Well aware of his impending free agency, Johnny Damon said he wants to remain with the Yankees next season. From Andrew Marchand:
“I know where I want to be next year,” Damon told 1050 ESPN New York. “I want to be here in New York. I also know New York has a lot of young outfielders coming back. Austin Jackson is in the wings. At least, in this situation, I know my chances of coming back could be slim because of the young talent the Yankees do have.”
First off all, kudos to Damon for knowing Austin Jackson’s name. I’d guess that 90% of all big leaguers couldn’t name their club’s top prospect. Secondly, the Yankees have a very unsettled outfield situation next year. Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner will presumably be around, but beyond them the only established big leaguer under contract is Nick Swisher. Brian Cashman has made it very well known that he would like the team to get younger and more athletic, however it’s hard to imagine the $200M Yankees trotting any two of Melky, Gardner and Jackson into the outfield everyday, especially since all three should be expected to provide below average production given their track record, skill set, and inexperience, respectively.
Damon has been very productive during his three-plus seasons with the Yankees, hitting .287-.363-.450 while playing acceptable defense in center and damn near Gold Glove caliber defense in left. Despite his seemingly fragile nature, Damon has played in at least 140 games for thirteen consecutive seasons. He’s a known commodity that’s familiar with New York and by all accounts will come on a short deal, which has tremendous value for a team transitioning towards younger players. There’s just no need to further handcuff the team’s future flexibility by forking over too many dollars over too many years for the decline phases of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. Damon’s low risk and fits the club’s needs.
Given how the market played out last offseason, the Yanks should obviously decline to offer Johnny arbitration regardless of Type-A or B status because he would garner a raise from his $13M salary this year if/when he accepted. The one year, $5M deal Bobby Abreu signed with the Angels would be an ideal model for a new Damon contract. However we don’t know how the free agent landscape will shape up next year.
The other interesting bit from Marchand’s article concerned Damon’s statement that he considered retiring at one point while with the Yankees. This incident came about during the 2007 when a banged and bruised Damon didn’t know if he still had the drive to play the game. Jon Heyman first discussed this last spring, and Joe Torre Tom Verducci wrote about it in their book. If Damon is already looking forward to 2010, it’s safe to say he has put those doubts long behind him.