With the wonderful news of Nick the Stick's return to pinstripes breaking late yesterday, nearly everyone reporting it subsequently assumed that the deal spelled the end of Johnny Damon's tenure as a Yankee.
I'm not so sure about this (and neither is Steve Goldman).
Joe at RAB notes that, while the 2010 Yankees as presently constituted look very good on paper (assuming Johnson can stay healthy all year), the bottom third of the lineup becomes considerably weaker on the days that Francisco Cervelli spells Jorge Posada behind the dish.
As much as the Yankees might be trying to indicate to everyone and their mother that they are trying to limit payroll to $200 million this year, I just can't see the team starting the year with Melky Cabrera as the left fielder. Melky isn't a real outfielder, and the Yankees know this. Last year Melky hit .274/.336/.416 in arguably the best season of his young career. The average AL left fielder hit .270/.336/.433, so if you're a Melky believer, perhaps if you're lucky you'll get league average out of left with Melky starting.
However, this is the Yankees, and if they can improve upon league average in left, then they should. Ed Price tweets that Damon has come down from $13 million per year to $11M. Truthfully, if the Yankees can bring Damon back into the fold for two year, $22 million, then they need to do that deal, considering that's only $2 million off from what they were supposedly offering.
As previously noted here, Damon's average annual value during his four-year, $52 million contract was $12.4 million, so it's not like the team significantly overpaid for his services the first time around. Is Damon even an $11 million per year player? No, but if I'm the Yankees I'd think long and hard about Melky's projected .330 wOBA vs. Damon's .348 for 2010 (or, if you prefer SG's CAIRO projection system, he has Melky at .316 wOBA and Johnny at .339) as well as the fact that Damon was worth 3.0 WAR to Melky's 1.6 last season, I probably work out a deal with Damon and call it an offensive offseason, then turn my attention to Ben Sheets.
As previously discussed, I am a proponent of bringing Matt Holliday in to play left field provided he can be had on a not-insane deal, although based on some of Cashman's remarks, particularly about next year's free agent class, that possibility seems less and less likely.
Still, Joe P. posted Yankeeist's and The Fowl Balls' proposed 2010 Yankee lineup (featuring Matt Holliday) in the aforelinked RAB piece about the Damon/Johnson situation this morning, and it's hard not to salivate over. But at this point, it seems like a Damon/Yankees reunion is far more likely than doling out a $100 million contract to Holliday.
UPDATE: Cliff Corcoran has an interesting take on the Johnson signing, and also backs a Yankee run at Matt Holliday.
UPDATE #2, 2:15pm: The Nick the Stick deal includes a mutual option for the same dollar amount for 2011, which both sides would have to agree to for it to be exercised.
UPDATE #3, 2:16pm: In case anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas, here you go.
UPDATE #4, 2:45pm: Wanted to add SG's take on the Johnson signing, in which he shows how Granderson plus Johnson is a nice upgrade over Matsui and Damon.