So I've been thinking about our outfield. All three positions are basically up for grabs since we have two options at each position. Because Giambi will be our DH, the odd man out in the outfield has the most value to us as trade bait.
Here are the viable permutations for next season:
Let me tackle the easy one: resign Abreu. Yes, he was horrible the first month and a half of the season. Yes, he has no ability to judge his distance from the wall.
But his ability to take pitches, get on base, and run the bases makes him the exemplar of the Yankees' offensive approach.
Also, Abreu's deal (while an overpayment) is only for a single year. This means that next off-season he comes off the books, and we can look at trading some of our surplus pitching for a young right fielder (or centerfielder if we're content with Melky in right).
Damon shouldn't be counted on to go back to centerfield for a full season, but he took to left field very quickly. By the end of 2007 his range made him a better left fielder than Hideki Matsui.
They both make the same $13 million per year through the 2009 season. They are both 34 years old.
Given Matsui propensity to over-swing in big situations, I would normally try to trade him. But Matsui brings in a lot of revenue on his own.
Matsui also has a full no-trade, while Damon has a limited no-trade clause.
So let's have Johnny tell us which teams are ok for him to be traded to:
On the current list, Damon divulged for the first time, are teams such as the Royals, Devil Rays, Marlins, Mariners and Twins.
No Red Sox or Angels.
"The reason why I picked the small-market teams," he said, "is because, for the most part, they can't afford to pick up my salary."
In other words, it gives him something of a defacto no-trade.
"Of course, if a big-market team like the Mets or Dodgers were interested, the Yankees could come to me and ask for my consent. And I wouldn't say 'yes' unless my deal was extended," he said.
So who's going to want Johnny Damon? Well, whoever loses out on the centerfield free agent market. The White Sox, Twins, Braves, Phillies, and Marlins are all going to be players in that market to some extent. And only the Marlins might be unwilling to take Johnny D if the Yanks pay about $6 million of his contract.
So what do I want in return? A catcher is priority one, whether they resign Jorge for 2008 or not, we need a young catcher as injury/age insurance. After that, all other positions seem equal to me. I don't have the resources of a Brian Cashman at my disposal. I read a bunch of prospect sites (Baseball America, SB sister-site minorleagueball, and MiLB.com, chiefly) and tried to pick guys who can help us in 2009.
Centerfielder Aaron Cunningham of the White Sox is currently playing in the AFL following a strong season (.308/.375/.509) in A and AA. You could start to build a package (+ pitching) around him, since he's too young to help the ChiSox this year.
The Twins match our dearth of position players, so we'd probably wind up with a package of pitching, but I would expect a deal as good as the Sheffield trade, though I'd take a better one. If we could work 24 year old catcher Jose Morales (.311/.366/.399 AAA) into the conversation I'd be ok with that, but he's a backup at best.
The Braves have a 24 year old left fielder named Brandon Jones who played very well (.295/.367/.490) in AA and AAA. I'd take him and a couple of mid-level prospects if his defense is good. He's playing winter ball right now in the Mexican League his probably due for a long look in Spring Training.
From the Phillies, I'd want to take a look at Greg Golson. Currently playing for the Saguaros in the AFL, he went only .273/.305/.426 in A and AA, but he's only 22 and he was rated the best defensive outfielder, best arm, and best baserunner in the Phils' minor league system. Toss in a decent arm and this is a kid worth gambling on.
The Marlins are an especially tough team for me to scout. Brett Hayes is 23 year old catcher and a defensive stud, but his bat has yet to catch up to his potential, and he was almost certainly rushed to AA this year. Which is the Marlins' problem: their best prospects are on the MLB team. because their farm system hasn't recovered from the fire-sale two years ago.
My final hope (equivocation?) is that if we can't turn Johnny Damon into some talented bats, we can turn him into enough pitching prospects that it won't hurt to pry Russell Martin away from the Dodgers...