The bad news for the other 29 clubs is that in the offseason of 2009-'10 the Yankees have not exactly become worse. In fact, the evidence suggests that they have become better. They are not without questions, but their questions are fewer and smaller than those of the vast majority of the competition.
The things that strike you about the Yankees' work this winter is that they moved without sentiment, but also without spending $423.5 million. They made some necessary moves, but these moves did not include overwhelming free agents with offers that could not be refused.
They have made two significant acquisitions, both in trades. There is center fielder Curtis Granderson, a genuinely exciting player who brings speed, extra-base pop, and a generous, genial nature. Granderson is an upgrade in center and that is how these things must be measured.
Then there is starting pitcher Javier Vazquez, not a complete newcomer to the Bronx. Vazquez pitched for the Yankees in 2004, during which time he was generally fine in the first half and generally inadequate in the second.
But nobody ever doubted his stuff, and he hasn't lost any of it. He put up some of the best numbers of his career last season with the Atlanta Braves (15-10, 2.87 ERA, 44 walks, 238 strikeouts). Again, he is an upgrade. The Yankees went with a three-man rotation in their 2009 postseason triumph. They could go to four now and feel very good about the change.
The losses of [Hideki] Matsui and [Johnny] Damon are not inconsequential. Melky Cabrera didn't keep the Yankees from winning, either. But the additions of Granderson and Vazquez make all kinds of sense. This is not an operation that is following success with complacency.
I agree that I feel very good about the Yankee roster heading into the season, regardless of what happens with left field. As was pointed out the other day, the primary thing that could derail this team is the age of some of its most important players.
Talking about Damon
As the off-season drags on, and Damon continues to sit home and wait for someone to offer him employment (I know the feeling), his status continues to be a hot topic among Yankees fans.
Bob Klapisch thinks Damon has only two options -- crawl back to the Yankees at their price or retire.
Remember back in November, when Damon refused to give the Bombers a hometown discount? Remember when he said that unless Brian Cashman was ready to pay $13 million a year, don’t bother making an offer? Damon should’ve been careful for what he wished.
No one has called, no one has that kind of money anymore and no one, least of all Damon and his agent Scott Boras, has any hope of this ending well.
With only a month to go until spring training, Damon has two options: He can call the Yankees and admit he has nowhere to go. The Yankees, who will listen politely, will tell Damon he can play for $2 million for one season, not a penny or a day more.
Option 2, practically unthinkable after the World Series, would be retirement. A friend of Damon’s recently said, "Johnny is completely in the family mode right now" and has considered that option. It’s still hard to believe that, in the wake of a 24-home run campaign in 2009, and hitting .364 against the Phillies in the Series, Damon actually would quit.
In retrospect, he should’ve accepted the Yankees’ final offer in December, which would’ve paid him $14 million for two years. But neither he nor Boras took a 50 percent pay cut seriously. The agent had a bigger, delusional vision of the market, including a $180 million payday for Matt Holliday that was supposed to duplicate Mark Teixeira’s contract.
NY Baseball Digest thinks sitting out until after the season begins might actually be Damon's best chance to earn an offer he would like -- possibly even from the Yankees. Circling the Bases figures the Yankees and Damon are still a match. On the other hand, NoMaas is tired of the whole thing and wishes Yankee fans would just stop talking about Damon.