Transitioning to the off-season is a bit tougher this time


At this time last year, we were in full hot stove mode. The Yankees had been home for over a month, and we’d already looked at what went wrong and what went right in the 2008 season. October was a time of reflection instead of excitement, so by the time the GM meetings rolled around we were ready to discuss all topics hot stove, from CC Sabathia to Jake Peavy, from Mark Teixeira to Nick Swisher.

This time around it’s a bit different. We’re still going to reflect on the 2009 season, but it’s coming a bit later than last year. That makes it tough to move on to the hot stove issues that face the Yankees. Yet baseball is moving on. The 30 general managers and their staffs are in Chicago this week for the GM Meetings, the first step in a long off-season. Then we’ll move on to the free agent signing period and eventually the Winter Meetings in December. Before we know it, we’ll be caught in the vortex of the hot stove.

Mike noted the important off-season dates yesterday, but nowhere on there is there a dedicated slot for memorializing the World Series champs. That’s an important part of this process. We went through a lot with the 2009 Yankees, and before we get into what the 2010 Yankees will look like, I’d like to take some time to look back on the season. So while at this time last year we were talking about Matt Holliday’s trade chances and the Peavy/Santana parallels, this year I want to talk about leadoff hits and whipped cream pies.

That’s not to say that we’re not going to talk about the fates of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte and Jose Molina. We’ll get to those topics, and we’ll tackle them with veracity. Hell, we’ll probably get to some of those off-season topics today (hint hint). It’s just going to be a bit different than last year. Before we get to the fates of Damon and Matsui, let’s remember what they meant to this championship team.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. JMK aka The Overshare says:

    I don’t think many are worried about Jose Molina’s fate.

  2. The level of production the Yankees received from Matsui this year was absolutely great. I was thrilled he hit at a high level all year and I’m glad he was able to stay healthy. The trick to that was definitely keeping him at DH all year and not letting him play the field. If only one of him or Damon is brought back next year, that one should DH to maximize the PAs he could get and keep him productive and healthy.

    • whozat says:


      the guy still had to have his knees drained a couple times. He’s a time bomb. I’d kind of rather let him go a year early than a year late :-/

      • Jeremy says:

        This point is sad but true. It is tough to justify giving more than one year to a player who has zero defensive utility and whose knees are so bad he can barely run.

        I have no idea whether Matsui will take the generous one-year deal the Yankees will likely offer him, campaign for a multi-year deal, or find a GM desperate enough for a bat to give it to him. A one-year Yankee deal seems to make so much sense that I have to think it will happen, but again, who knows.

      • I’d kind of rather let him go a year early than a year late

        1000% agree.

        • A.D. says:

          Eh, yes and no, the Yankees greatest strength is money, therefore they can afford to give out risker contracts because whatever they would give to Matsui is unlikely to handcuff them from doing anything else.

      • Moshe Mandel says:

        It depends. Are you doing that to leave the DH slot open, or do you want to bring in 2 guys (or keep Damon and add one guy) to fill LF and DH? Because I hate idea #1.

        • Hate isn’t strong enough. Leaving the DH slot open as a rotating rest spot for the aging regulars would be one of the bigger mistakes in recent Yankee history.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

            That’s why I love RAB. Common Sense, FTW!!! Why do writers think that older guys need so much freaking rest all the time. They’re 35 not 75. I think some people think Lou Gehrig caught ALS from lack of rest.

            • ROBTEN says:

              Plus, the idea that they should send out a National League lineup makes no sense. If there’s only a rotating DH, it means that you are replacing Matsui with a hitter of the Gardner/Pena/Hairston variety every game. Really?

              (Of course, there were those that advocated starting Cody Ransom over A-Rod and in a recent thread I believe I saw someone arguing for getting rid of Posada in favor of Molina/Cervelli…)

            • A.D. says:

              The issue is people think of it as only being rest, which isn’t a bad thing. They ignore the fact that it essentially makes Pena/Cervelli a full time starter.

              If you framed is as, lets basically DH Pena/Cervelli for the year, it would get far less love as an idea.

          • crawdaddie says:

            I agree, without Matsui, Arod might play there 10 times in a season, Jeter maybe 5 times, Texiera about the same as Jeter, Posada 20 games and if Damon is brought back maybe 15-20 times. Posada’s real value is catching 100 times a season.

          • radnom says:

            Thats quite a change of pace from this:


            glad to see you came around. I won’t bother repeating my reply here.

            • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

              wow. did you have that bookmarked or something?

              • radnom says:

                Haha no, I didn’t. I remembered a previous discussion about this, not even Ben’s position. A Google search for “River ave blues rotating rest spot” found it right away.

