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I cannot believe the lack of Yankee news this offseason.  I think it’s because last off-season was so exciting with the addition of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira that there’s really no way to top that this year.  For the last week, I have struggled to find things to that I had enough passion to write about – unfortunately there is not much.  There are a few things going on behind the scenes that I will briefly jump into.

First, the Yankees General, Brian Cashman, told Pete Caldera this week that “our team, for the most part, is set.”  When asked about left field, Mr Cashman said, “we have a left fielder.  We do like Brett Gardner.”  Now, remember how many times Cashman has said “our team is set” in the last 8 years and then he went out and signed a blockbuster name.

Eric Hinske signed with the Atlanta Braves this week, for a one-year deal.  Although he was a good guy off the bench in 2009, the Yankees had shown no interest in signing the free agent for 2010.  Also, long-time Yankee minor-leaguer Shelley Duncan has signed with the Cleveland Indians.  He’s probably joining their Triple-A team.  Good luck to Hinske in Atlanta and Duncan with Cleveland.

It’s been reported that David Cone’s days in a YES Broadcast booth may be over.  A spokesman told Bob Klapisch that Cone’s contract expired this off-season and that Cone was exploring other options.  Rumors have indicated that Cone had a big disagreement with YES executives, but that has not been confirmed at this time.

If this is true, I hope YES can come up with someone who equals what Cone brought to every broadcast.  He was a good combination with Michael Kay.

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The Battle Begins: Yankee Brass vs. Scott Boras

I’m calling this story the “Life and Times of an older Yankee free agent outfielder: Part II.”

Part I happened last year.  After two and half season manning the right side outfield of Yankee stadium, Bobby Abreu was all but shunned by the Yankees Brass and had to sign with the LA Angels – for $5 million – $11 Million less than he had earned the season before.  Well, Abreu didn’t devalue as a player and ended up being a steal for the Angels, who re-signed him in this offseason for almost double – 2 years and $19 Million.

Fast forward to this year and we are just getting into Part II of this story, only the new leading man is Johnny Damon, the likable guy who has manned the Yankee outfield for most of the last 4 seasons.  Coming off a 4-year, $52 Million contract that he signed with the Yankees in the 2005-6 off-season, Damon and his agent Scott Boras are looking for a new deal in the 3-4 year range – a deal that would presumably be the last of the 36 year-old’s career.

Although I would guess that a large majority of Yankee fans would love to see Damon back in pinstripes for the near future, it would be irresponsible to sign him to a 3-4 year deal at his age.  Right now, the man is still quick in the outfield and can play 150 games a season, but at 36, it’s very hard to pinpoint when he might start degrading as an outfielder.

I realize that many might argue that Damon could be a DH in his later years, but a good GM has to look at what the main pieces of his team are going to be like in 2-3 years.  Derek Jeter turns 36 this June and Alex Rodrgiuez turns 35 this July.  Both are most definitely going to be with the Yankees for as long as they play the game of baseball.

In 2-3 years, the DH is going to be an interesting position for the Yankees – I would guess it’s mostly going to be a combination of Jeter, Rodriguez and one other player.  The Yankee skipper will have to be able to give Jeter and Rodriguez days off from playing the field as they get slower and worse at defense.  Plus, I don’t care what people think – Derek Jeter will never play another position except shortstop.  Mark it down now.

That being said, let’s get back to the topic at hand: Johnny Damon.  What I just wrote above shows the Yankees would be silly-stupid to consider signing Damon for longer than 2 years.  I’m not saying right now that the Yankees should dump Damon after the two years, but instead, look at what the situation is then.

Using Abreu’s new contract as a measuring stick, Damon may not be worth much more than 2 years, $18 Million.  His agent, Scott Boras has said he is looking for a multi-year deal – which is probably in Damon’s best interest, but it’s not and shouldn’t come from the Yankees.  He might get some other team to do it, but will they offer the same amount of money per year that the Yankees would offer in shorter 1-2 year deal?  Probably not.

This scenario will play out over the course of the next few weeks behind shut doors mostly, with leaks coming from here and there. and hopefully it ends up with Damon starting in the #2 spot in the lineup next season.  But, it will come down to the nitty-gritty fighting skills of Yanks GM Brian Cashman and super-agent Boras.

Now…where’s that steel cage??

While it may look like a boost of confidence to a fan, it can be a nightmare for a manager to get a “vote of confidence” through the media. That only means the front office is watching you.

Sweeny Murti has Cashman’s words about Girardi:

“I think Joe’s done an exceptional job,” Cashman said. “We’re scuffling right now for three weeks, but he’s not humped over, slumped over, he’s not down and out and woe is me or depressed or on edge or tight. He’s keeping his guys up, he’s keeping them positive.”

“He’s doing everything he needs to do,” Cashman concluded.

Translation: win or else.

For his part, Girardi understands. “I know the drill here,” he said. “You win or you go home.” Indeed.

If Girardi gets the pink slip at the end of the season, for a 44-year old, twice-fired manager, that doesn’t look good. His chances for a third managerial job may not be as good. If, and that is a big if, the Yanks fire him — I’d go with Tony Pena for the rest of the season or in 2010.

According to Peter Abraham, the Yankees plan to make Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi available for meet and greets with the fans during every home stand starting with Wednesday nights game against Texas.

On Wednesday, the two were going to gather in the Great Hall of Yankee Stadium at 4pm.  No word yet on when the next meet and greet is scheduled to take place.  The Yankees next home stand begins June 12 against the cross-town Mets.

The Yankees announced Wednesday that Chien-Ming Wang is being moved to the rotation to start Thursday’s series finale against Texas.  Phil Hughes, who replaced Wang when he was placed on the DL a few weeks ago, will stay with the team as a long-reliever in the bullpen.

CC Sabathia had been scheduled to pitch Thursday, but he was pushed to Friday, giving him an extra day’s rest.  It also splits up the two lefty pitchers in the rotation – Andy Pettitte and Sabathia.  The season started with the two split in the rotation but the rotation got screwy when Wang was sent to the DL.

After starting the season with an atrocious 34.50 ERA, Wang was placed on the DL with what I refer to as a “sham injury” in order to get him some help with his confidence and some way to bring back the form that saw him win 19 games in 2006 and 2007.

After an initial shaky return to the bullpen, Wang has thrown 5 shutout innings in relief – apparently enough for GM Brian Cashman and skipper Joe Girardi to consider him ready to start.

ESPN is reporting that Wang will only throw 80 pitches in what will be his first start since April 18.

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