Heyman: Yanks have low offer out to Damon

More than just a text message from Johnny Damon, we have news. It’s an honest-to-goodness rumor of a low offer from the Yanks to Johnny Damon. Jon Heyman tweets: “Damon has days to take low deal with Yankees. Assuming he says no, they’ll sign another OF soon from Johnson, Nady, Winn, Edmonds, Dye.” Of the non-Damon candidates, I’d take Reed Johnson and maybe Xavier Nady but no one else.

Heyman had more in a piece on SI.com. The Yankees, he says, have asked for a decision at the end of the weekend and are believed to be offering a base of “probably no more than $5 million guaranteed” for Damon. Otherwise, the team will look to spend $2 million for a left fielder. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman has denied the existence of a deadline, but no one ever told him denial is just a river in Egypt. Meanwhile, Marc Carig has a — drumroll, please — text message from Damon who says he’ll “have a team in a week.” We’ll see if this goes anywhere.

A new award for relief pitchers?

In his latest column, Jayson Stark lays out the case for adding a relief pitcher award. Since even elite closers rarely win the Cy Young, why not create an award for the very best among them? I’ll refrain from summarizing his argument, since it’s pretty straight forward. I will, however, add a few questions and comments.

First, I don’t like the idea because it selects from a very small pool of players. MVP selects from a pool of all MLB players. Cy Young drills down a bit and selects from just pitchers, but even that represents a pretty large portion of the league. To hand out an award to relievers further diminishes that pool. To that end, why not create an award for leadoff hitters? They typically don’t get MVP votes, so why not make an award for the best table-setters? We could probably create awards for all sorts of roles, but it doesn’t mean we should.

Second, would this have any long-term implications? Stark thinks so. Future writers could use the Holtzman Award — named for Jerome Holtzman, creator of the save stat — a better gauge for judging a reliever’s Hall of Fame candidacy:

And wouldn’t it help those voters right now, for example, when they try to figure out how the heck to assess Lee Smith’s credentials if they could see he’d won, oh, five Holtzman Awards and finished in the top three 10 times? As opposed to his actual collection — of zero awards?

Hey, it couldn’t hurt. Could it? So why not?

This leads back to the small pool argument. The Holtzman Award would go to one of 30 closers. Why should HOF voters use this as a gauge for anything? It just measures who’s the best out of 30 players. Unless the HOF plans to start voting based on Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards — hey, if we’re going to base HOF voting on an award given to a single position, we might as well open it up that way to all positions — I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Third, there’s the entire concept of the BBWAA voting on an award it creates. It happens every year, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Tango takes on that argument.

Unless the BBWAA wants to create an award for every single individual position, I don’t see why they should create one for relievers. Again, it reduces the pool to one of 30 players. To give out an award for first basemen would be the same. So why pick one and not the rest? That’s the trouble I’m having with Stark’s argument. He says that this is “an exact parallel situation” to the separation of the Cy Young and MVP, but it’s clearly not. The Cy Young encompasses all pitchers, hundreds throughout the game. Relievers drills down even further. I don’t like creating an award, especially one with HOF implications, that further limits the pool of eligible players.

Anyway, I’m just riffing here. I’m sure someone will find fault with my argument, and I encourage it.

Breaking News: Granderson grants another interview

Boy, Curtis Granderson sure gets in a lot of face time with the press, huh? I guess that’s better than the alternative. Anyway, C-Grizzie sat down for a chat with New York Magazine to talk about a whole bunch of stuff. It’s some nice light reading on a gorgeous Saturday morning, so check it out.

A Damonic thaw on the horizon?

As the Hot Stove League has worn on, Johnny Damon rumors have become the meme of the day. He sent a text message about playing for any team! He spoke to the Tigers! He didn’t speak to the Tigers! He had eggs for breakfast! If anything, the constant attention to Johnny Damon has highlighted the problems baseball coverage faces in a 24-hour online environment. At some point, the filter disappeared, and everything mundane Damon did became a major story.

Yet, as December became January, as Spring Training drew every closer, Damon remained both unemployed and seemingly off the Yankees’ radar. Brian Cashman had built his team as he saw fit, and if Johnny Damon didn’t feel he could meet the Yanks’ price, Cashman was prepared to move on. In fact, according to most reports, the Yanks hadn’t spoken to Damon for weeks.

Earlier this week, though, we saw the first signs of a thaw. Jerry Hairston, Jr. speculated that the Yanks weren’t moving on anyone else yet because they were waiting for Damon’s price to come down. While Cashman denied saying so directly, Hairston’s words rang if not true at least plausible. Even with shoddy defense, Damon can be a useful player in a power packed lineup for the Yanks.

