Yanks won’t rework Girardi’s deal this off-season

As the Yankees moved through the playoffs, many of us wondered whether a World Series win would mean a contract extension for Joe Girardi. They got the win, but it appears the team is content to let Girardi manage 2010 as a lame duck. Joel Sherman has the details, which are few. Instead of rewarding Girardi for a job well done, the Yanks will take their normal tack of letting a contract expire before negotiating a new one. It seems like a reasonable enough stance.

Brian Cashman has made it clear that this is how the Yankees will operate. Before the 2007 season he had a chance to rework deals for Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, but declined to do so until after the season. While that decision might have cost the team several million dollars — both Posada and Rivera played hardball after having great seasons — it appears they’ll continue to apply the policy across the board.

While football teams prefer to avoid having a lame duck coach, baseball teams don’t seem to averse to it. Joe Torre signed four contracts after his first one with the Yankees, and two of them came after the old deal expired. In other words, the Yankees had two lame duck seasons under Torre, 1999 and 2001. His teams did just fine those seasons. He signed extensions for the 1997 and 2004 seasons, a year before his contract was to expire, and the teams did just fine then, too (though both seasons ended on sour notes).

After winning the World Series in his second season at the helm, it seems that missing the playoffs in 2010 is the only result that could lead to a new manager in 2011. Even then, with the World Series championship under his belt, perhaps the Yankees will be a bit more forgiving with Girardi if his team fails to make the playoffs next year. In any case, they’re leaving that option open, no matter what the team does. Even so, save for some unforeseen event unrelated to the team’s play (e.g., Girardi insulting the owner, as he did in Florida), I don’t see anyone else managing the Yankees for the next few years.

Joe Girardi has his good points and his bad, and although many of us were puzzled by some of his moves, I still think he’s a good manager. While we as fans tend to focus on the manager’s tactical moves, a manager is responsible for more than just that. He must hold together a team of 25 personalities over a six-month season and month-long playoff process. From all appearances, Girardi has done that well. As Alex Rodriguez said after the team won the World Series, “You have 25 guys who bought into Joe Girardi’s system.”

Yankees tidbits we missed yesterday

I would guess that maybe 5 percent of people who read this site don’t read MLB Trade Rumors at least once a day. It’s such a quick, easy source of information on anything remotely hot stove related. This time of year, though, it gets a bit dense. Thirty-nine posts went up yesterday, most of them not Yankee-related. But there are some minor tidbits among them, so we’ll aggregate the aggregator.

  • Joel Sherman caught a vibe, and it said that the Yankees will not only non-tender Wang, but they will “not even offer him a small base with incentives to return.” Good thing it’s just a vibe.
  • Sherman, who has been all over these GM meetings, hears that Yanks “plan to tender arb-eligibile Brian Bruney because his price (about $1.5M) will be reasonable.” That’s less than 1 percent of total payroll.
  • Buried in this Joe Strauss article about Matt Holliday, the Cardinals “expressed interest” in Xavier Nady. I always wonder what denotes an expression of interest.
  • The Royals foolishly jumped on Kyle Farnsworth early last off-season, and this off-season they’re after another former Yank. Via Ken Rosenthal/Jon Paul Morosi, the Royals signed Wilson Betemit to a minor league deal. I’ll always appreciate Betemit for bringing us Nick Swisher.
  • Not that the Yanks were going to sign him anyway, but Charley Walters reports that the Twins and Joe Mauer have begun discussing a new deal. The Yanks will just have to hope that one of their 18 catching prospects works out.

Kennedy knocked around in Arizona

AzFL Surprise (9-8 loss to Mesa, walk-off style)
Brandon Laird: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Ian Kennedy: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 4-5 GB/FB – 46 of 70 pitches were strikes (65.7%)
Mike Dunn: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – 13 of 21 pitches were strikes (61.9%) … allowed an inherited runner to score, which was charged to IPK

Open Thread: The greatest Nike ad ever

We Have The Yankees

You may have seen that one yesterday, but it’s worth seeing again.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Devils, Islanders, Nets, and Knicks are all in action tonight, plus there’s a new South Park. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.

