As the Yankees have seemingly wrapped up their major off-season shopping list — Andy Pettitte, an outfielder, a DH and another starter — the team has found itself somewhat down an outfielder. Although content to stick Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner in center field to start the 2009 season, baseball commentators and fans in New York expect the team to find someone better to fill the left field spot this year. Maybe it’s because Johnny Damon was so good offensively in left; maybe it’s because a few big-name outfielder remain. Either way, left field looms.
Except a funny thing happened on the way to Spring Training: Everyone is too expensive for the Yanks in left. We know that the team and Johnny Damon probably could have come to terms on a two-year deal at an annual salary of less than $10 million, but Damon wanted more. We heard the Yanks were interested in Mark DeRosa, but he has nearly officially agreed to a two-year deal believed to be worth around $12million with the Giants that is too expensive for the Yanks.
Beyond Damon and DeRosa, a few other names have surfaced. The Yanks could look at Jermaine Dye, but Jon Heyman warns us that the team is not interested. He too is probably too expensive. Even Xavier Nady, a free agent recovering from his second Tommy John Surgery, is too expensive for the Yanks, according to Bryan Hoch. On the open market, Matt Holliday and, to a much lesser extent, Jason Bay loom large in left, but the Yanks have shown no interest at all in landing these two players. Plus, if Nady, Dye, Damon and DeRosa are too expensive, Holliday and Bay are off the charts.
So what’s going on here? Are the Yankees really looking to reign in their free-spending ways? Are they coming off a World Series win, their highest-rated season on the YES Network, with a tighter wallet? For now — and I stress the “for now” aspect of it — that seems to be the case. But why?
Simply put, for the Yankees, left field isn’t a priority. Fans of the Bombers may want to see multi-millionaire future Hall of Famers at every position. They may want to see the Yanks nab the best guys on the open market year after the year, but that’s now how Brian Cashman acts. He’s content to have Hall of Famers at third, short and catcher. He’s happy with his All Star first baseman and center fielder, his on-base machine DH, his slugging second baseman, his fun-loving, power-hitting right fielder. With those pieces in place and a pitching staff, one through five, that matches up on paper with the best of them, the Yankees do not need to spend on a left fielder.
That doesn’t, however, mean that they won’t get involved with the right player when the prices come down. Chris at iYankees has continually professed that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Yanks were working to sign Holliday quietly. I don’t think the team will go that far. I do, however, expect them to keep Scott Boras’ number on speed dial. As Johnny Damon finds that his services aren’t needed elsewhere, as left field spots around the league fill up, the Yanks will grab the last man standing for a deal on their terms.
In the end, if they have to go to war with Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann, they can. But when someone else at the right price is playing left field in April, I certainly won’t be surprised.