"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Too Late

According to Tyler Kepner in the Times:

[Johnny] Damon said in a text message Friday that the Yankees had offered two years and $14 million, while he had offered to return for two years and $20 million. That was true, a Yankees official confirmed, but by then, the Yankees and Johnson had nearly finished their deal and it was too late to turn back.

The official, who was granted anonymity because the Johnson deal has not been announced, said that Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, wanted a two-year, $26 million deal when he spoke with General Manager Brian Cashman on Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, though, Boras said the Yankees did not begin negotiations with him until Thursday at 4 p.m., when they proposed the two-year, $14 million offer. Boras said he soon countered at two years and $20 million, and Cashman rejected it.

Why didn’t they want Damon back at two-years, $20 million?

Not sure I’m understanding the Yankees’ thinking here.

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1 The Hawk   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:16 am

Partial re-post from other thread but it fits:

I think they feel they’re in fine shape and don’t really need Damon anymore. There’s something to be said for that; the line-up should be solid, and the OF as it stands is better defensively than last year.

2 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:22 am

This is, if true, something of a vote of confidence for the LecheGard duo in left. As I (and others) have said, the line up is deep and strong enough to carry league average (even a little below) in left field. We are not utterly entitled to above-average in every spot and they do want to drop the payroll.

I do see one more batter coming (DeRosa, if he brings his price down?) because I am not sure who DHes if (when?) NJ is hurting. Hmm. Maybe Swisher, actually, with Gardner taking left and Melky right. I'm also in the camp that sees Nady as a perfectly all right 4th OF, bordering on a starter. Again, not sure of price.

3 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:23 am

Also a partial re-post....I'm still not convinced that the Yanks don't bring back Damon in the end. At this point, it looks like the difference is either a very small amount of money, or maybe even Damon comes back with an offer for a single year.

Then again, going with what Hawk suggested on the previous thread, it *could* be the case that the Yankees see Damon now as exclusively a DH (and maybe emergency LF). If so, then the exclusive DH position has been filled.

That said, I'm going to stick with my prediction that Johnny is back with the team next year.

4 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:26 am

[2] I agree. The Yankees will sign one more bat, even if not a big bat. If Melky is the starter in LF, they will not go with a bench whose OFs include only Gardner and/or Hoffman. Maybe they sign Nady, maybe DeRosa, maybe Hinske..who knows. But there will be one more move.

Of course, I still think that the one more move could yet very well be Damon [3].

5 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:34 am

[2] You know, Hoss, I was skeptical at first, but looking at DeRosa, he has some pretty nice platoon splits against LHP (even last year, which was overall a disappointment) and he plays a lot of positions. He *could* be a nice fit, especially when Granderson sits against LHP (moving Melky/Gardner to CF).

6 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:39 am

it does seem the yanks see jd as a dh at this point.
granted this goes against girardi seemingly perceiving swish more in need of a lidr than jd - but it does seem cashman thinks this.

although i am ok with the nj signing i still don't fully understand nj over matsui and/or damon.

[2] it is seemingly a big vote of confidence for melky/brett as well as granderson to have more of a 2007 season than 2009.

kevin long has a lot of pet projects.
i really hope he finds a way to get gardner not to watch two strikes go past him followed up with mattpat's favorite - a pop-up; or mine watching strike 3

7 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:02 am

[6] I don't want to open yet another Melky-Gardy debate, but Gardner gets a lot of grief---more from, say, Mattpat than you--but I'm not sure it's warranted. Despite supposedly standing idly by with the bat on his shoulder, passively taking strike three and/or popping up harmlessly to the IF, he did manage a .345 OBP last season. That is, higher than league average and higher than Melky's average. So whatever he did right or wrong, he managed to get on base.

He struck out 40 times in about 280 PAs, which works out to about 80 times in a full season. That's not bad.

His GB/FB/LD/B rates were: 47%/31%/16%/5%. That compares to a league average of 42%/37%/19%/2%. In other words, he hit a couple fewer line drives than league average and bunted more. Again, not surprising, nor shockingly bad.