First season a success for Yankee Stadium Metro-North stop

The ridership numbers are in for the new Metro-North Yankees/E. 153rd St. station, and officials at the commuter rail are pleased with the results. During the regular season, ridership levels averaged 2800 per weekday game and 4000 per weekend game. Those numbers reached 4800 per game for the playoffs and peaked for Game 6 of the World Series with over 6000 fans turning to Metro-North last Wednesday. “Overall, for the first season, the results are very good. It is a big success,” Howard Permut, president of Metro-North, said. For more on this station’s first season in operation and my thoughts on why ridership was lower than initially projected, check out my coverage at Second Ave. Sagas.

Damon, Boras not on the same page

Throughout the course of the 2009 season, Johnny Damon spoke, seemingly without his agent Scott Boras’ permission, about his desire to stay in New York and continue to play for the Yankees. “I know where I want to be next year,” Damon told 1050 ESPN New York in early May. “I want to be here in New York.

Two weeks later, he expressed similar sentiments to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “This would definitely be the best place for me,” he said. “I’d sure love to keep taking advantage of that right-field porch.”

Finally, in August, he again made a similar statement. “I don’t know where else I would want to go to,” Damon said. “Obviously, that’s not the right thing to say when you’re about ready to approach free agency, but I’m very happy with playing in New York, and my family’s happy I play for New York. There’s no bigger place to go.”

For a Scott Boras client, Damon wasn’t exactly toeing the party line, and by noting that it’s not “the right thing to say” as a free agent, he acknowledged as much. As the Yankees, then, have been dreaming of wrapping up Damon to a short deal on something of a hometown discount, Scott Boras has tried to take control of the story. Yesterday, the superagent expressed his desire for a three- or four-year deal for Damon at market rate. At that price, consider the Yankees out of the picture.

Yet, this story is far from over, and two competing interviews — one by Damon and one by Boras — suggest to me that Damon and his agent are not on the same page. First, we have David Waldstein’s piece on Boras. Holding forth at the GM Meetings, Scott spoke about all of his clients, including Damon. “I think every player wants his fair market value,” Boras said, “and I think the New York Yankees have a history of paying players their fair market values.”

Damon meanwhile was far more forthcoming about his desire to stay in the Bronx. Speaking with Reggie Jackson and Bill Pidto on Sirius XM last night, the Yanks’ free agent left fielder was unequivocal in his love for pinstripes and his desire to come back:

Host, Bill Pidto: “So all things being equal, Johnny, you’d like to come back to the Yanks?”

Damon: “Why not? I mean, we just won a championship. That new stadium is incredible. The Steinbrenners have been the best owners in the game as long as I can remember. They want to win and they proved it last offseason…So, that being said, I’ve loved playing for New York these past four years.”

He also talked about taking less to stay:

Host, Bill Pidto: “When you look to the financial aspects of your future do you maybe say, ‘You know what? I’ll play for a little bit less if I can stay with the Yanks?’”

Johnny Damon: “Well, we have to go through the system and start negotiating if that’s what it’s going to take. We just need to start talking. We know New York has all the resources in the world but they also know I want to come back. So I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. I’m sure there’s something we can work out.”

It’s clear that Damon isn’t being as free-spirited with his mouth as he was in May and August, but the desire is clearly there. He wants to come back to New York, and the Yankees, for the right price, will have him back. Although these quotes don’t push the story of a contract forward, it does highlight a Boras-driven tension. Scott Boras wants the most for his clients while his clients sometimes just want to stay where they are. We saw this tension flare up between Boras and A-Rod in 2007, and now it seems as though Damon is pushing back on the Boras rhetoric.

All things being equal, Boras should find a way to get Damon back on the Yanks. After all, that’s his job. But if it means fewer dollars for Matt Holliday, another top Boras client, Scott may be less willing to accommodate Damon and his lower future earnings potential.

Could Granderson factor into Yanks’ OF plans?

The outfield is the Yankees’ biggest area of concern this off-season, and to that end Mike examined the free agent class yesterday. There are some attractive names on there, but there’s nothing that makes me think, “That’s the guy I want roaming the outfield for the Yanks in the future. Matt Holliday is the closest in that regard, but that would require a big commitment. Even if the Yanks are thinking of Holliday, they should explore alternatives first.

