In reference to the first point, I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree. Rob Neyer (in a post about Adam Dunn, no less) alluded to the fact that if the Detroit Tigers had even a decent DH, they would have already clinched the division. The idea of a rotating DH to rest the veteran regulars is nice, in theory. But in practice, it just doesn't hold much water. I mean, how often are you really resting your regulars? Posada can DH once a week. Damon too, I guess. But who is going to DH the rest of the time? And more importantly, who is going to play the field while those guys are resting? By rotating the DH, you end up with an extra below-average offensive player nearly every game. You're either playing the likes of Ramiro Pena in the field while a regular hits the DH spot, or, even more absurdly, playing one of those all-glove, no-bat guys at DH. No, in the ultra-competitive AL East, you need as many big bats as you can find.
To the second point -- the one that claims Matsui is the biggest, baddest bat on the market -- I disagree. There is no question that Matsui has been a valuable part of the team this year. But to assume that this will continue is, I think, a big leap. To start with the obvious, in 2010 Matsui will be a 36-year-old with a history of knee surgery. More importantly, knees don't get better, and Matsui has had his drained of fluid several times this year. That Matsui has had one of his most productive years as a Yankee this year is a testament to his talent and work ethic, but it is not automatically a reason to grant him a new contract.
I think one of the biggest downfalls of the Yankees has been that they sometimes evaluate talent on very narrow terms. Matsui had a good year, and Matsui is a good Yankee, ergo, Matsui will be a good Yankee next year. They did this with Jorge Posada's last contract. And look, Jorge Posada is a good player having a good year. But the New York Yankees have more money than every other team. Their goal should not be to get good players, it should be to get the very best player at every position, every year. And the point of writing all this is not to defame Hideki Matsui. If he is back as the DH next year, I welcome him, because he may well be one of the best DHs in the league. But he is not THE best DH in the league. And because of that, I think it's fair to look at some other options. In that spirit, I'd like to present three alternatives to Matsui:
1) Bobby Abreu: Like Matsui, Abreu will be a 36-year-old free agent with a history of success in New York, who is coming off a very good year. He represents an upgrade in OBP and speed, while sacrificing some power. Unlike Matsui, Abreu has no injury history. Furthermore -- and what a sad statement I am about to make -- Abreu is the superior defender, in so much as he can actually stand upright in the outfield. With Abreu, you actually could give regulars like Damon and Swisher a day at DH, have Abreu approximate playing the outfield, and not lose any thunder in the lineup.
2) Vlad Guerrero: There aren't many players who, if they're at bat, you stop everything to watch them. Vlad is absolutely one of those guys, and the idea of seeing him in pinstripes (albeit a few years too late) makes me positively giddy. Granted, Guerrero is coming off a season full of injuries, and he clearly isn't the player he once was. But he's a year younger than Matsui, and perhaps he could benefit, as Matsui has, from a full year at DH. If you're talking upside, Guerrero beats Matsui by a mile.
3) Adam Dunn: Again, Rob Neyer did an outstanding job outlining his value as a DH. He is last in the NL in defense, but he is a premier offensive player. He is on the cusp of his sixth 40 home run season, and 10th in the NL in OBP. It's true that he's signed for the next 2 years, but he's signed by the Washington Nationals, who may be eager enough to get out from under the $26 million they owe him to not ask for much talent in return. Would you trade a prospect or two for this lineup:
You would at least have to ask, right?
-Posted by Scott
-Posted by Scott