And if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you.
According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Yankees have been telling agents that they have just $2 million left to spend on a left fielder. If they insist on keeping to that budget it would mean there is no chance at resigning Johnny Damon.
The Yankees budget is interesting because it is entirely self-imposed and changes with their needs. As Sherman points out in the article, they increased their budget about a year ago to sign Mark Teixeira and Andy Pettitte, but stuck to it during the season when Cashman reached an agreement to trade for outfielder Mike Cameron. In that instance Hal Steinbrenner vetoed taking on $5.5 million of his salary and the trade didn’t happen.
My guess is that the Yankees are doing this because they are tired of paying top dollar for players that would otherwise receive less money if they had decided to go with another team. Or they are trying to avoid being the team that players use to drive up their costs.
One thing that is certain, the payroll was probably more flexible last season as the Yankees had just missed the playoffs and were about to open a new stadium. Meaning that the Yankees are less likely to break the budget to sign Damon unless he takes a serious pay cut.
What this means is that no matter how great the lineup could be with Damon batting no. 2 they are likely going to have to go into the season with Brett Gardner as a starter or take a less attractive option. Sherman ranks the left fielders they would want in this order:
1. Xavier Nady
2. Reed Johnson
3. Rocco Baldelli
4. Jerry Hairston Jr.
5. Marcus Thames
The only two teams that have been consistently linked to Damon have been the Giants, who have in the meantime added Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa making it less likely they will sign Damon, and the Braves who don’t have much money to spend. Cashman knows this and he could be spreading this rumor on purpose to force Damon to realize that if he wants back in he can’t even think about $10 million per season.
Or he could be spreading that rumor to get another one of his options at a cheap price. It’s hard to tell what Cash’s next move will be, but you can bet he’s going to get a good deal for him.