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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??

ESPN is reporting this afternoon that the Yankees have come to terms with veteran starting pitcher Andy Pettitte on a one year deal worth $11.75 Million.  Pettitte had indicated earlier in the off-season that if he decided to return, it would most likely be for one year and it would be with the Yankees.

This would be Pettitte’s second on-year deal with the World Champion bombers.  Pettitte signed a one-year deal last season with a base salary around $5 Million, but due to his performance, incentives reportedly raised that value to somwhere between $10-12 Million.

This is a good move by the Yankees.  Pettite was 14-8 this past season with a 4.16 ERA.  In the postseason he was a rock on the mound, going 4-0 in 5 starts with a 3.52 ERA.  Over his career, Pettitte is 229-135 with a 3.91 ERA.  He will provide the Yankees with veteran leadership in the clubhouse and a guy who has been fairly consistent over the course of his career.

Pettitte also became the winningest pitcher in the postseason in baseball history after his 4-0 record during the 2009 postseason.

It looks like Monday was a busier day for the Yankees than appeared.  Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported a three-way trade with the Tigers and Diamondbacks that would have sent Curtis Granderson to New York and Edwin Jackson to Arizona. Talks, however, reached an impasse. The D-Backs are pushing hard, but the deal “was rejected by at least one of the other two teams.”

Joel Sherman confirmed via Twitter that the Yanks thought the costs were too high, and the Tigers were lukewarm on their returns as well. Although the three-way talks are dead, the Yankees are still very much interested in Granderson, not least because their interest could drive Johnny Damon’s price down.

If (and that’s a big if) the deal had gone through, the Yankees would have lost Ian Kennedy, Mike Dunn, Phil Coke, and Austin Jackson in the trade and gotten back Granderson and “one or two prospects from the Diamondbacks.”

The deal breakers are not Dunn and Coke, because they’re not the ones who were holding up this deal. Nor was Kennedy, either. If the Yanks are indeed the ones stalling, it’s likely over Austin Jackson. He’s still developing, and his lack of power in 2009 is concerning, but he’s still a good prospect, probably the second best in the Yankees system. If that power tool comes around, he could be a very good MLB center fielder.

I can definitely see Granderson a good fit for centerfield, which would be great news for the Yankees. He could instantly replace Johnny Damon in the outfield and in the two-hole.

Getting two prospects back from the Diamondbacks would have helped soften the blow of losing Jackson, but we still don’t know which prospects were under discussion.

More information is probably going to come throughout Tuesday. The quickest way to get information is to follow beat writers through Twitter.

Will the Yankees make a bigger splash in 2010 or 2011 offseason?

After last season’s hot stove signings, the Yankees seem to be pretty set offensively and in the front end of the rotation, they need an arm or two.

Mark Feinsand wrote today about the potential bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox that’s in the making for when Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee hit the free agent market next offseason.

A source with knowledge of the Yankees’ thinking said the Bombers already have their sights set on signing either Halladay or Cliff Lee if both become free agents after next season. Yankees executives, however, fear that Lee might sign a long-term deal with the Phillies before becoming a free agent, leaving Halladay as the lone target for teams looking for an ace.

And also had this to say about the Yankees view of free agent John Lackey:

Even though the free-agent market is thin when it comes to starting pitching this winter, some Yankees officials are intrigued by the idea of signing Angels starter John Lackey.

Others are wary of signing Lackey to a big contract, according to one Yankees executive, citing the righthander’s injury issues over the past two seasons. There is also the Angels’ apparent willingness to let him walk, which some see as a sign that they know something about the health of his arm that others don’t.

I’m a little skeptical of Halladay due to his age, Lee as well. Also Lackey has had two iffy seasons with injuries. I’d love to see the Yankees develop out of the farm system.  But if we get Lackey for a modest contract this offseason (3-4 years @ $14-18 mil. per year) I’d be fine. If we want to wait for Halladay or Lee, I know we’ll be paying more. A whole lot more.

Si.com reported Thursday that free agent outfielder Andruw Jones turned down a non-roster invite from the Yankees to attend spring training.  The Yankees are prepared to head into the ’09 season with a combination of Bret Gardner and Melky Cabrera in center,  but apparently wanted to offer Jones the opportunity to compete for the spot.

Jones, who turns 32 this spring, had a very bad year for the LA Dodgers last year, batting .158, with 3 HRs and 14 RBIs in 75 games.  He was released from his contract with the Dodgers this offseason and is still owed $16 Million.  Despite his very bad year, Jones is still hoping to get a major league contract.

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