Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Johnny Damon, the Yankees, and Contract Extensions

Once again, we find Scott Boras pimping one of his clients. For what seems like the thousandth time this offseason, Boras talked glowingly about client Johnny Damon:
"Johnny Damon is at that point where he's played 12 years and 140-games plus, and put up this remarkable career. Then you're talking about Pete Rose, Willie Mays. You're talking about all of these players who went on to play until 40 at very high levels. So chronological age doesn't play any part in his genetics.

"Certainly, you have to look at the Yankees' history. What they've paid players at like age, and maybe did not have his genetics. In fairness, those are things I can discuss with teams when the time comes."

Two years ago, the Yankees committed four years to Jorge Posada, then 36, and three years to Mariano Rivera, then about to turn 38."
Boras is correct about one thing here: Damon, Rivera, and Posada are all similar in age during the time of their respective free agencies.

However, the comparison of Damon to Rivera and Posada is simply ludicrous and stupid. There is a major difference between the free agencies of these three players and it has nothing to do with performance.

Mariano Rivera: Does anyone actually think the Yankees would let Mariano Rivera walk? Neither did I. Even though Rivera was "past his prime" the Yankees simply had to pony up for Rivera because he was and is irreplaceable. Rivera was one of the greatest Yankees of all time, a respected guy in the clubhouse, a guy who the Yankees could depend on in playoffs, and one of the best closers in baseball.

Once again, Mariano Rivera was IRREPLACEABLE...even at (almost) 38 years old.

Jorge Posada: When Jorge Posada was a free agent after the 2007 season, he was coming off one of the greatest offensive regular seasons ever for a catcher. Like Rivera, Posada was one of the most respected and well known Yankees, who teams and baseball people assumed the Yankees would take care of (handsomely). Furthermore, the Yankees could not afford to let Posada sign with another team because the catching market sucked and the Yankees had no in house options to replace Posada.

Like Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada was IRREPLACEABLE...even at 36 years old.

Johnny Damon: Unlike Rivera and Posada, Johnny Damon is certainly replaceable for the New York Yankees. Don't get me wrong, Damon is a fine player and a welcome addition to the Yankees' lineup, but if Johnny Damon bolts the Bronx this winter, I doubt there will be wholesale protests about the move. Here's why: the Yankees have a number of options to replace Damon should he go elsewhere: they could sign Matt Holliday; they could move Swisher to left field and play Brett Gardner everyday; they could explore the trade market; they could re-sign Hideki Matsui; or they could simply plug in top prospect Austin Jackson.

No matter what the Yankees decide to do, they will have a capable option ready and able to replace Johnny Damon.

In addition, Damon certainly does not have the stature that Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada had at the time of their respective free agencies. Both Rivera and Damon were lifelong Yankees when they hit the market, but Damon has been with the Yankees for just four years and will never come close to ascending to the stature of Posada or Rivera.

Johnny Damon is REPLACEABLE, which is why the Yankees should not and will not offer Damon more than a one or two year contract.


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