Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Is Matsui's Yankee career almost over?
What's in store for the Yankees this winter? If we know anything, we know they won't stand pat. Brian Cashman has mentioned his desire for a veteran starting pitcher, but the lineup probably won't be the same, either. As Tyler Kepner wrote last week, there just isn't room on the roster in 2010 for Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. So which one goes? That may depend on their agents, but Matsui looks like the obvious choice:
Matsui will be a free agent after the World Series, and the Yankees are eager to open up designated hitter as a place to rest veterans like third baseman Alex Rodriguez, catcher Jorge Posada, Jeter and perhaps left fielder Johnny Damon, who is also a free agent. Damon turns 36 on Thursday, and Matsui turns 36 next June.
The concern about bringing back Matsui is not his production. There is no question that he can still hit, and he remains the epitome of professionalism, working diligently without complaint.
It is strictly about roster flexibility. The Yankees have Rodriguez, Posada and Jeter under contract for next season, with a new deal for Jeter, who also turns 36 next June, looming. The designated hitter spot could be vital to keeping them all healthy and maximizing their effectiveness.
Well, yes ... but there's something else, too, that Kepner touches on just tangentially: the Yankees are old. Now it seems that their American League pennant was inevitable, but was it really? Three of their best players were 35, and Jorge Posada was 37. All of them were better in 2009 than they'd been in 2008, and Posada was the only one who missed significant time because of injuries.
That's not typically a recipe for success. Last winter, Brian Cashman's No. 1 mission was adding strikeout pitchers to his rotation (his No. 2 mission was signing the best-hitting free agent). This winter, I'll bet you a box of Cracker Jack that his No. 1 million will be getting younger in the lineup, however slightly. The Yankees will not be a young team in 2010. But they won't be quite as old, either, and that means one of the old-timers has to go.