            • I had already come around in August. See this post:

              Personally, I don’t like the idea of keeping the DH spot open in order to give aging veterans a rest. It’s a nice luxury to spell Derek Jeter or Jorge Posada or Johnny Damon or A-Rod on a rotating DH basis, but that weakens the rest of the team. By necessity, a Ramiro Pena/Jose Molina type would play nearly every day. The presence of Jerry Hairston, Jr., lessens the impact of the rotation DH, but it’s far from ideal.

              • radnom says:

                Nicely put.

              • While it is a moot point I thought that if they signed Holliday, the rotating @ Dh would be cool if they picked up JJ Hardy. He is someone who could play 3B SS @ 2nd while giving us ++ defense even if his bat doesn’t bounce back.

                Jeter SS/DH
                Holliday LF
                Tex 1B
                Arod 3B/DH
                Posada C
                Cano 2B/DH
                Swisher RF
                Hardy SS/2B/3B
                Gardner CF

                If they sign a high reward lefty bat. The A line up could spell

                Jeter SS
                Holliday LF
                Tex 1B
                Arod 3B
                Posada C
                Cano 2B
                Swisher RF
                Giles/Giambi DH
                Gardner CF

                Thats a pretty crazy lineup.

                With an insanely deep bench

                Lets not even get started with the upgrade on defense. Even if Jeter slipss

    • Jeff Levy says:

      The bottom line here is this Yankee team needs a full time DH. Now that still means you can occasionally rest guys if needed. Matsui has shown he can handle the role and excelled doing so. According to fangraphs he is the 3rd best DH among guys with at least 500 PA this season with Jason Kubel and Adam Lind ahead of him. He also had the fewest strikeouts among those DH’s, only 75.

      Damon is also a good candidate for the DH role, but the question is can he perform in the role like he does when he also plays the field. Damon is used to being an everyday player, so you have to wonder if he could make the same adjustment as Matsui.

      If they don’t go with either of them as the DH then other options are Vladamir Guerrero, Carlos Delgado, Jim Thome. Vald is the best option, but I’m not sure how he would fit with this team or that I like him in the same lineup with Cano.

      • MatyRuggz says:

        To me, the risk with Matsui and Guererro are about the same. Both are creaky old guys with big bats who cannot play the field anymore. Me, I’d rather stick with the creaky old guy we know if I had to choose between the two.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

      I’m totally open to being convinced otherwise on this, but I’m drifting towards wanting the Yanks to re-sign Matsui. Here’s what I’m thinking:

      First, I don’t want a completely rotating DH slot. Having one of the backups in the lineup every day just doesn’t seem like the best use of the Yankees’ resources. So, I want the Yanks to sign a bat to DH, or share DH duties and LF duties with Damon if he’s re-signed, or whatever combo they wind up with.

      Next, Matsui’s contract. I don’t think Matsui’s getting a 3-4 year deal from anyone this offseason. So, I think he’ll be available to the Yanks on a short contract of either 1 year or 1 year plus an option of some sort or 2 years, etc. I also don’t see him getting big money, I think he’s looking at an AAV ceiling aroundf $8-$9 million. I can’t see an NL team putting him in the field, so his pool of suitors is cut down dramatically, and I don’t think teams are going to be so excited to give a big money, multi-year deal to a guy who doesn’t have knees.

      Now here’s the kicker that makes Matsui really attractive… He’s a VERY productive hitter, but you don’t have to, and, in fact, shouldn’t, play him every day. Going forward he’s going to be most productive when he has proper rest and I’d be surprised if he ever plays in more games than he did in 2009. So you have a very productive hitter when he plays, and you have a ton of days during the season when you can rotate your aging stars through that DH slot to help keep them fresh, as well.

      Finally… When he’s on the field, which was pretty often this year (and if the Yanks re-sign him you’d have to assume they feel he, with the proper rest, will be able to play just about as often, or a bit less, moving forward), he’s a monster. It’s all well and good to say we want to rest some of the aging regulars during July and August, but there are times during the season when you don’t want one of your bench players in your everyday lineup (including, clearly, the playoffs).

      So he’s kind of like a perfect piece of the puzzle for this team. You get top-notch offensive production from your DH slot, you still get to rest your aging regulars relatively often, and you have a great hitter in your lineup, your A-lineup, when it counts. It worked pretty damned well this season. Also note that it’s not like the Yanks are blocking some super-stud by adding Matsui to the roster, he’s not taking anyone’s spot who can’t be sent down to the minors. If the Yanks think his knees will hold up well enough that he can do the same thing next year, I don’t see how he’s not a perfect fit.

      Now, if he gets a 3 year or longer deal elsewhere, I wish him the best… But otherwise, I think the Yanks have to seriously consider what he brings to the table for this team in this moment.