And so, it is of little surprise that Damon and the Yanks are, according to Jon Heyman, back on speaking terms. Over at MLB Trade Rumors tonight, our very own Mike Axisa had the transcription from the MLB Network:

“He did meet or talk to the Yankees in the last couple of days. Still doesn’t look like a great chance of happening though believe it or not. They are talking, but the Yankees have these budgetary constraints. They’ve been telling other teams they have about $2 million to spend. I think for Damon they would probably go over that. I mean this is a guy who’s had 100 runs scored nine times and 24 home runs. Terrific player, but I would still say more likely Braves or Tigers, at this point.”

Who knows what that means? Heyman has long been a press mouthpiece, in a sense, for Scott Boras, and it’s quite reasonable to see Boras behind this quote. He’s trying to publicly engage the Yanks and push them to come up with the money for Damon. They could go a few million dollars over budget for Damon, and Boras wants that to happen soon.

Heyman mentions two possible destinations for Damon, but neither seem likely at this juncture. The Braves say they’re through spending. They’re not going to wipe out the cost savings from sending Javier Vazquez away by upping with Damon for few million. The Tigers too are believed to be at or near their budget limits. I wonder if Mariners, still in the hunt for a bat, could get involved, but so far, they’ve been quiet.

Right now, this rumor is still a low level one, but it’s one we’ve been expecting. If Damon is a Yankee come mid-February, no one will be that surprised. And if he’s not a Yankee, no one will be that surprised either.

Open Thread: Yet another tribute video

I could watch these things all day. Hurry back, baseball season.

Here’s your open thread on this lovely Friday night. The Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all in action, but chat about whatever you want. Enjoy.

How many runs could the Yanks score next season?

The Yankees lost two core pieces from their 2009 lineup this offseason, but they replaced them with two younger players who aren’t exactly slouches with the bat. After scoring a Major League best 915 runs last season, how many runs could the Yankees be expected to score in 2010 with Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson replacing Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon? Well, the answer is a frickin’ lot.

Matt Imbrogno at TYU ran some numbers using the 2010 CHONE projections, and pegs the Yanks as a 935 run offense next season. The worst possible lineup arrangement, which features Robbie Cano leading off and Mark Teixeira batting 9th, would still put 900 runs on the board. Factor in the massive fourth starter upgrade that is Javier Vazquez, and damn, the Yankees are going to be one scary team in 2010.

Yankees contact Jim Edmonds

Funny how a simple phone call can garner so much attention.

As you probably heard by this point, the Yankees reportedly contacted Jim Edmonds, who said he wants to play in 2010. Apparently the Yankees have contacted him, and Edmonds, despite his stated desire to play in St. Louis, will consider playing in New York. “That’s a pretty nice situation over there,” he said.

We know the Yankees want to sign a complementary left fielder, so the Edmonds connection was inevitable. I can’t imagine, however, that they’re very serious suitors. The 39-year-old, 40 in July, hasn’t played since 2008, and while he posted good numbers in limited duty for the Cubs, there’s no certainty that he can continue to produce at that level in 2010, especially with a move back to the AL.

For a few years Edmonds was among the best center fielders in baseball, perhaps the best in 2003, when he posted a 1.002 OPS and finished 17 spots behind Juan Pierre in the MVP race, and 2004, when he posted a 1.061 OPS. Those days, however, are far behind him, as he saw a decline in each of the three following years, ending his contract in St. Louis with a .252/.325/.403 campaign. He got off to a rough start in San Diego, too, OPSing .498 before they released him. Again, he played better once in Chicago, but that was over just 298 PA.

Edmonds presents a few problems. First, his defense appears on the decline. UZR typically rated him on the positive side from its inception in 2002 through 2006, but in 2007 he ran into the negatives, and then fell far into the negatives in 2008. He played center field those years, so perhaps a move to left would help cover up his diminished range. But can the Yankees expect even that, given his age and his year away from the game?

His platoon splits present an even bigger problem. During his prime he hit lefties just fine, showing even splits during his peak years of 2003 and 2004. But since 2006 he’s been downright terrible against lefties. This includes a .479 OPS in 2006, .631 in 2007, and .441 in 2008. Those all come in limited samples, and rightfully so. With an already lefty-heavy team, it doesn’t make sense to add yet another lefty who has trouble hitting lefties. The Yanks got into trouble with that in the mid-00s.

As I mentioned in the guide to off-season sanity, we hear plenty of noise and disinformation at this time of year. Maybe the Yankees did contact Edmonds about a possible minor-league deal. Other than that no-risk move, however, I don’t see a reason why the Yankees would pursue him. Maybe they’re just using him as leverage against Damon.