Nick Johnson, a favorite FA target, has reportedly inked a deal with the Yankees for 1-year, $5.5M.
The Yankees were on the verge of bringing Nick Johnson back to the Bronx Thursday night on a one-year contract worth about $5.5 million, a move that could mean the end of Johnny Damon’s time in pinstripes
This is a pretty big bummer for the Giants. I’ve written a little about why I liked the addition of Johnson to this team. For a hacking team, Johnson would have added a nice dose of patience to an otherwise impatient lineup. And, if he can stay healthy, or at least healthy enough for 450 PA’s, he would have had some nice upside. It’s hard to believe that the Giants couldn’t top a 1-year, $5.5M deal but it’s also possible that playing in New York might have more allure to a player than playing in San Francisco. Also, water is still wet.
In a worst case scenario, losing out on Nick Johnson is the first domino to fall in a horrible set of events to come. I don’t like the idea that an offer to Adam LaRoche is still out in the open and the Giants are obviously trying to upgrade at first base. I don’t like the idea that the team might be looking at Johnny Damon to play LF.
On the topic of Damon.
Damon had a very nice 2009 season with the Yankees. Playing in the launching pad in the Bronx he, like many other Yankees, posted a career high ISO of .207. He belted 24 home runs, walked in 11.4% of his PA’s, and posted a wRC+ (think of this as the wOB based version of OPS+) of 130. All fine components of a fine season. On the total, Damon’s ’09 was worth +3 wins to the Yankees. A solid, above-average season.
There are some concerns with Damon as a FA signing. He’ll be 36-years-old for the 2010 season and even though his player-type has tended to age well, there should some expected slow down despite what Scott Boras would like you to believe. How much power Damon would hit for while playing half his games at AT&T is also another question. Damon’s power is all on his pull-side to RF. Check out this graph from Hit Tracker and tell me how many Yankee Stadium HR’s would either bang off the RF wall or turn into outs? We don’t have park factors for the new Yankee Stadium but it’s surely a hitters park. AT&T has played more as a neutral park over the past few years and it’s going to be tougher on hitters who hit all their HR’s to RF.
Damon’s defense is also another concern. He posted a UZR in LF last season of -12.1 runs prorated to 150 defensive games. He got dinged pretty badly on his terrible throwing arm (-4.2 runs) and his range and error components of UZR were also below average. Damon’s throwing arm is one of the worst in the game. He’s no longer a CF and thus should be cemented in LF. The good news is that over his career he’s been an above-average defender in LF (career UZR/150 of +2.9 runs) but for a former CF, you would hope that he would rate better in LF against a much slower peer group.
If we roughly project Damon as a .360 wOBA hitter next season in the NL and a +2 run defender in LF, he should look like the following:
Batting Wins Above Average (.360 wOBA, league wOBA .332): +1.6 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: +.2 wins
LF Positional Adjustment: -.75 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
= 3.07 wins * .8 (or about 560 PA’s for PT) = +2.46 WAR
If you still consider him an above-average baserunner next season, you can chip in a couple of runs to his total, pushing to essentially a 2.5-ish win player. With super-agent extraordinaire, Scott Boras, how much money will Damon get? Not to get all Fred Lewis on you, but I’m not sure Damon is that much of an upgrade over Lewis. Sure, he’s the better hitter, but Lewis is a better baserunner and his defense could play better in 2010. They aren’t that far apart as players. If you do a quick 5/4/3 weighting of Damon’s last three years in the field by UZR (which he’s going to get penalized a little more heavily for his time in CF in ’07 and ’08) his defense rates out around -2.5 runs. If we call Damon a -2.5 run defender with the same hitting stats and adjust him for 560 PA’s, he rates right around a 2.1 win player.
Since the Giants hate logic and have publicly stated that they are ready to enter into 2010 with a combination of Velez/Torres in LF, signing Damon would prove to be good Velez/Torres insurance. Still, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to pay the market price for wins that are already sitting on your roster.
The good news is that if the Giants sign Damon, we can all marvel at his rocket arm. Johnny Damon makes Barry Bonds’ throwing arm look like Ichiro.
Comment Starter: Why do the Giants hate Fred Lewis so much?