Ken Davidoff's baseball insider

Yankees, Mets, trade rumors, free agents, off-the-wall predictions and other MLB musings.


The Yankees' puzzle, Kenny Williams on the market, and the Rangers' pitching

In my mind, when analyzing the Yankees, the fates of Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada have been inextricably linked:

1) Posada's defense appears to be getting worse, but his hitting is still elite. That offense from the catcher's spot makes Posada immensely valuable - but less so if his defense is a liability, and he hits so well that he would be a fine DH.

2) Matsui can play only at DH.

3) Posada is signed for 2010. Matsui isn't.

There's a reasonable solution to draw from this, right? Wave bye-bye to Matsui, and let Posada get more at-bats at DH, while phasing in some combination of young catchers Francisco Cervelli (the most major-league ready, but the lowest ceiling), Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.

It's never so black and white, of course, which is why the Yankees, at this early point in the offseason (especially since they finished their season less than a week ago), haven't decided fully on any set course of action yet. They haven't ruled out bringing back both Matsui and Damon, as Joel Sherman reported this morning.

That said, Damon ranks higher on the priority list than Matsui. As a person in the loop put it: "A guy who can play more than one position (leftfield and DH, in Damon's case) has more value than someone who can play just one position. It gives Joe (Girardi) more options."

As for Posada's defense, and the need to get him in the DH spot more often, the person contended that Posada's throwing arm improved as the season progressed, citing this game as an example. In the ninth inning of the Yankees' 6-5 victory over the Angels, Posada nailed the speedy Reggie Willits in a strike-him-out, throw-him out double play, with Mariano Rivera fanning Juan Rivera (no relation).

So...we'll see. The biggest issue could be timing. Will Damon try to use the clock to his advantage, as Scott Boras clients often do? Or will he push to get something done with the Yankees, even if it's a pricey, one-year deal?

To quote a second person in the loop, "Johnny needs us. He's building a big house (in Orlando)."

I still wonder, given Brian Cashman's stated (and believed, IMO) desire to get younger, whether they would actually follow through and bring back both Damon, who just turned 36, and Matsui, who will turn 36 next June. But at this point in the offseason, you consider pretty much everything.

--The Yankees regard neither Matt Holliday nor Jason Bay as strong defensive outfielders, although they think Holliday is better defensively than Bay.

--White Sox GM Kenny Williams held court on the big picture yesterday and was pretty interesting. Williams can be media-shy at times, but when he gets rolling, he can hold court with the best of them.

Here's Williams on baseball's current structure: "There are actually three or four different free-agent markets. There’s the Yankees, Red Sox, both LA teams, the cubs. Then there’s probably that secondary market where we probably fall in. Then there’s a tier below us - smaller markets, competitive teams that want to go for it in this particular year. Then you have some of the poor-market teams where they’re trying to piece things together.

Some teams can’t walk in the door and say, OK, we’re going to compete with the White Sox. If we want that player, you’re not getting him. And then...last year, I told (Cashman), 'I like Sabathia.' He said, 'You’re not getting him.I’m getting him.'"

On the offseason: "You plan for it. You just can’t plan very well for it. …A guy is only worth what someone’s going to pay. You can have an idea of a guy fitting in a certain range here, and I’m done that many a year. Ten years I’ve done that. I’ve lost free agents across the board because of one team’s willingness to say, 'You know what? We want that guy.'"

On how to win: "There’s no unlimited funds for anyone, seemingly. For 99 percent of the teams, there aren’t unlimited funds. The Yankees won this year. But they’ve been at it for a long time, trying to get it back. There’s no recipe in this success in this thing. There’s no manual for how to get it done. I know the big free agents, they’re the ones that get you headlines, but they’re not the ones that get you over the top."

--The Rangers are handcuffed enough by their uncertain ownership situation that they likely can't make a big play for John Lackey, the Angels ace and Texas native who is by far the best free-agent starting pitcher out there. The Rangers view relievers Neftali Feliz and C.J. Wilson as candidates to graduate to the starting rotation, and they'd be open to trading Kevin Millwood in the right deal.

Lackey could fall to the Yankees by default, but don't underestimate Hal Steinbrenner's desire to maintain a level of (relative) fiscal sanity on his team.

--Cool moment at the hotel last night: Agent Tom O'Connell, the Long Island native, brought by his client Luke Gregerson, who had a very good rookie season with the Padres and who lives in the area. Gregerson met his new GM, Jed Hoyer, who was excited to get some unexpected business done. Hoyer has been trying to speak to all of his new players by phone.

O'Connell's big client is Carl Pavano, who could actually make some money this offseason. While the Twins enjoyed having Pavano and will try to bring him back, keep an eye on National League clubs who saw how Pavano did in the AL pennant race and think, "Wow, if he pitched like that in the AL..." Of course, the big question is whether Pavano would stay motivated on a multi-year deal.

--Belatedly (my apologies), here are the results to the preseason predictions contest. As I mentioned earlier, Dennis is the winner. He was one of five and a half people to correctly forecast the Yankees to win the World Series (Islander505, having picked "New York over New York" without being more precise, is the half-person), but the only one to say the Yankees would pick the Phillies to end their long, horrible drought of eight years:

1) Dennis, 37; 2) James K., 32; 3) (tie) Andrew Z. St. Ebbins and Jeff, 27; 5) Sandy, 26; 6) Islander505, 25.5; 7) (tie) NaOH and Lou Scala, 25; 9) JRock, 23; 10) Larry, 20; 11) (tie) Stephen Latham and Gerry, 18; 13) Dan, 16; 14) michelken, 15; 15) Poppy, 14; 16) (tie) Richie G. and Send it in JEROME!!!!!!!!, 13; 18) (tie) Chris and Steve L., 12; 20) (tie) ERC, Bob Tufts and whynot, 11; 23) (tie) Peter W. and DG, 9

Let's hold a more traditional contest - a book giveaway - tomorrow. And check here, once again, for frequent posts. Hopefully more than yesterday, given the structure of today's proceedings (there's a more organized schedule, whereas yesterday, I had to wait in the hotel lobby for people to arrive).