Free Agents 2010: The Outfield

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

With nothing really solid happening on the free agent market yet, we'll take a look at some of the names being associated with the Yankees in regards to offseason plans, and how realistic the chances are they are wearing pinstripes in 2010.

Today we will look at he outfield candidates that could possibly end up in pinstripes next season. This is arguably the area the Yankees need to concentrate most this offseason because of Damon and Matsui (if you consider him OF) are free agents.

Matt Holliday
Age: 29
Status: Free Agent
2009 Salary: $13.5 Million

Matt Holliday is probably the biggest position-player free agent on the market. With Johnny Damon also a free agent the Yankees are looking to fill a void in leftfield and Holliday can provide that. Holliday hit .313 with 29 HRs and 109 RBI last year. He was the leader of the Colorado Rockies team that went on an incredible run in 2007 to win the NL Pennant. However, he started the season with the A's last year and struggled power-wise in the AL. Once traded to St. Louis he re-emerged from his power-outage, making him a National League hitter. However, he is young and in the prime of his career, and is almost in the exact same situation Mark Teixeira was last year.

Like Teixeira Holliday will want a long-term contract and with Scott Boras as his agent that contract will be over the $100 million mark. Cashman has already made it clear he wants to watch spending, so I do not expect Holliday to go to the Yankees. However, the Red Sox are candidates to sign Holliday if they cannot re-sign Jason Bay, and if the Red Sox are in play so are the Yankees. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees lurk in the bushes like they did with Teixeira, or go after another outfielder.

Jason Bay
Age: 31
Status: Free Agent
2009 Salary: $7.8 Million

Jason Bay's name has gone hand-in-hand with Matt Holliday this offseason because they are the two biggest position player commodities ont he free agent market. Bay hit .267 with 26 HRs and 119 RBI last year with the Red Sox. Bay came to the Red Sox in the Manny Ramirez deal, and easily filled that void by quickly becoming a Yankee-killer the way Manny was. Bay's numbers show he had a solid season, but it was also a streaky season as his OPS was below .800 in the months of June and July and his batting average dropped from .301 on May 21 to .251 on July 31.

The Red Sox recently offered Bay a 4-year $60MM deal that Bay rejected. So obviously Bay is looking for something more than $15MM a year, but how far up would the Yankees be willing to go? Bay could be looking for something more like a 4-year $80MM which the Yankees can certainly provide. Bay might cost less money than Holliday, although there has been speculation that he wants a similar contract to Holliday. I do not think Bay will sign with a team until Holliday signs, but looking at the numbers, Holliday is clearly the better player. I wouldn't mind having Jason Bay on the Yankees, he is certainly an upgrade over Damon and other than Holliday there is no other free-agent outfielder who can provide the offensive production that these two can.

Johnny Damon
Age: 36
Status: Free Agent
2009 Salary: $13 Million

Johnny Damon had a career-year hitting .282 a career high 24 HRs and 82 RBI. Damon was a vital part of the Yankees 27th World Championship and his double steal in Game 4 will go down as one of the greatest postseason plays and World Series moments in Yankees history. If not for Matsui's Game 6, Damon may have been the MVP. So, how do the Yankees deal with a player who has been so good for the team the last 5 years, but at the same time is aging and exiting the prime of his career? It all comes down to if Damon is willing to take a pay cut. And as a client of Scott Boras, that is highly unlikely.

Damon has reiterated that he wants to stay in New York while Boras has been saying that they will listen to who has the best offer. They finally got on the same page this week, when Damon tweaked his wording around, saying, "I want to continue to be on a team that can win and to play in front of great fans – and we know that the Yankees fill both of those,” Damon said. “I think everyone knows my desire to come back. Still, every time I’ve been a free agent, I’ve ended up switching teams. It’s the nature of the beast. If people are interested, I’m going to listen.”

Signing Damon back on a short-term deal would be the most cost-efficient way to fill the hole in leftfield. His defense may be shaky, but they were still able to win a championship with him out there everyday. Then again, this is the same guy who said he would never leave Boston, and then went to the Yankees that same winter. I would love to see Damon return to pinstripes, but the Yankees objective is to get younger. I think that Damon is their first choice at who to play left-field next year, but with Boras as his agent and Damon's free agent history, signs indicate he will go the highest bidder.

Curtis Granderson
Age: 28
Status: Under contract with Detroit Tigers until 2012. Owed $25.75MM over next 3 seasons.
2009 Salary: $3.5 million

In order for the Yankees to obtain Granderson, they'd have to give up prospects to get him. Maybe not the pitchers that they'd have to give up for Roy Halladay, but star prospect Austin Jackson would have to be the centerpiece of the deal. Acquiring Granderson could also mean fixing the DH spot, as the Tigers are also looking to get rid of Magglio Ordonez. If they can dump his contract off in a deal with Granderson and the Yankees are the one's who can do it, than they can fill the void in the outfield and DH in one deal. Acquring these two would also be less expensive than re-signing Damon and Matsui.

The downside to Granderson is that many believe he has turned into a platoon player. His numbers against lefties are downright awful. He only hit .183 against lefties last year. Granderson's numbers were .249, 30 HRs, and 71 RBI. Are the Yankees willing to deal Jackson for a guy who isn't any better than a platoon player? I only see the Yankees getting him if they can pull off a deal without giving up their top prospects. I believe if a team takes a chance on Granderson, he can have the type of season Nick Swisher had this year with the Yankees.

Mike Cameron
Age: 36
Status: Free agent
2009 Salary: $10 million

Mike Cameron has been mentioned as a possibility of going to the Yankees for the last few years. Cameron hit .250 with 24 HR and 70 RBI last year and has above-average defense. With him in center Melky in left that gives the Yankees two-above average outfielders defensively. However, Cameron would be a downgrade offensively, despite similar numbers to Damon, his OBP is 20 points lower and he struck out 58 more times than Damon did last season. Cameron would come at a low price, but I think he's more of a last-option.

Hideki Matsui
Age: 35
Status: Free-agent
2009 Salary: $13 million

I decided to include Matsui in this category, despite him now being a full-time DH. Matsui was the World Series MVP and had himself a pretty good year too. He hit .274 with 28 HRs and 90 RBI. I have always liked Matsui and see him as a very professional ballplayer who is all about winning. He has gotten his share of big hits over the years for the Yankees, and if they cannot re-sign Damon, I think the Yankees would be more than happy to re-sign Matsui to return as the DH. The only problem is re-signing Matsui does not answer their problem in left-field, and that needs to be addressed first.

Matsui will probably sign for less money as he is in the decline of his career. It could be possible he can be this year's Bobby Abreu, and sign a 1-year deal for about $5million with incentives.

That conclude's the outfield edition of free-agents. There are still many possibilities we didn't explore, such as the Yankees taking a chance on Austin Jackson, or other free-agent outfielders like Jermaine Dye. But I felt both those were highly unlikely to happen.


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