To kick off the 2009 Winter Meetings, Brian Cashman delivered a quote that we’ve parroted ever since. When describing the team needs, Cashman said he sought “pitching, pitching, pitching — and left field.” Pitching he has since covered, bringing back Andy Pettitte and trading for Javy Vazquez. But what about left field? He addressed center field by acquiring Curtis Granderson, but has done nothing about left field. In fact, he traded his longest tenured outfielder, leaving the position a bit more uncertain. Ever since, we’ve attempted to determine the best candidate for the spot.
Cashman recently said that the team “is, for the most part, set.” He went on to say that the team likes Brett Gardner in left field, though we’ve heard similar things from Cashman in the past only to have him change course when the opportunity arises. This happened last winter, when he described the potential acquisitions of both Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia “fantasy land, not reality land.” The more common reference goes back to Bubba Crosby, the supposed center fielder heading into 2006 — until, of course, the Yankees signed Johnny Damon.
Could Damon end up back with the Yankees under similar circumstances? It doesn’t appear likely, but with Damon’s market practically nonexistent at this point there’s no ruling it out. It would be a wild ride if it happened, given all we’ve heard about the Damon-Yankees relationship this off-season.
Damon got the ball rolling at the World Series parade, expressing his desire to come back but letting everyone know just how highly he thinks of himself.
“I’m going to have a lot of options, so I think what it comes down to is what kind of option the Yankees want to give me or not give me. Why wouldn’t I want to come back? We have the best owners in baseball, we have the best team and we have the most revenue and the biggest payroll. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the Yankee tradition? I would like to continue mine. I feel like I can come back and do a great job again.”
Predictably, Damon’s market did not develop as he had planned. He never had a lot of options, though that didn’t stop his agent, Scott Boras, from playing his hand as though a dozen teams expressed interest. Word leaked that Boras told the Yankees to not bother marking an offer unless it was at least three years at $13 million. Since no team was going to offer that, the Yankees moved on.
When they started negotiating with Nick Johnson, apparently Damon recognized the urgency of the situation. He reportedly offered to come back for two years and $20 million, but the Yankees, already knee deep in the Johnson negotiations, stuck to their two-year, $14 million offer. Damon understandably rejected that, thinking that perhaps he could catch on with another team in need of a corner outfielder with leadoff hitter skills.
Since the Johnson signing, we’ve heard little of other teams’ interest in Damon. The Yankee talk started up again after the Vazquez trade, since the team sent Melky Cabrera, the presumed left fielder, to Atlanta. But Cashman quickly quelled the chatter. Damon, too, admits that there’s nothing to rumors of a reunion, at least for the moment. “I haven’t had any conversations with them recently. Nothing would surprise me, out there’s nothing there right now.”
The most recent nugget on Damon came on Monday, from Jon Heyman of SI. In the notes portion of his column he said that the “Braves and Giants are believed to have made offers for Damon.” A few hours later, Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted that the Braves did not have an offer on the table. And, since the Giants signed Aubrey Huff on Sunday, chances are they don’t have room for Damon either. His off-season saga continues.
With the team all but set, the Damon situation represents our last bit of excitement before actual baseball. The team might add a left fielder or utility player between now and Spring Training, but it’ll be just another transaction. Whether Johnny Damon come back or signs elsewhere affects how we will enjoy the 2010 season. Not that I’ll enjoy it any less without Damon. It’ll just be different.