      • JMK aka The Overshare says:

        Exactly. A rotating DH spot is a very poor allocation of resources; it could be a death knell in the playoffs against strong lineups and top-notch pitching. Matsui is a very good DH, but you absolutely cannot sign him for any more than a 1+team option. I’d be very happy signing both MatsuichuIchooseyou! and Damon, but neither to any combination over two years. Too much risk.

        Damon is a black hole in the outfield but his offensive production is strong. That said, there’s a good chance he falls off a cliff as soon as next year. I’m not saying it will happen, but it’s not an outrageous possibility. He slumped horribly the last leg of the season and then found his stroke in one series.

        Caution is key.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

          Yup. I think a lot of people got so used to the idea of saying ‘Damon and Matui are gone, the Yanks want to get younger and they command big contracts’ without thinking about what happens if/when, in all likelihood, at least one if not both of them are looking at 1-2 year offers. An older player isn’t always a bad thing to have, it’s only a bad thing to have when he’s signed to too many years, makes too much money, blocks another player, hurts flexibility, etc.

          I totally concede that both Damon and Matsui are risks moving forward, but the risk is minimized when you’re talking about short-term contracts for under $10 million AAV. You’re looking at a couple of guys whose possible decline won’t hurt too bad on those contracts, and who could even be moved if they play well but are pushed out of the lineup by another acquisition or the progress of one of the prospects.

          There are also depth issues here. What happens if you let one of Damon’s slot or Matsui’s slot just go unfilled this offseason and then one your regulars gets hurt? All of a sudden you have 2 bench players in your everyday lineup, and 3 on days when Posada doesn’t catch. All of a sudden that vaunted lineup is looking a whole lot shorter and less effective.

      • Bob Stone says:

        Agree completely.

    • BklynJT says:

      The way I look at it, having a dedicated DH on the team gives more roster flexibility than not. If you dont have him, your forced to play scrubs like Pena and Cervelli. If you do have him, you have the option to play the likes of Pena and Cervelli. I rather have a dedicated DH than a backup infielder on the team.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

        That’s a good point… I think the important point that got obscured the last few years isn’t that it’s necessarily bad to have a dedicated DH, it’s just bad to have more than one. Matsui on the 2009 Yankees? Happy marriage. Matsui and Giambi on the 2008 Yankees? Not so good.

        Add to that, the fact that Matsui doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) play every day, and you have a pretty flexible roster. You can play all the best hitters (with Matsui or another DH in the lineup), you can use the DH slot to rest another regular and have Matsui on the bench, etc. Without Matsui (or some other potent bat to slot in at DH), you’re forced to play one of the bench guys every day, you have fewer options.

  3. Tom Q says:

    As far as a slot dedicated to memorializing the World Series champs — won’t there be a trip to the White House somewhere in there? That might serve.

    • Jersey says:

      Usually. But then again, the big man is a White Sox fan.

      • Meh, Bush was a Rangers fan, and he still graciously accepted 8 years of non-Rangers WS champs.

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

          GWB was also heard to remark ‘hockey? eh…wtf is hockey? eh…we ain’t got no ice! huh? from florida? they get ice there? eh…ok.’

          lets be honest, of all the jobs you have to do as CIC, i think taking pics with Jimmy Johnson, the Yankees, the Lakers and the Vikings will be some of the coolest parts!

    • larryf says:

      I live in Virginia and expect to be at The White House event. Should be less crowded than the parade :-) I expect it will happen when the Yanks play in Baltimore-the day of a night game in the spring.

      What exactly is Matsui’s diagnosis and is there any chance for any improvement? Did he slide at all this year? I can’t remember….

      I agree with bye bye Molina and hello Francisco- the Venezuelan Italian Stallion.

  4. Jersey says:

    I hope your veracity is voracious!

  5. A.D. says:

    Before we get to the fates of Damon and Matsui, let’s remember what they meant to this championship team.

    Forget last week, what have you done for me lately!!!!


    • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

      “Forget last week, what have you done for me lately!!!!”
      /NY’ed “popular, cheap, lazy narrative about NY fans perpetuated by the media”‘d

  6. mryankee says:

    When do we get to talk about the new additions for next year. Who is the new setup man? (heath bell) maybe. How about the new left fielder if no Damon-Matsui. I was thinking Dunn to DH and maybe keep Damon. I like Dunn because of his power and ptience. If one can wheteher the strikeouts.

  7. crapula says:

    I can’t remember when a post-season didn’t not suck this much.

    AND, the 2010 Yankees will probably look a lot like the 2009 Yankees. We will stretch our rotation to 5 man again (which would be nice) but that back of the end rotation is going to be maddening sometimes (esp if Andy is not in the middle) with lots of question marks and calls for whomever to go to the bullpen. If Hughes and Joba are both starters, the pen has to perform well. And I want both Phil and Joba to be in the starting rotation.

