Thursday, December 23, 2010

A New 4th Outfielder Option Comes Into Play

From Newsday:

"While the Yankees' primary focus remains pitching, they have been communicating with free agent Johnny Damon about a possible return to the Yankees for 2011, Newsday has learned.

Four sources said that Damon and the Yankees were talking about a role in which Damon, 37, would get occasional at-bats as a designated hitter and fill in at leftfield, allowing starting leftfielder Brett Gardner to either rest or shift to fill in for centerfielder Curtis Granderson or rightfielder Nick Swisher."

Would this be a good move for the Yankees to make?  On the one hand, Damon has played in the Stadium before and been successful, and does give the Yanks a little flexibility in the outfield by allowing them to move Brett Gardner around.

On the other hand, Damon is another 2 years older than he was when he left, can ONLY play left field, isn't the lefty masher that the Yankees really need as a 4th outfielder, is still an abysmal defensive outfielder with the arm of a 7-year-old girl, and while he may be talking to the Yanks about playing a bench role, his track record of following money and playing time suggests he could become a problem in the clubhouse if he doesn't feel he's getting enough at-bats.

In looking at what the Yankees already have and still need, I don't see how Damon fits in.  Jorge is going to get the lion's share of ABs at DH and they will need that spot to rotate the A-Rods, Teixs, and Jeters of the world through when they need off days, not to mention using that spot to get Jesus' bat into the lineup whenever he gets called up and needs a day off behind the plate.  This story also makes me worry that the Yankees might be looking to bring Damon in so they can use Gardner as a trade chip for a pitcher.  Unless that pitcher is Josh Johnson or Adam Wainwright (neither of whom are going to be available), that would just be a dumb move by Cash. 

If these rumors are true, then I'm glad Johnny has seen the light and realized that things aren't always as pretty on the other side.  But his time as a Yankee has come and gone and I'm not seeing how the positives outweigh the negatives if he comes back.  As a backup option, right fit or not, Damon has some value to the Yankees.  As a full-time starter and replacement for Gardy, he does not.  Is it really worth paying a guy the money he'll command when he really doesn't improve any of the weaknesses the Yankees still have on their team?