Who'll be there next year?
Option A: The Efficient Plan -
Re-sign Hideki Matsui to a one-year deal (that he seems amenable to). Matsui can still hit (.274/.367/.509), and would primarily be the DH. Let Johnny Damon walk (because he wants at least two years and is repped by Scott Boras); you've got to be careful with older free agents coming off career years. Such is the case with Damon, who just turned 36. His defense is already below average, and we can't expect another offensive year like 2009 (.282/.365/.489).
With Matsui at DH, Melky and Gardner man LF and CF (respectively) full-time. That improves the defense in both areas: Melky is a better LFer than Damon, and Gardner is a better CFer than Melky. We can reasonably assume they'll put up at least as good offensive numbers as '09, and quite possibly better as they move into their (historically speaking) primes.
The RAR (Runs Above Replacement) breakdown:
Damon was worth 30.1 RAR (25.3 batting, -9.2 fielding, 20.9 over replacement, -6.9 positional adjustment), getting 626 plate appearances.
Melky was worth 15.9 RAR (1.6 batting, -1.6 fielding, 18 over replacement, -2.1 positional adjustment), getting 540 PA.
Gardner was worth 20.6 RAR (2.4 batting, 7.2 fielding, 9.5 over replacement, 1.5 positional adjustment), despite only 284 PA. If we extrapolate that to 540 PA, it increases his RAR to 39.2!
A 2010 outfield of Melky, Gardner and Swisher may very well be better all-around than one of Damon, Melky and Swisher, especially considering Damon is unlikely to repeat his '09 season. Then when you think that Damon might be the LFer for several more seasons, it doesn't seem to make sense.
This option also allows Austin Jackson to find a place with the big team during the year (if he's ready).
Option B: Bring back Matsui and Damon.
As mentioned, Damon wants a multi-year deal. I don't like this option because both players are over 34 (safely in their decline phases), somewhat injury prone, don't play good (or any) defense anymore, and would be very costly.
Option C: Let Matsui walk in favor of Damon.
At least Damon can still play the outfield. Matsui could maybe play LF in an emergency, but that's it. Damon can also still run the bases (12 SB, 0 CS). The downside is that Damon would require a multi-year deal whereas Matsui seems willing to accept a single-year contract.
Option D: Sign the big name free agent.
This is the most costly option. Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are both LFers, and both are looking for long-term deals (as in 6+ years). Either would give us the best offensive option, but they would also require giving up a first-round draft pick.
Jason Bay has a 131 career OPS+, and just turned 31. His fielding UZR was -13, and his RAR was 34.9.
Matt Holliday has a 133 career OPS+, and will turn 30 in January. Despite a crucial error in the NLDS, his fielding has been above average every year but one. Last season he saved 5.7 runs in LF and was worth 56.8 RAR. However, his RAR has declined each of the last two years. He'll still clearly be the most expensive LF option, both in terms of money and length (his agent is Scott Boras).
Then there's the DH question. Both Holliday and Bay (even more so) look like future DHs. Do we really want another one, when we may need that spot for A-Rod, Posada, Jeter, Tex and possibly Montero?