    Of course I want Andy back.

    I want Cervelli in the catcher position. I want to bring back Johnny Damon. I’m really on the fence about Matsui so either way would be fine with me.

  8. mryankee says:

    Fryer went to Pittsburgh I did forget that. Ok Zmac or Nova and throw in a lower level prospect. All I am saying is if I am cashman that would be the perfect replacement for Matsui.

    • JMK aka The Overshare says:

      There’s no reason to trade Dunn for a guy who is at-best a 3/4 starter in the majors and not ready this year. The lower-level prospect would have to have unbelievably HUGE upside, and even then, it likely doesn’t happen.

      The Natinals need to draw fans. S-Burgh may not start, so who’s the draw? Outside of Ryan Zimmerman, it’s Dunn. And he’s not costing them much. No reason to trade him unless they’re wowed. They might explore it at the trade deadline, but who knows what the market is then.

      I’d love to see the Yanks get Dunn, but it’s a pipe dream right now.

  9. mryankee says:

    another intersting point Joel sherman notes the Jays are willing to move Halladay and might have to accept 50 cents on the dollar. For that kind of discount you have to believe cashman will take a look.

    • Tom Zig says:

      Halladay to the Yanks…Not going to happen

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      A discount is like ZMac or Nova. The deal is still going to be centered with Jesus, AJax and like Joba/Hughes. Not worth it.

      • mryankee says:

        I said Adam Dunn I did not say Albert Pujols.

        • JobaWockeeZ says:

          another intersting point Joel sherman notes the Jays are willing to move Halladay and might have to accept 50 cents on the dollar. For that kind of discount you have to believe cashman will take a look.
          Yeah and you were talking about Halladay. Still too expensive.
          And if your scared that it makes the Sox stronger well it won’t. Not in the long run. It’ll probably make them weaker.

        • Marcus says:

          Uh…actually you said Roy Halladay, but I can see how you lose track of unrealistic trade proposals. Carry on!

        • r.w.g. says:

          You’re probably going to have to give up one of the top guys to get Dunn, since he’s such a defined quantity. It’s a given you’re getting 40 bombs, OBP approaching .400, etc.

          Hughes, Jackson, Montero.. that’s a laughable package. If Washington would be dumb enough to play hardball with that they can expect to get hung up on and enjoy their face-saving lunch of a Johan Santana pu-pu platter.

          But you’re going to have to throw in one of those guys. Like, Montero straight up. Or maybe Cano + ZMac.

          You really want to do that when you could have Matsui/Damon for just money.. and Adam Dunn in 2011 [if you want him] for just money?

      • ROBTEN says:

        Yeah, even with a “discount” the cost for Halladay is too high. If Halladay is traded, he’s going to the NL. I could see the Dodgers try to make a move, especially if that report that they don’t see Billingsley as having the “stomach” for the rotation is true (which is a batshit insane assessment that I am in no way endorsing).

        • MatyRuggz says:

          I don’t see the Dodgers doing anything major this offseason with the McCourt divorce as ugly as it has been. Twenty bucks says Mrs. McCourt gets her husband’s balls in the settlement.

  10. Aj says:

    ben, not to look to far ahead but next offseason halladay,Crawford,Lee,Mauer will be free agents im wondering who you think will sign extensions and what teams will sign the rest in your opinion. what do you guys think??

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Halladay is going somewhere. That place I have no idea.
      Crawford hopefully with the Yankees.
      Lee with the Phillies.
      Mauer witht he Twins.

    • I’m not Ben, but here goes:

      Halladay: gone from TOR by this time next year. I think someone will do what the Brewers did in ’08 and go all-in for that one big push.

      Crawford: traded before spring training, hits the FA market in 2011.

      Lee: Big time extension from the Phils

      Mauer: Same as Lee, but obviously from the Twins.

  11. Doug says:

    for what it’s worth, olney take (from his current chat) on damon and matsui:

    “I think they’ll offer a nice one-year deal to Damon, and let him know that if he wants more, they’ll move on to Plan B (knowing that Damon knows they could work out something with Matsui). If Damon balks, then they’ll go to Matsui and let him know that they would be interested in him on a one-year deal, if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut (Maybe to the $5 million range).”

  12. Aj says:

    do you guys think the yankees will sign halladay as a fa and maybe crawford as well??

  13. mat L says:

    One guy that doesn’t get talked about is Xavier Nady, what do the Yanks do with him? I’m not sure if he will be ready by next spring, but couldn’t he be the starter in LF?

  14. [...] that, they’ll deploy their resources as efficiently as possible. Not to pick on him, but commenter ledavidisrael showed us an example of this yesterday when he mused on how J.J. Hardy would help the Yankees. [...]

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