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New York Yankees notes: Much hinges on Damon's decision

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Who is in left field? Who is at designated hitter? Those are the basic lineup questions about our New York Yankees right now, and they all hinge -- of course -- on whether Johnny Damon will accept a contract offer from the Yankees much shorter and less lucrative than uber-agent Scott Boras would like.

Meanwhile, there is much discussion of other options should Damon decide to walk. GM Brian Cashman can talk about Juan Miranda all he wants, but we all know that is incredibly unlikely to happen. 

By the way, with the Rule 5 drafting of Jason Hoffmann another question seems to be whether or not speedster Brett Gardner will be part of the outfield mix. Seems the Chicago White Sox, and possibly the Kansas City Royals, are asking about Gardner's availability.

Personally, I love Gardner. Some folks think Jason Tyner or Joey Gathright -- speedy slap hitters who have never hit enough to play regularly, when they look at Gardner. To me, he's a lot closer to Scott Podsednik, a guy who can hit enough, defend and wreak havoc on the bases. Obviously, it's not going to be with the Yankees, but I still believe Gardner can play regularly -- and do it well -- for somebody.

I mentioned Hoffmann, the Rule 5 pick, earlier. He seems like a useful reserve outfielder with some tools, and The Baseball Analysts are wondering why the Los Angeles Dodgers seemed to be trying so hard to lose him.

So why wasn't he on the 40 man roster, and why was he DFAed in September? The answer seems to be that he was redundant on the Dodgers. The 4th outfielder role is currently held down by Xavier Paul. Jason Repko also sits higher on the blue totem pole. I would have been surprised to see anyone grab Trayvon Robinson in the rule 5 draft, but if the Dodgers perceived that as a threat, it could certainly be argued that he deserves protection more than Hoffman.

Perhaps it just says more about the Yankees than the Dodgers. The Yankees currently have 4 outfielders on the 40-man roster. The first two, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, are clearly going to be penciled into most Yankees line-ups in 2010. The other two outfielders would be lucky to be penciled in at all. Melky Cabrera is a glorified backup centerfielder. He simply does not have the production to justify being played in a corner outfield position. With the Granderson acquisition, Melky will be reduced to being a 2nd choice centerfielder, and a last choice corner outfielder. The last outfielder, Brett Gardner is not even a good option for a 4th outfielder. How Gardner has still has a job confuses me.

Hoffman would fit in well as a 4th outfielder. He can play any outfield position, and his production will likely justify his being played on a corner. He isn't a great base stealer, but he has speed on the bases, making him a good option as a pinch runner. So this replacement-level outfielder, the 6th choice outfielder on the Dodgers, would be the starting left fielder on the current Yankees roster. This was clearly a good choice for the yankees. It was also very bad planning on the part of the Dodgers if they had any interest in keeping Hoffman.

Obviously, I disagree about Gardner. I do think, though, that Melky is a better fit than Gardner as a fourth outfielder because of his ability to play the corners and to switch hit. Nonetheless, this is kind of thought-provoking.

If you are in the 'Don't trade for Roy Halladay' camp, otherwise known as the Jesus Montero Fan Club, you will hate this quote from Cashman.

"I’m hesitant to move certain young players because of what they can do for us in the here and now or in the future and the salary off-set they provide. At the same time, for the right player, I’ll move anybody."

That doesn't mean Halladay is the right player. It just means he might be, so stay tuned.

The Big Lead, maybe the best general sports blog on the planet, had a nice interview with new Yankee Curtis Granderson the other day.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is talking about his team taking a step back in 2010 to be more competitive down the road. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy isn't buying what Theo is selling. Neither am I.