If Damon will DH, Yanks should consider Matsui

Two rumors floating around Yankee-Land today: that negotiations with Johnny Damon have heated up and that Hideki Matsui will eventually sign with the Yankees.

The first rumor, that the Yankees are going to soon give Damon a final offer that might only be for one year, makes a lot of sense.  Right now, Damon needs the Yankees more than they need him.  Considering Damon’s age, his home/road splits, his poor defense, and next year’s free agent class (that means you, Carl Crawford), the best scenario for the Yankees would be bringing Damon back on a 1-year deal.  With Granderson now on board, the Yankees can afford to give Damon a final offer and move on if necessary.

The second rumor is pretty interesting in that everyone has pretty much assumed that Matsui’s days as a Yankee are over.  Is there no real market for Matsui?

Matsui, like Damon, is also getting up there in age and is an injury risk.  He’s even worse defensively than Damon in that he literally doesn’t play the field at all.

But make no mistake: Matsui is a more dangerous offensive player.  He hits on the road as well as at home – in fact he has a much higher OPS on the road (.949 vs .815).  He hits lefties better than righties (.976 vs. .835 – especially noteworthy since Granderson makes the Yankees very lefty).

Damon’s value as a fielder and a baserunner I think makes them pretty equal players overall.  The question really comes down to what the Yankees would want Damon’s role to be.  If, with Cabrera, Granderson, Gardner, and the Rule 5 pick Hoffmann all being good defensive players, Damon would mainly just be a DH, Matsui would be just as valuable, if not more so.

Sure, it would be nice to have a more fluid DH situation next year, where Posada, A-Rod, etc could get some starts there, but if signing Damon simply means he’ll DH close to 100 times, the Yankees should sign the player who will command the shortest deal – preferably just one season.

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7 Responses to If Damon will DH, Yanks should consider Matsui

  1. I know that Damon isn't the best defensive player, but the fact that he can play in the field gives the lineup more versatility. I agree with you, whatever the Yankees do, they should set themselves up to get Crawford next year. With Crawford in left and Granderson in center, the Yankees would have one sweet outfield no matter who plays in right.

  2. Matt Imbrogno says:

    <blockquote cite="comment-186">

    Rob Abruzzese: I know that Damon isn’t the best defensive player, but the fact that he can play in the field gives the lineup more versatility. I agree with you, whatever the Yankees do, they should set themselves up to get Crawford next year. With Crawford in left and Granderson in center, the Yankees would have one sweet outfield no matter who plays in right.

    I like Crawford, but I don't think we should all be chomping at the bit to get him in 2011. His on-base skills are fairly limited and his power is just average. His defense is off the charts and we know he can run, but can we really trust a player with his skill set to age well? I would like the Yankees to go after/sign Crawford post 2011, but they should still be cautious about it and not go overboard on a potential deal.

  3. Brian Burkhart says:

    Crawford is just one of the many quality free agents that will be available next offseason. The bottom line is, I think Matsui for 1 year is better than Damon for 2 years.

  4. I agree with the Matsui-for-1-year approach, largely because I think Crawford in 2011 would be ideal. Next to Ichiro, he is my favorite non-Yankee, a guy whose skill set should be excellent well into his 30s.

    I find the Rule 5 selection of Hoffmann intriguing, and hope he can be a nice righty bat for the lineup–unlike Josh Phelps.

  5. Brian Burkhart says:

    Yeah, maybe I am just too much of an optimist, but Hoffmann seems like a good gamble. I was advocating the Yankees signing Reed Johnson, but Hoffmann could be a younger, cheaper version.

  6. JackN says:

    I think the Yankees should shop Melky and bring back Damon and Matsui. The future is now. There is no way to build a team that will win the World Series year after year. You just have to get the best players you can get and go after the championship. Get another pitcher and get down to business.

  7. I agree, Brian. (Full disclaimer: I am perennially glass-half-full.) Hopefully Hoffmann gets a crack and makes the most of it, not an easy thing to do with irregular work, but it's been done before. I know they're unique, but the 1998 Yankees did it with 5 left fielders in the mix due not just to injuries (especially Chili and Straw), but to people from Ledee to Curtis to Spencer stepping in and producing. Torre HAD to get these guys at-bats–and that was made all the easier because they were up 15 games at the end of July–because whoever played did well. Hoffmann coming in and doing well would be big, solidifying the bench, allowing Girardi flexibility against lefties, providing a solid pinch hitter. We'll see, but I'm hopeful.

    I like Melky, JackN, but wouldn't cry if that happened. People complain about that being the Yankees' attitude, yet more teams should reload and quickly as the Yankees do. It's more than the money; it's a mindset and managerial approach, and I like it. "Get down to business:" Amen.