Isn’t it ironic that Johnny Damon returned to Yankee Stadium on the same night the Yankees announced that Nick Johnson suffered another setback in his rehab? It got me thinking about the moves the Yankees did and didn’t make this offseason, so let’s review.
We can start with the decision to pass on Damon and Matsui, which looks like a pretty good one. Matsui has been bad this year, hitting .251/.331/.416. And while he has played 17 games in the outfield, he has recorded a total of 16 putouts in those appearances- yikes! Damon has been a better player .272/.362/.422, but he simply wasn’t coming back to the Yankees for $6 million.
Another good "pass" was the decision to non-tender Chien-Ming Wang. Wang still hasn’t pitched for Washington and it sounds like he might only make it back in a relief role in September if at all. The Yankees would have had to commit at least $4 million to Wang, so this was a very good decision.
Next let’s look at the Granderson trade. On the surface, this has been a disaster. Austin Jackson has better numbers than Granderson and Kennedy and Coke have put together solid seasons. But looking a bit deeper makes this less lopsided. Start with Jackson, his BABIP is an amazing .419. That won’t last and when it drops down Jackson is going to have a tough time being productive because he does not seem to be very powerful (1 HR). Granderson hasn’t been very good, but this is a guy who has shown the ability to hit in the majors in the past. For now, I am going to say that this is a season we have seen from many other players when they first came to New York and hold off evaluating this trade until we see the 2011 Granderson.
The infamous Nick Johnson signing has to go down as a huge blunder. Not because he was hurt, but because of what he was. Let me explain a little here. Johnson at his best is a slow-footed OBP machine who can play first base. The Yankees needed and still need players who can cover multiple positions and hit a bit. They needed to enter 2010 realizing that the DH slot would be needed to rest guys like Posada, Jeter and A-Rod on a regular basis. Putting Johnson on this team ignored those realities and you could make a strangely compelling argument that his injury was a blessing because it allowed the Yankees to use the DH slot the way they should have in the first place. (And the way they will inevitably have to in 2011)
One thing the Yankees nailed was the trade for Javy Vazquez. We know all the things Vazquez isn’t, but consider what he is, a guy who is going to throw 200 innings this year and while his ERA is ugly- 4.89- it has been below 4 since mid-May. He has been a solid #4 starter, exactly what this team needed because remember the alternative was Joba in the rotation and considering his 2010, that seems like it would have been a disaster.
Furthermore, the Yankees sent Melky Cabrera to Atlanta in the deal which cleared a spot for Brett Gardner to play every day. Melky has done almost exactly what he did last year, which is enough for a fourth outfielder, but not enough to play every day. Gardner has been a revelation and don’t forget the trade also netted the Yankees Boone Logan, who is making a case to be a big part of the bullpen. Throw in the fact that the big prospect the Yankees sent to Atlanta in the trade is currently out with a tear in his pitching elbow and I think we can call this trade a big win.
The Yankees made two miserable signings with the additions of Winn and Park. Winn didn’t do anything in his brief stay in New York and while he has hit better in St. Louis, he still can’t hit lefty pitching- the exact thing the Yankees brought him in for. Hopefully, the Yankees will learn from the Park signing that a couple of appearances in the playoffs do not eradicate a career’s worth of stats.
The Brian Bruney trade didn’t work out for either team, but you have to ding the Yankees more than the Nationals. The Yankees could have used the Rule 5 pick to protect one of the players they lost (Kroenke and Texeira) but they used it on a guy who washed out of camp and lulled them into a false sense of security about their outfield depth.
Overall, it was a down offseason for the Yankees, a big departure from their 2008-09 successes. And while they have eradicated some of their mistakes with recent additions, they still lack a guy who can step in and replace A-Rod or Jeter while providing even average production at the plate. That’s a mistake they cannot repeat when planning for next year.