Earlier today, Mike mentioned briefly that the Yankees and Johnny Damon are still very far apart in their contract negotiations. Both parties would prefer to see Damon in the Bronx, but each side wants a deal on its own terms. I too want to see Damon back simply because he makes the team better than an outfield with Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner, and he gives the Yanks some lineup flexibility. So then how can the Yankees get Damon back in the fold?
A short while ago, Jon Heyman filled in the gaps in Buster Olney’s report. According to Boras buddy Heyman, the Yanks and Damon are two years and $34 million away from an agreement. The Yanks have offered two years at $18 million while Damon and Boras are asking for a new four-year, $52 million deal.
There is, of course, some hyperbole involved here. The Yankees are probably willing to move their deal into the $22-$24 million range over two years, and Boras can’t really expect to get four years or $13 million a year for the 36-year-old Damon. Even in a good market, no team would be willing to give Damon that much money. Whether Damon and Boras are willing to compromise on the years is another issue.
But then what do the Yankees do with Damon? As we’ve seen, his defense isn’t very good any more. His arm was never a plus, and his range numbers are all trending downward. His speed gives him some value on the bases, and he still has some pop in the bat. Thus, Joel Sherman suggests a left field/DH platoon for Damon.
Basically, Damon would DH for half the year and play left field for the other half. The Yanks could then use their glut of outfielders — Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Jamie Hoffmann — to fill in for Damon while he DHs. When Damon plays the field, the Yanks can use the DH as a rotation spot with Posada getting a good amount of DH starts. He’s penciled for those ABs anyway next year. The Yanks could also use Swisher as a DH for some games with Cabrera or Gardner in right.
All in all, Sherman’s idea is one we’ve long endorsed. Johnny Damon shouldn’t be counted on as an everyday outfielder any longer. His return to the Bronx will depend entirely upon whether or not Boras is willing to compromise, what the Yanks want to do with their roster and how they feel about Hideki Matsui. If Boras doesn’t budget, Damon will wind up the Bobby Abreu of 2009/2010, signing a one-year deal at a cut-rate price. Even then, the Yanks could still benefit.