Here's a surprise: Yankees will have money to spend, too
Here is not exactly the best news for baseball teams that aren’t the New York Yankees: It took them nine years to get back to winning a World Series, and now they will have money to spend in the off-season.
Does that part of it never end?
More than $40 million comes tumbling off their $201 (opening-day) million payroll. Off the books are Johnny Damon, World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, outfielder Xavier Nady, who was hurt almost all season, and Andy Pettitte. Those four alone made $39 million in base salary. Plus, they are finally out from under all the deadwood, the Kevin Browns and Jaret Wrights et al. As it stands now, they are not on the hook for any money in 2010 to players gone from the organization. (The Blue Jays, alas, owe B.J. Ryan another $10 million and the Red Sox are on the hook for $9.25 million to Julio Lugo.)
The Yankees are likely to retain one of Damon or Matsui, each of whom was a $13 million player this year. Damon can still run a little and play the outfield, although not well. Matsui gets a lot more big hits, but has been strictly a DH with bad knees.
The Yankees, who also developed a fair bit of homegrown pitching this season, recognize a need to get younger at other positions and with Nick Swisher signed for 2010, they probably won’t bring back both Damon and Matsui.
There is no telling what the free-agent market will be like for outfielders anyway. It kind of fell apart last year; remember Bob Abreu getting “only’’ $5 million. (Update: It has certainly changed for Abreu; he just signed a two-year, $19 million extension with the Angels.)
Matsui is an interesting case. Could he go to Seattle and join Ichiro Suzuki to form a kind of Japanese Ruth and Gehrig? That would be something to see.
Could he go to the Red Sox and their tiny left field in Fenway Park? The Sox could lose Jason Bay and have outfielders in the system who aren’t quite ready.
Could he go home to Japan with his World Series MVP, finishing his U.S. career in a blaze of glory?
There are plenty of possibilities and in an off-season that will be as interesting as any in recent years -- primarily because of the lack of good free-agent pitching – Matsui will be one of the bigger names in play. Kind of like he was in the World Series against the Phillies.
For the record, Paul Molitor also was a DH when he won the MVP award in the 1993 World Series for Toronto. But Molitor also started two games at third base and one at first base in Philadelphia. Remember the ruckus in the third game, when Molitor started at first base and John Olerud, who had merely won the batting title, sat out?