Saturday, January 14, 2012

WANTED: Designated Hitter

Damon as a member of the Rays hitting a walkoff home run against the Twins

Going into the 2012 season, the Yankees were set on making Jesus Montero their primary DH. Now that he is a Seattle Mariner, plans have shifted just a bit. The Yankees need to go out and get a reliable bat. Their options are limited because of their need for a left-handed hitter. Two names on the free agent market jump out at you. Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena. There are upsides to both players and drawbacks that could detour a trip to the Bronx for the 2012 season. Johnny Damon is AL East tested and a proven winner who does not cave in pressure moments. He thrives in key situations and continued to do so for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. One thing that makes a reunion with Damon difficult is his age. The 38 year old has seen a decline over the last two years with the Tigers and Rays, respectively. His batting average has taken a considerable dip in the last two seasons. Additionally, his fielding is suspect as a 38 year old left fielder. Carlos Pena is also AL East tested and though he has not won, he certainly has pop. The first baseman hits for power, and lots of it. He plays sparkling defense at first base. However, as a DH for the Yankees, his fielding would not be needed as Mark Teixeira is not a bad first baseman himself... Another negative about Pena is that he is an all-or-nothing hitter. His batting average is embarrassing but his power numbers are outstanding. Pena's lack of consistency at the plate is a turn off for the Yankees. The Yankees have power hitters with respectable averages and do not need a headache that will hit 30 homers but have those homers be 1/3 of his total hits. Looking at in-house options, Jorge Vazquez is a 29 year old AAA DH/1B who mashes the ball, but with that comes plenty of strikeouts. He has raw power that can give the Yankees a cheap, in-house option that will save them several million. My take is this: Damon is a good leadoff hitter that can cause havoc on opposing pitchers. Pena is a more expensive Jorge Vazquez, so I do not understand why Pena's name is even coming up. I would sign Damon to a $4.5 million contract and have him platoon with Jeter for the leadoff position. Jorge Vazquez can begin the year in AAA with a possible call-up later in the season if injuries plague the everyday players.

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