For the better part of the last few months, I’ve been pushing Manny as a potential piece for the Yanks’ lineup. The problem, of course, with Manny is his fielding. He has become a liability in the field almost to the point where an AL team that signs him would do so as a DH, and the Yankees already have a DH in the oft-injured Hideki Matsui.
Yesterday, in the comments to my brief piece on payroll, I got into a debate with long-time RAB fan Dan about Matsui and Manny. I believed that Manny would such a force that the Yanks should sign him now and worry about Matsui later. But Dan disagreed, and in a well-reasoned piece on The Poor Man’s Analyst, Dan offers up his take:
Let’s aggressively project Manny for 40 runs above average next season. He then gets a positional adjustment of -15 for playing DH instead of the outfield. [We don’t need to compare him (or Matsui) to replacement because we’re not figuring total value, which would be versus a replacement player, we’re just comparing the two of them in similar playing time. If you really want to, add 16 or 17 runs to the total to approximate a replacement level comparison in slightly limited playing time (~140 games)]. So that’s 25 runs above average for Manny. Doing the same thing for Matsui now…. his 2007 had him as 20 runs above average in 143 games, so that’s 5 runs above average for Hideki.
So for 2009, Manny is projected to be 20 runs above what Matsui would provide. That’s probably what people expected, I know I didn’t think the gap wold be any smaller. But Manny is reportedly demanding a 3-year deal in the neighborhood of $65-70 million. Are those 20 runs worth the $11 million per win (over Matsui) that they would cost? Is any win worth $11 million?
I can’t tell you the answer, that’s for the Steinbrenners to decide. For those people who say it’s worth it, I’m going to spend a little time thinking of other ways the Yankees can get those two wins over what Matsui provides for less money. Anyone care to make any suggestions for finding those missing 20 runs?
That’s a compelling case against Manny with some not-so-outlandish statistical assumptions to back it up. Perhaps Mark Teixeira would be the better target after all.
Of course, there is a real problem though with Dan’s assumption about Matsui’s health. He’s played 140 games just once over the last three seasons. In 2006, he missed time due to a bad wrist break, but in 2007, even while playing 142 games, he suffered knee problems. His 2008 was cut short due to his balky knees, and while he was playing, his power was significantly off his 2007 mark.
My belief that Manny could fill a need comes about because I don’t think we can pencil Matsui in for 140 games of 2007 level production. He’s going to be 35 and playing on two surgically-repaired knees. To me, that’s a recipe for disaster, and if he goes down, the options to replace him are dire indeed if Nick Swisher is ensconced at first base.
Maybe Teixeira is a better fit because he’s younger and plays a position the Yanks need to fill. With Teixeira, Swisher becomes one of the outfielders who could replace Matsui if Hideki gets injured. With Manny, Swisher stays at first, and Manny flat-out replaces Matsui to start the season. Dan believes Manny is an expensive and unnecessary luxury, but I come out somewhere in the middle. Teixeira is choice number one, but Manny could work as well.