• Heyman’s Insight On Cashman-Damon Saga

    Posted by on January 29th, 2010 · Comments (14)

    Via Jon Heyman -

    “Johnny [Damon] was awesome here,” [Brian] Cashman said. “He was great in the clubhouse, great on the field. He is a great competitor, a great person and a great player,” We’re going to miss him. We wanted him to stay. We looked forward to having him back. But not at all costs.”

    So if they agree so easily on the basic topic in question (Damon’s contribution), what happened to drive Damon away? The “not at all costs” thought certainly is a part of it. But is there more to it than that? How did it come to be that the Yankees and Damon — two sides that professed love for one another and continue to do so — never got close to an agreement?

    In a last-ditch effort late last week after Damon himself called the team, Cashman, one of baseball’s best dealmakers, tried floating a contract of $6 million with $3 million deferred at no interest (with the promise it would be cleared with team boss Hal Steinbrenner, who was about to return from his honeymoon). But Damon wasn’t moved enough to respond.

    Damon says he hopes to sign fairly soon. For that to happen, things will have to proceed more rapidly than the glacial pace of the talks with the Yankees. It’s hard to know exactly where things went wrong. But one could reasonably wonder whether he wanted to be a Yankee quite as badly as everyone thought. And definitely also wonder whether the Yankees wanted him back as badly as everyone thought.

    Six weeks went by between the Yankees’ World Series championship and the time they threw out their first figure. And by then, they were already “down the road” with Johnson (though just how far down is still in dispute).

    No dollars were discussed in a meaningful way until Dec. 17, when both sides agree that Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, suggested Damon would return for $26 million over two years. Cashman responded by suggesting he could find a No. 2 hitter at half the years for less than half the price.

    The Yankees thought that was way too high a price in a tight market for outfielders and by the very next day they were close to a deal for Johnson, an ex-Yankee. Boras, hearing through the media about this surprising turn of events, called Cashman in an attempt to resurrect things. So he asked Cashman what the Yankees would pay, and that’s when Cashman threw out the figure of $14 million for two years.

    This is where things get tricky. Damon said he has no hard feelings and doesn’t really want to re-live the talks, but also suggested now by phone that his text message of Dec. 18 to the New York Times that the “Yankees offered 2 for 14” didn’t really tell the whole story. It was Damon’s impression that the $14 million offer was actually contingent on Johnson’s deal falling through. “The situation is, it was pending if Nick Johnson wasn’t accepting or didn’t pass the physical,” Damon recalled.

    Cashman remembered things slightly differently. Cashman said he only told Boras he better hurry, because the offer would be off the table if Johnson said yes first, and certainly if Johnson had already called in with a message to accept. Cashman said the Yankees were prepared to retract their offer from Johnson, though not if he’d already left word with someone that he already accepted.

    This point is mostly moot, except to the most inside of baseball people. Because, as Damon said by phone Thursday, “I heard that (my offer) was pending, but I really didn’t care too much. It wasn’t going to be taken. … I definitely wasn’t in the mode to take it. Taking a 40 percent pay cut just didn’t seem to be the right thing.”

    It is curious in any case why there was no offer for six weeks, and even then, only after the Yankees were on the verge of signing Johnson, a younger but injury prone (he averages missing 68 games a year) and considerably less accomplished player.

    The Yankees’ say they never made an offer because they gathered that Damon’s price was way above what they wanted to pay. They figured: why bother? So no offer came. And when it did come, Damon said it is his understanding it came with strings attached.

    “I’m not bitter,” Damon said. “It’s part of baseball. Teams are trying to stay within a budget.”

    The Yankees have done plenty of budget busting in the past for their better players. So there’s plenty of wonder as to why they toed the line here.

    Cashman is philosophical about the entire episode.

    “Scott’s a great agent. Johnny’s a great player. And the Yankees are a great organization,” the Yankees’ GM said. “Sometimes, these things just don’t get done. The value we set for him didn’t meet the value he set for himself.”

    The more you read on this thing, with all the he-said-she-said, reported conditional offers, claims and denials…well…it’s reminding me of Joe Torre’s exit from the team after the 2007 season.

    Is this the “new” Yankees way of saying good-bye to personnel that they really don’t want anymore, but, where they’re somewhat thin-skinned about how the call to cut ties will be received by the public? It just might be…

    Messy stuff, huh? Just wait until it’s time for one, or more, of the “Core Four” to go through this drill.

    Comments on Heyman’s Insight On Cashman-Damon Saga

    1. Corey
      January 29th, 2010 | 2:42 pm

      Good-bye Damon! *does happy dance*

    2. egghead71
      January 29th, 2010 | 2:55 pm

      One of the core four has been through it.. twice. Look at Andy’s negotiations, but he came back and is still here.

      Posada should take heed.

    3. YankCrank
      January 29th, 2010 | 2:56 pm

      Wrote this in an earlier thread but it makes more sense here:

      Assuming Heyman’s reports are correct, I guess we can put the idea to bed that the Yanks didn’t try to go “over budget” and sign Damon.

