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Yankees Making Moves

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You knew it couldn't last.

The Yankees ended a couple of months of suspense and acted today with their first major moves of the offseason, coming to terms with Johnny Damon and Octavio Dotel on the same day.

The Dotel deal guarantees $2 million and is laden with incentives; the total value of the deal can reach around $5 million.

This is an astute signing by the Yankees, who are again demonstrating that they understand their ability to take calculated risks, like paying Dotel $2 million even if he doesn't play.

Why is Dotel a good signing? Well, for one thing, Dotel is a prolific strikeout guy. Check out these stats.

Dotel has been victimized in the past by the longball, but he's never had terrible control (save 15 innings this year), and he can strike people out. If Dotel comes back healthy, the Yanks have a solid replacement for Tom Gordon in the setup role, and they didn't have to shell out a bunch of money and years for another middle reliever like many other teams are doing.

Farnsworth, Dotel, and Rivera could be a very, very good trio in the bullpen. You're guaranteed to get a bunch of Ks, and the Yankee defense will, again, be weak at a few spots. So that will help.

The more significant signing, though, was the addition of Johnny Damon. I get the feeling that this move's major accomplishment will be to irritate a great many Red Sox fans, but I wouldn't be too confident in Damon's productive capacity over the next 4 years.

What are we looking at with Damon? A centerfielder on the wrong side of 30 whose throwing arm is going to be a major liability. Damon has been renowned for his defense since coming to Boston, but last year, his arm actually made him a below average centerfielder, at least by the standards of RATE.

  1. 105
  2. 103
  3. 97
It doesn't really matter how much you buy into defensive statistics... the Yankees are essentially replacing a centerfielder whose arm was a liability and who eventually lost his range with a centerfielder whose arm will be a liability and who will most likely lose his range, at some point. So that will be a problem down the line.

His 4 year, $52 million contract is a bit of a risk, but, all things considered, is probably not a terrible deal. By the end of the deal, he most likely won't be a terribly productive player, especially on defense, but Damon's bat is pretty solid.

Or is it? Taking into account the fact that Damon's played his last 4 seasons at Fenway Park, has Damon really been a particularly productive hitter? By OPS+:

  1. 113
  2. 94
  3. 117
  4. 113
His norm is somewhere around 113 in terms of OPS+. In the past, a lot of his additional value was derived from stolen bases and defense. This, however, most likely won't be the case in the future. That's not bad... but it's nothing to write home about. And it's not really worth $13 million per year.

He'll be one of the best centerfielders in the AL in 2006, but past that? It's a risky investment. Overall, considering that Boras wanted 7/84 for a leadoff hitter "better than Rickey Henderson," the Yanks didn't do too badly.

The Yankee '06 lineup could score a ton of runs...

  1. Damon (CF)
  2. Jeter (SS)
  3. A-Rod (3B)
  4. Sheffield (RF)
  5. Giambi (1B)
  6. Matsui (LF)
  7. Posada (C)
  8. DH.
  9. Cano (2B)