I understand that Gardner (seems to) underwhelm or irritate from an aesthetic standpoint. But statistically, the numbers don't seem to match the reputation of a guy who only strikes out looking or pops-up and never strikes the ball well.

And again, he got on base at a higher rate than league average and at a higher rate than his primary competition for ABs.

8 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:18 am

[0] Why is Boras viewed as a credible source regarding when negotiations began? The Yankees were widely reported to have made an offer to Damon over a week ago. I believe I heard on XM they were over $20 million apart.

9 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:21 am

[7] i agree - his stats are not as bad as they are made out to be and are better than league average..
however, i just think someone whose best skill is his speed mitigates that skill by popping up or looking at strike 3 and these are two events that should happen less frequently for him - he still has an upper cut swing.
i would like to see what percentage of his strike outs are looking (i don't have a subscription to br) - but he also should not being k'd looking very much.

10 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:28 am

[9] What difference does it make whether his K's are looking or not? If taking lots of close pitches yields more looking Ks but also more walks, I'm all for it. Speed is a fine weapon, but getting on base is the name of the game.

Your more relevant criticism is whether his upper-cut swing makes him hit too many balls in the air v. on the ground (especially pop-ups). I don't have those numbers (i.e., pop-ups v. fly balls to the OF), but again, look at his stats for GB rate. His ground ball rate is HIGHER than league average. So again, maybe he pops up more than one would like, but he also seems to get the ball on the ground with relatively great frequency.

And ultimately, it's the end results that matter most: he gets on base at a higher than average rate. Now, ideally, he could improve and build on this or that skill...get on base 37% or even 40% of the time, rather than 34.5%. True. But I stand by my assessment that most of the complaints about Gardner are aesthetic (he doesn't look "good" when he swipes at the ball or takes pitches) more than rational (or perhaps better, empirical).

11 Start Spreading the News   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:45 am

Why wouldn't the Yanks still try to sign Damon? Even after signing Nick Johnson?

Imagine this lineup:
Nick Johnson,
Granderson (vs righties -- otherwise Posada hits here)

Geez, how awesome would that lineup. Sign Hinske and Nady to come off the bench and spell guys and voila -- Instant championship! (assuming Hughes and Chamberlain and the bullpen all perform)

12 The Hawk   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:58 am

[10] I think my main objection to Gardner is aesthetic. If I only listened on the radio, maybe he wouldn't bother me.

13 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:15 pm

[12] Ha-ha. To be honest, I do follow most of the games on radio.

14 Just Fair   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:16 pm

[6] Don't forget. Lil' Brett is presently standing in his garage staring at his tee. : )

15 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:16 pm

[10] [12] maybe it is aesthetic but i think that the 2 flaws he has that annoys me - uppercut swing and taking too many strikes (which i think is the flip of meky's problem at times- that is melky has trouble recognizing what is not a strike and gardner has trouble recognizing what is a strike) is why his obp is 345 instead of say 360.
his speed should be used to get him on base - watching strike 3 and hitting pop-ups basically guarantee him not getting on base that ab.
anyway we still have months to debate them in the off-season and probably all year long too if neither one is traded.
so, i'll just say i would still like an offensive upgrade at lf if possible.

16 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:18 pm

[14] haha yes, indeed :}

17 The Hawk   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:34 pm

[15] It may be splitting hairs, but I think Melky's issue is not so much that he can't recognize pitches so much as he can't resist swinging at garbage sometimes. I've seen him swing at fastballs that were practically over his head, not to mention the balls that land in front of the plate. I do think he's improved a bit though.

18 Chuck in DC   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:36 pm

[8] And even if the Boras statements are true, this was still a way to take a swipe--a friendly one--at Boras' "holding out for 3/39" public strategy; AND be more flexible for 2011

19 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:43 pm

[11] You are talking about a direct swap of JD for Melky in LF.
JD's projections are for an .800 ish OPS.
Melky projects for a .720ish OPS.
Both players could do better or worse, but a 36 year old getting older is bad, while a 25 year old getting older is good.

