    Ross Gload
    Mike Lamb
    Dmitri Young
    Ty Wigginton
    Victor Martinez (kinda a first baseman)

  • steve (different one)

    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.

    this is really cynical and not really warranted in the case of either of these two players.

    matsui worked his ass off to try to come back and help this team when he could have simply shut it down and had the surgery in July.

    THAT would have been the smarter move for him if he were just looking out for his next contract.

    as for Damon, when has he ever been nothing but a team player? he plays hurt, almost to a fault.

    and he’s still a very good LFer.

    i don’t really get the tone when it comes to these two guys.

    it’s not Carl Pavano we’re talking about.

    • dan

      I just realized the list of guys who turned down surgery to try and make it back this season:

      CMWang
      Albaladejo
      Bruney
      Matsui
      Posada

      any others?

    • radnom

      Totally agreed. Remember when Matsui broke his wrist diving for a ball, and then felt he had to apologize afterwards? In this case it would be both good for themselves and the team.

    • JeffG

      I think the main feeling behind the statement of being available to play first is that he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into the DH spot. Can’t fault him for wanting to be on the field.

  • r.w.g.

    I think the team should either sign Teixiera or find out how serious San Diego is about slashing payroll and make a big offer for Adrian Gonzalez.

    The team needs an elite level hitter to back up Alex and it needs a real first basemen who can play quality, consistent defense. Both those guys can do that.

    The team already gave Posada the contract. If he can’t really catch, he ought to DH instead of preventing the team from going after the impact talent where it really needs it. It’s bad enough that guys like Sheffield, Damon, Matsui and Randy Johnson have already done this in recent years in regards to the OF (Guerrero, Hunter, Beltran).

    • Joe

      There is no way San Diego gives up Gonzalez without cleaning out the top portion of our farm system. If you can get away with IPK, Miranda, and someone else, then go for it. For his age, salary, and production there going to want to the moon. What your going to have to give up to get him would not be worth it.

      • r.w.g.

        Yeah you would have to give up a lot, probably two guys out of a group of Jackson, Hughes, Montero, Kennedy, Melancon, possibly Romine. Throw-ins would probably be a guy like a Laird or Suttle, Marquez or Hilligoss.

        I don’t necessarily think that would be a ridiculous price to pay. Go heavy on the young pitching if you don’t want to give up the position players. They are prospects, we’ll have more next year.

  • Neil

    Next Season:
    SP Sabathia
    SP Wang
    SP Mussina/Lowe
    SP Pettite
    SP JOBA

    Joba needs to start in the rotation and then move to the pen mid-season. At that point Hughes should be ready to takeover his spot. If not one of Kennedy, Aceves, McAllistor, Kontos, Hacker might be ready.

    Bullpen:
    CP Rivera
    SU Melancoln
    MRP Iwase (Japanese LHRP)
    MRP Rameriz/ Patterson/Robertson/Albaladejo/ect.
    MRP Veras/Patterson/Robertson/Albaladejo/ect.
    MRP Coke
    LRP Geise

    Lineup:
    SS Furcal
    LF Jeter
    1B Damon
    3B Rodriguez
    DH Matsui
    RF Nady
    2B Cano
    -C Posada
    CF Gardner

    Bench:
    -C Molina
    CF Melky
    IF Felepe Lopez
    1B Rich Aurilia

    –or–
    LF Damon
    SS Jeter
    1B Matsui
    3B Rodriguez
    DH Giles
    RF Nady
    2B Cano
    -C Posada
    CF Gardner

    Bench:
    -C Molina
    CF Melky
    IF Felepe Lopez
    1B Juan Miranda

    Offer Arb. to Pudge(get sup. rd pick), Marte(1st +sup rd), Abreu(1st + sup rd.), (Giambi sup rd), Mussina(if he leaves 1st + sup rd.)

    Lose 1st rd pick for CC, and possibly 2nd rd for Furcal.

    We could have 3-4 1st rd picks (including this yrs), and 4-5 sup. rd. picks for next yrs draft.

    • E-ROC

      I could be wrong, but signing Furcal would not require a team to give up any picks.

  • Mike Pop

    This kills us… We cant have those two at 1st… We have to trade for an elite or sign Tex… Sign Tex and trade one of matsui or damon… Yo cant have damons production at 1b no way….. I want Tex bdly hes been one of my favplayers since he has been in the league and he turned down the red sox when they drafted him =]

  • Adrian-Retire21

    Neil:

    Like your line-ups.But I would pick up Marte’s option and either keep him or trade him.Gagne sucked in ’07 but a desperate NL brewers gave him $10 million.Marte has more value as a lefty.And no other free agent reliever is better then him.

    And not saying we should lose but we might end up in the last 15 teams in MLB hence maybe our draft pick next year is protected if we get CC>

  • pounder

    Question…If Yogi Berra could move from behind the plate to left field,why can’t Posada do the same ?

  • Bart

    been discussing this for months – don’t need Kepner