Chone Figgins is close to signing a 4 year, $36 million deal with the Mariners, which should set Johnny Damon‘s relative market value at less than half that. Damon is a more dangerous power hitter than Figgins, but Figgins gets on base more, is an above average 3rd baseman and outfielder, and is 4 years younger. You’d have to think the market for Damon is, at most, in the 2 year, $15 million range; considering that arbitration would have netted Damon close to that just for one season, it would seem that the Yankees made the right decision in not offering.
As much as I’ve appreciated Damon’s efforts in helping the Yankees win this year, I have to admit part of me would like to see him go. Some red flags:
1- In the course of 4 seasons with the Yankees, Damon went from being an average center fielder (2006), to a poor center fielder but a good left fielder (2007), to an average left fielder (2008), then to a poor left fielder (2009). What happens next? If he comes back, how often will he have to DH, especially if he’s signed for more than one season?
2- Damon’s home OPS this season was .915 while his road OPS was .795. This, despite the fact that his Batting Average on Balls in play (BABiP) was .50 points higher on the road. What does that mean? Well Damon was much luckier on the road and yet still didn’t hit nearly as well. Clearly, Yankee stadium helped Damon out a good deal and that gives the Yankees leverage – he needs them too.
3- This year’s free agent crop is very mediocre and the top two outfielders, Holliday and Bay, are overpriced. However, next year Carl Crawford becomes a free agent, along with many other good players. The Yankees should consequently keep as many deals to one season as possible.
So what should the Yankees do? Probably let Damon walk, unless they can get him at reasonable cost. 2 years and $14 million would be the max, maybe a higher annual rate (8-9) for just a single season with an option.