So, let's say JD is 80 OPS points better.
Now, lets look at defense.
JD is a slighly below average fielder with a noodle arm, and maybe regressing.
Melky is a slightly above average fielder with a shotgun, and we might hope, getting better with experience.

So, how much is that difference in defense worth? 80 OPS points? Maybe not... but whatever the difference, is it worth $10m and a roster spot?

But people are forgetting.....
Cashman is AT HIS BEST in July.
Why commit to JD on a marginal decision, when all kinds of opportunities will be available after the all-star break?

20 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:44 pm

If they simply teach Gardner to bunt, he could be the Best Lousy player in baseball.

21 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:47 pm

[15] Agreed...upgrade if at all possible.

I guess I tend to view players as a sum total and worry less about why individuals are not better at X or Y or Z. Maybe if Brett swung more---or less, or differently---his OBP would be .360 or .390 or .400...or .320 or .300. But he doesn't and it isn't.

Instead, I prefer to look at what he did--he got on base at a decent rate, he stole lots of bases, he hit with little or no power, he played good defense--and evaluate to what degree his sum total helps or hurts the team, to what degree his sum total is better or worse than other options.

22 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 12:51 pm

[20] Perhaps...he already bunts at more than twice the rate of the average AL batter. I'm not sure how to evaluate that as a good thing or bad. I will point out that his highest OPS by far was on ball hit to the OF (whether on the ground or in the air). So, in fact, maybe they should instead teach him not to bunt but to hit the ball through the hole.

It is weird to me, though, why only certain players (Cano, Gardner) seem to get the "if only they taught him how to do X" analysis. Isn't more valuable NOT to worry about what he could/should do, and instead analyze what he has done (and by extension, what he is likely to do in the future)?

23 ms october   ~  Dec 19, 2009 1:07 pm

[21-22] well, speaking for myself mp, it is just interesting to me to think about the skills a player could develop to be better.
i think i tend to focus on skills that i think are attainable to some degree - for example i spend not a second of my time worrying about tex's speed - that ain't going to change. whereas some players, especially younger players have the potential for growth.; like melky, who i think would be a better player if he swung at better pitches; and likewise i think brett would be a better player if he did not have an upper-cut swing.
i want these players to be as good as possible because it helps the yankees and i also just like to see people reach what i presume to be their potential (naturally i could be wrong by a lot of this stuff, but again part of seeing someone develop or not develop certain skills is just an interesting part of baseball to me).

24 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 19, 2009 1:29 pm

[19] OYF, good to be back agreeing with each other.

I also agree that the Gardner thing is substantially aesthetic ... a little guy with a back foot swing has no business with an uppercut. Period. But when you just look at his stats, instead of his cuts, he's perfectly okay, and if he's stealing at 80%+ and fielding very well, he'll get 60+ sbs and offer strong D (less important in left, but not trivial) over a season. I still tilt to Melky, but my guess is that Girardi can handle this call (as he did last year, eventually) and it wouldn't surprise me if Gardner became a starter.

I also agree that DeRosa is a nice fit, too, and - as noted above - in part to sit Grandy vs tough lefties. I think the DeRosa holdup is $ again. Cash will not overpay for a utility guy, however versatile. DeRosa may want to start somewhere, he is not far off starter level for a bad team, though he isn't young.

25 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 1:39 pm

[23] Yeah, I see what you're. In fact, if we are idly speculating, it is fun to discuss whatis ("what if Soriano learns the strike zone..."). But if we are evaluating a player, I tend not to go that route. I guess after all these years I have grown very, very skeptical that players can change significantly once they reach the ML level. Sure, power tends to develop as players age and grow into their bodies; sure, batting eye might improve. But by and large, guys who are free swingers don;t stop (outside of special, chemically enhanced cases like Sosa), guys who are dead pull hitters don't suddenly start slapping the ball the other way, etc.