In an item posted barely an hour ago, Joel Sherman reports that the Tigers have made center fielder Curtis Granderson available. He speculates that the Yankees will be interested, and I can’t blame them. Granderson is a high quality player that can help shore up the Yankees outfield. That is, if his 2009 season isn’t a window into his future production.

Granderson made his mark in 2007, his second full season in the majors, when he posted a triple slash .302/.361/.552, including 23 home runs and 23 triples. That’s the kind of production any team would love in center field, and if Granderson kept it up it’s unlikely that the Tigers would trade him. Unfortunately, his production has dropped in each of the past two years, dipping to .249/.327/.453 in 2009. But does that necessarily detract from Granderson’s trade value?

It seems that for the Tigers, trading Granderson would be more about future payroll commitments than 2010. He’s owed just $5.5 million next year, but his salary climbs after that, as he’ll earn $8.25 million in 2011 and $10 million in 2012, with a $13 million club option ($2 million buyout) for 2013. That seems like a pretty team friendly deal, but with Granderson’s production dropping over the last two years the Tigers might want to avoid that gamble.

Granderson’s BABIP stands out as a reason for his dip in production. After posting marks of .362 in 2007 and .317 in 2008, he fell all the way to .276 in 2009. I’m not here to chalk this up to luck and say that he’s poised to rebound. Instead, let’s take look at some other numbers that might explain the dip. Looking at his batted ball data, you can’t help but notice one big change from 2008 to 2009. Granderson’s ground ball rate dropped dramatically. He was at 34 percent in 2007 and then saw that rise to 40 percent in 2008. In 2009 it fell all the way to 29.5 percent. That meant an increase in fly ball percentage, to almost 50 percent. Since ground balls go for hits more frequently than fly balls, Granderson’s lower BABIP, and therefore lower batting average, is easily explainable.

Did Granderson change his swing between 2008 and 2009? That might be the case. Two factors suggest this. First, the shift from ground balls to fly balls. Second, an increase in home runs and infield fly balls. Granderson hit 30 home runs in 2009, eight more than in 2008 and seven more than during his previous high in 2007. His infield fly percentage rose from 5 percent in 2008 to 13 percent in 2009. So he hit a lot more fly balls, particularly fly balls that are very easy to catch.

If it’s a change in swings, it clearly didn’t work. Granderson might have hit more home runs, but he maintained the same level of home runs per fly balls in 2009 as he had in 2008. In other words, if he goes back to what worked in 2008, he could again be a viable option. With the help of Kevin Long, I’m sure Granderson could make the transition and return to being a productive player.

(And, just for Mike, I know he had a .484 OPS against lefties last year, but again, that seems like an approach thing. He was much better in previous years.)

The question is of just how productive he’ll be in 2010 and beyond. He’ll be 29 for the 2010 season, so a decline isn’t expected. Assuming Long can help him revert to his old form, then, what can we expect? I think it will be a lot closer to his 2008 production than 2007. Again, in 2007 he had a ridiculous BABIP, .362. It appears that this was the result of many fly balls dropping in for hits. He had a 44.8 percent fly ball rate that year, which usually signals a lower average. Granderson hit fewer fly balls in 2008, which helped his average even when his BABIP dropped to .317. That seems about normal: .317 BABIP for a .280 batting average.

Granderson is reputedly a good fielder in center, and UZR agrees. He’s had one negative year in the past four according to UZR, and is still positive overall. His negative value, unfortunately, came in 2008, the same year we’d like to think Granderson can repeat in 2010. Still, even with a -9.4 UZR, hew as still a 3.8 WAR player, which is a quality figure from center field. For comparison, Melky Cabrera, with a positive UZR in 2009, was a 1.6 WAR player.

Even with Granderson, the Yankees would probably still have outfield issues in 2010. Even though we’re not ones to throw out trade proposals, I assume the Tigers would require Austin Jackson in any possible deal. Granderson would be a fine replacement in center should the Yankees bring back Johnny Damon (or bring in Holliday), but he could also play alongside Melky for a year until the Yankees figure out what they’re going to do with left field.

All of this, of course, is contingent on Granderson recovering from a poor 2009. How much are the Yankees willing to gamble on that? How much on top of Jackson would they have to surrender? We don’t know the answers, but we’ll definitely keep up with this situation to see where the Yanks stand.