The Battle Begins: Yankee Brass vs. Scott Boras

I’m calling this story the “Life and Times of an older Yankee free agent outfielder: Part II.”

Part I happened last year.  After two and half season manning the right side outfield of Yankee stadium, Bobby Abreu was all but shunned by the Yankees Brass and had to sign with the LA Angels – for $5 million – $11 Million less than he had earned the season before.  Well, Abreu didn’t devalue as a player and ended up being a steal for the Angels, who re-signed him in this offseason for almost double – 2 years and $19 Million.

Fast forward to this year and we are just getting into Part II of this story, only the new leading man is Johnny Damon, the likable guy who has manned the Yankee outfield for most of the last 4 seasons.  Coming off a 4-year, $52 Million contract that he signed with the Yankees in the 2005-6 off-season, Damon and his agent Scott Boras are looking for a new deal in the 3-4 year range – a deal that would presumably be the last of the 36 year-old’s career.

Although I would guess that a large majority of Yankee fans would love to see Damon back in pinstripes for the near future, it would be irresponsible to sign him to a 3-4 year deal at his age.  Right now, the man is still quick in the outfield and can play 150 games a season, but at 36, it’s very hard to pinpoint when he might start degrading as an outfielder.

I realize that many might argue that Damon could be a DH in his later years, but a good GM has to look at what the main pieces of his team are going to be like in 2-3 years.  Derek Jeter turns 36 this June and Alex Rodrgiuez turns 35 this July.  Both are most definitely going to be with the Yankees for as long as they play the game of baseball.

In 2-3 years, the DH is going to be an interesting position for the Yankees – I would guess it’s mostly going to be a combination of Jeter, Rodriguez and one other player.  The Yankee skipper will have to be able to give Jeter and Rodriguez days off from playing the field as they get slower and worse at defense.  Plus, I don’t care what people think – Derek Jeter will never play another position except shortstop.  Mark it down now.

That being said, let’s get back to the topic at hand: Johnny Damon.  What I just wrote above shows the Yankees would be silly-stupid to consider signing Damon for longer than 2 years.  I’m not saying right now that the Yankees should dump Damon after the two years, but instead, look at what the situation is then.

Using Abreu’s new contract as a measuring stick, Damon may not be worth much more than 2 years, $18 Million.  His agent, Scott Boras has said he is looking for a multi-year deal – which is probably in Damon’s best interest, but it’s not and shouldn’t come from the Yankees.  He might get some other team to do it, but will they offer the same amount of money per year that the Yankees would offer in shorter 1-2 year deal?  Probably not.

This scenario will play out over the course of the next few weeks behind shut doors mostly, with leaks coming from here and there. and hopefully it ends up with Damon starting in the #2 spot in the lineup next season.  But, it will come down to the nitty-gritty fighting skills of Yanks GM Brian Cashman and super-agent Boras.

Now…where’s that steel cage??