My theory is that they have gotten to where they are BECAUSE of their skill sets and tendencies, not IN SPITE of them. In a word, they are the players they are, and they rise to level that their sum total allows (with some tweaking here and there, of course).

26 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 1:42 pm

[24] I still tilt to Melky...

I might tilt toward Gardner, but I pretty much don't care one way or another. If I tilt toward anything, it would be for the Yankees to try to trade one of Melky/Gardner/Hoffman---whichever brings the most---because I see them as largely redundant. The only way to keep all three is to demote Gardner (the other cannot be demoted, correct?), and I'm not sure it serves anyone to have him buried in AAA again. If GArdner were traded, I would not weep.

27 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 19, 2009 2:53 pm

[24] Sorry... I disagree.

28 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 19, 2009 2:54 pm

[27] errr... what were we talking about?

29 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 19, 2009 3:24 pm

[27] forgetful curmudgeons?

30 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2009 5:02 pm

I don't doubt that actually watching Brett Gardner play baseball gives me a more negative impression of him than his stats indicate. Its not even that he takes pitches. The Yankees have had plenty of guys that took pitches they didn't like. But when I watch Brett Gardner take two pitches right down the middle, it infuriating because it makes me think he never intended to swing at all, and was just hoping he'd be able to get himself into a favorable count, rather than identifying pitches and knowing what to do with him.

Also, from July on, he was some kind of miserable, which sticks with you more than his good months of May and June. And then the World Series just pushed me over the edge.

In other news, my father read in the paper that the Yankees are looking at Justin Duchscherer. Other than the obvious (a thinly veiled attempt to give me a stroke) why on earth would they do that?

31 The Hawk   ~  Dec 19, 2009 5:33 pm

[30] I don't know much about Duchscherer. What bothers you about him?

32 Paul   ~  Dec 19, 2009 5:39 pm

Boras lied. His player's career died. He knew the market from Abreu. And yet he still played games. If he starts at 2/20 the Yankees finalize the deal a month ago.

33 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2009 5:43 pm

[32] He's a 32 year old relief pitcher who has started 27 games in his life and missed the last year and a half.

34 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 5:58 pm

[30] But when I watch Brett Gardner take two pitches right down the middle, it infuriating...

Well, I can see how that would anger someone. Then again, having followed you comments on these threads and not infrequently compared your definition of "down the middle" (when complaining about pitches taken by, say, Gardner or Posada) with the pitch location as indicated on gameday (not perfect, but perhaps more trustworthy)...well, let's just say that I don't put much stock into your interpretation of players' motives (e.g.: 'Posada intentionally tried to make an out to spite the umpire").

35 a.O   ~  Dec 19, 2009 6:44 pm

Bag on Brett all you want, but at least he can throw a ball from the outfield with more velocity than a 7-year old girl. Talk about grating to watch....

If you've ever wondered if there are ever any truly valid reasons to dis-like the Yankees, you might imagine one being fans who complain about not having a plus player at every single position even with the best offense in baseball, a Serious title, and a deal like Granderson's.

36 Paul   ~  Dec 19, 2009 7:14 pm

On the road last year:
Gardner: .289 .350 .408 .759
Ellsbury: .301 .348 .394 .742

In Boston, Gardner is the revered CF. Wake up people. We're not what Sox fans call us.

37 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2009 7:22 pm

[35] I truly, truly don't give a shit what fans of other teams think of the Yankees. As a fan, I want my team to put the best possible team out there

And heartily laugh when I see Sox fans and NESPN trip over themselves to praise Ellsbury.

38 Paul   ~  Dec 19, 2009 7:31 pm

The Yankees of the last 8-10 year got themselves into too many bad contracts while giving away the borderline guys.

The 2009 team just won a championship with youth and stars. You need a combination of both. Otherwise you end up with a team of one-dimensional players.

Both Ellsbury and Gardner are major league players. Melky too. If the alternative is a 36 year old with no arm and another 36 year old with two bum wheels, I'll take youth every time.

