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Ankiel vs Damon; How very different the Yankee outfiled could look

In our current economic times, it is not all that uncommon to see classified ads advertising anything and everything, but one in particular caught my eye recently, it read; Available for immediate employment; 36 year old two time World Series Champion and All Star outfielder, career .288 hitter, .355 on base %, currently residing in the New York Metropolitan area (willing to relocate). Asking $7-10 million per year for 2 years (negotiable). Please contact Johnny D. @whatdyameantheyankeeshaveabudget.com. If you’ve seen this one recently then you know that times are tough all over indeed.
Look it’s still fairly early, and the Yankees and Damon may very well come to a deal in the coming weeks to bring him back as their leftfielder for 2010 but it certainly won’t be for the 2 years and $20 million that he asked for in December and no where near the 2yr $26 million deal that his agent Scott Boras was originally looking for. If Damon is in pinstripes in 2010 it’s looking increasingly like he could be working off a one year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5-9 million per.
Granted, Damon is probably the best choice for the Yanks in left but another Boras client may end up being a steal for whatever team takes a shot at pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel, including the Yankees. One area where the Bombers fell a little short last season is without a doubt the throwing capabilities of their outfielders. Damon might very well have the weakest arm of anyone currently playing the outfield in MLB (hey Bernie Williams is retired now so…), Brett Gardner is an upgrade but only slightly (and still well below average), Melky Cabrera took his “plus” arm to Atlanta, and Nick Swisher has an average albeit somewhat erratic arm. Enter Curtis Granderson, the Yankees apparently liked his youth and defense a bit more than his ability to hit lefties and think that he is probably better suited as a left fielder eventually anyway. This brings us back to Ankiel, being six years younger than Damon and coming off a year in which he started off well then injured his shoulder and lost his starting job; he could be had for more years at less money than Damon. Ankiel is a capable centerfielder with a cannon for an arm, who could very well approach 30 HR’s in Yankee Stadium (he hit 25 in a little over 400 AB’s for St. Louis in 2008).
The 800 lb gorilla in the room in all this is that without Damon who hits lefties fairly well and Hideki Matsui who actually hits lefties better than righties the Yankees may become susceptible to lefthanders, as neither Granderson, Gardner nor Ankiel have any kind of track record of being able to handle lefthanders the way the two departed vets have traditionally. Of course being the Yankees, improving the outfield defense at the expense of a little bit of offense against lefties might not hurt them as much as some teams, offense again will not be a problem for the Yankees in 2010.
Ankiel is still young enough to work with and learn how to be better against lefties and at a price that would be significantly less than what Damon would command and even if they come to the conclusion that he simply can’t hit lefties, well… these are the Yankees, they can go out and get a right handed bat to platoon (Austin Kearns?) and still end up paying a comparable price for both than Damon alone.
Essentially the Yankees can look at Boras’ other free agent lefty outfielder as a alternative solution if they continue to feel that Damon’s price is just too high for a 37 year old outfielder who can’t throw.

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