Yesterday afternoon, word got out that Bobby Abreu had agreed to a contract extension with the Angels, signing on for two more years in Anaheim. After having to wait until damn near Spring Training to find a job last year, Abreu jumped all over the $19M the Halos offered him. The deal even includes a vesting option for 2012 worth $9M, when Abreu will be 38. I mentioned this yesterday, but in two years I’m sure we’ll be hearing about ways the Angels can prevent that option from vesting.
Anyway, the entire reason I brought this up is because it indirectly affects the Yankees. Now we have a blueprint for what a new contract for Johnny Damon might look like, something we didn’t have before. The similarities between the two players are obvious: both will be 36 on Opening Day 2010 yet have proven to be extremely durable, both are former All Stars with a strong pedigree within the game, and both are defensively challenged corner outfielders. Their offensive styles are different – Abreu is more of an on-base guy with gap power, Damon offers more over-the-fence power – but in the end they’re both ~.850 OPS and ~2.8 WAR players.
Bobby’s deal will pay him $9M annually, which is about as good of a deal as he could have expected. Despite all the talk about how he “transformed the Angels lineup,” Abreu simply was not going to pull in eight figures annually on the free agent market, and the same holds true for Johnny. It’s almost inconceivable that the Yankees would offer Damon arbitration even though he qualifies as a Type-A free agent, because the risk of him accepting a getting a raise over his current $13M salary is just too great, even if it’s just one year.
It’s no secret that the New Yankee Stadium somewhat helped resurrect Damon’s career in 2009. He set a new career high with a .207 IsoP, tied his career high with 24 homers, and posted the second best slugging percentage (.489) of his career. On the road he was Jorge Cantu (.284-.349-.446), but at home he was Jason Bay (.279-.382-.533). All that makes him more valuable to the Yankees than anyone else.
Timing certainly plays a huge part of it. A few weeks ago, the thought of even re-signing Damon seemed like madness because he was slumping so badly. Now, after some late inning World Series heroics, we wonder how the team could survive without him. But two guaranteed years? I can’t see how you can lock yourself into that kind of commitment. One year plus an option? Absolutely. But you’re asking for trouble, and reducing your flexibility for next year, by bringing him back for two.
As for the money, obviously $9M a year is nothing for the Yankees. It’s overpaying, but not by an absurd amount. If you could talk him down to $7M with some incentives, you’d obviously prefer that. The bottom line is that it would behoove the Yankees not to lock themselves a commitment with Damon as long as the Angels did with Abreu. Just don’t underestimate the power of Scott Boras.