39 Chuck in DC   ~  Dec 19, 2009 7:34 pm

[30] I'm tracking on the feeling that it seems like he's up there hoping for a lucky ball/strike outcome. Statistical question, does this mean his reasonable stats are built disproportionately on performance in situations when opponents are inattentive, or less is at stake? Or is it just another example of the mythical clutch/non-clutch split?

40 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 19, 2009 7:54 pm

[38] I think most of the Yankees truly bad contracts of the last ten years had more to do with the decision makers choosing to just ignore the red flags of men like Pavano and Farnwsworth

41 The Hawk   ~  Dec 19, 2009 7:59 pm

[35] I agree with your second paragraph, and certainly Damon's arm is no bueno, but I've seen Gardner make quite a few godawful throws himself.

42 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 19, 2009 9:38 pm

[32] Exactly.... or rather, he terribly misled JD into thinking the Yankees would go much higher for his services. I feel badly for JD. Boris loses very little, while the rest of JD's career is ruined. What now, 2 years of invisibility in SanFran?

If I'm JD, I go to the Yankees and offer myself for 1/$8m.
One more year with the Yankees is better then 2 years anywhere else.
He needs to pull an 'ARod', and get back to the Yankees at any cost.

43 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 19, 2009 9:47 pm

[42] Back to disagreeing. If San Fran offers 2 for 20, and the Yankees are nowhere, he's looking at serious money, OYF. Winning is worth a price drop, yes, and so is looking better in the right ballpark, but if Damon signs for 1 for 7, he may have to sign for 5 next year - that's walking away from 8 million dollars. Too easy for us to say.

44 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 9:58 pm

[43] Damon also must be looking for security at this stage in his career. He's 36 and reduced to (probably) full-time DH duties. If he signs a one year deal and performs poorly, that could be teh end of the line, or at least the last time he signs a contract as a full-time player. He'll want the security of the extra year (or two if he's really lucky), which might even take him to retirement.

45 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:00 pm

[42] He needs to pull an ‘ARod’, and get back to the Yankees at any cost.

Wouldn't "pulling an A-Rod" mean that Johnny came back to the Yankees with a massive extension worth even more money?

46 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:38 pm

[45] touché

47 Just Fair   ~  Dec 19, 2009 10:47 pm

Watching the bottom of the 8th of the 03 ALCS on MLB. Just wow. The last time our neighbor pounded on the wall. Plus it makes me feel super old. I share Jeter's age and he looks like a character out of a bad 80's movie. Oy. : )

48 joejoejoe   ~  Dec 19, 2009 11:33 pm

The Yankees have...

- too much downside risk due to aging
- their eye on 2011 free agents
- a bargain DH in Nick Johnson
- only so many ABs

it would be nice to bring Johnny Damon back but all of the above argue against Damon getting a two year deal. I think the difference between Granderson and Johnson vs. Matsui and Damon is $12-14M savings over two years and two players who are a lot younger. If older Yankee FAs want to stay with the Yankees they have to take the Andy Pettitte approach and play on 1 year deals with a ton of incentives. The franchise wants to limit risk, it isn't being cheap. If Damon would play for $6M year + $5M incentives with a team option he could be a Yankee for life but there is no way Scott Boras is going to advise him to take that deal.

49 Raf   ~  Dec 20, 2009 8:11 am

If I'm Damon, I'd take a look at Atlanta. They gave Garret Anderson around 500 at bats and he didn't do squat.

50 Raf   ~  Dec 20, 2009 8:13 am

[40] Red flag or no, I don't think anyone foresaw the Yanks getting as little out of Pavano as they did.

51 Paul   ~  Dec 20, 2009 3:24 pm

[48] Great point. The Yankees are more than generous when they need to be. Damon gave good value but the Yankees gave four years when no one was giving him more than three years. Matsui didn't even earn all the money in his last contract. If the player doesn't want to work with them, then they shouldn't be surprised when they have another address. The Yankees shouldn't have to pay twice unless it's a true Yankee icon. And LF and DH are easily replaceable.

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