      Whether the Yanks should have offered more than $6 million for one year is up for debate, i’m sure we all feel differently. But here’s what was turned down by Johnny and Boras:

      2 years, $20 million
      2 years, $14 million
      1 year, $6 million

      Good luck finding better than any of those elsewhere, Johnny. It’s too bad, both sides really just never saw eye-to-eye.

    4. MJ
      January 29th, 2010 | 3:10 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      The more you read on this thing, with all the he-said-she-said, reported conditional offers, claims and denials…well…it’s reminding me of Joe Torre’s exit from the team after the 2007 season.

      Is this the “new” Yankees way of saying good-bye to personnel that they really don’t want anymore, but, where they’re somewhat thin-skinned about how the call to cut ties will be received by the public?

      I don’t see it that way at all. In Damon’s own words, he wasn’t about to take a 40% paycut and, even though he reportedly initiated the last-ditch effort to come back at 1Y/$6M with deferred compensation, he never responded to Cashman’s message that it could get done.

      The timing and the tenor of the negotiation was destined to fail, given a variety of factors. I don’t think the Yanks “fired” Damon the way they “fired” Torre. In any event, I don’t think things are as acrimonious, even if you think Damon got “fired.” To his credit, Johnny’s telling his side of the story without being petty about it. He concedes that this is an aspect of the business and that’s that and the Yanks certainly didn’t do anything classless on their part either, given the quote that Heyman opens with. Torre, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to have a press conference to bitch about being insulted, etc.

      Is there still time for Damon to get bitchy? Sure. But I think Damon knows better, frankly.

    5. YankCrank
      January 29th, 2010 | 3:12 pm

      MJ wrote:

      Is there still time for Damon to get bitchy? Sure. But I think Damon knows better, frankly.

      IIRC, Damon was also gracious in leaving Boston even though he felt they were lowballing him. Johnny isn’t that kind of guy.

    6. MJ
      January 29th, 2010 | 3:35 pm

      @ YankCrank:
      Agreed.

    7. jay
      January 29th, 2010 | 6:36 pm

      To add to the discussion a bit, I made the point the first time around about players taking substantial paycuts. It becomes at least a ‘stop’ on the negotiation train – an offer gets rejected because the players perceived value of themselves makes them think they shouldn’t be forced to take an X% paycut. I’m not sure what to make of this he-said/she-said 2 year/$14M offer, but it seems like if Damon would have come to terms with his value real value in November or December, he’d be a Yankee right now. And he didn’t, because he didn’t want to take a paycut. I would not be surprised if the same thing happened with Matsui, which people who bitch about Nick Johnson and his 2010 contract compared to Matsui and his 2010 contract should keep in mind.

    8. Raf
      January 29th, 2010 | 10:42 pm

      Is this the “new” Yankees way of saying good-bye to personnel that they really don’t want anymore, but, where they’re somewhat thin-skinned about how the call to cut ties will be received by the public? It just might be…

      I doubt it.

      At the end of the day, like with Torre, if both sides wanted to get it done, they would’ve.

    9. ken
      January 30th, 2010 | 10:33 am

      my 2c: Cashman wants the team to get younger and more athletic. A Damon signing goes the opposite direction. Cashman made an offer he knew would be unacceptable to Damon/Boras. And Damon/Boras wrongly assumed that Cashman would follow up with an offer to save face for both parties. Cashman didn’t.

      And also, if Big George were still in the picture, we would have Damon at 4yrs/40-50M along with a bunch of other overpaid, aging players.

    10. Corey
      January 30th, 2010 | 10:37 am

      ken wrote:

      my 2c: Cashman wants the team to get younger and more athletic. A Damon signing goes the opposite direction.

      While I generally agree, this one is tough to argue because he signed Randy Winn who is worse in every way.

    11. ken
      January 30th, 2010 | 11:06 am

      Corey wrote:

      ken wrote:
      my 2c: Cashman wants the team to get younger and more athletic. A Damon signing goes the opposite direction.
      While I generally agree, this one is tough to argue because he signed Randy Winn who is worse in every way.

      Listening to MLB on XM yesterday: someone said that Winn is a solid defensive player who is unknown to East-coasters because he plays in West. He thought that Yank fans will be pleased with him in the role given to him.

      Also, the thing to remember is that we need to consider what Damon would do in the next two years, not just assume that his best performance last year would be the guy we see in the future. There is a definite down side: injury-prone and noodle-arm.

    12. Corey
      January 30th, 2010 | 12:08 pm

      ken wrote:

      stening to MLB on XM yesterday: someone said that Winn is a solid defensive player who is unknown to East-coasters because he plays in West. He thought that Yank fans will be pleased with him in the role given to him.

      I’m talking about getting younger and athletic. I could play better defense the Damon, so that doesn’t hold weight to me.

    13. MJ
      January 30th, 2010 | 3:41 pm

      ken wrote:

      Cashman made an offer he knew would be unacceptable to Damon/Boras.

      I don’t believe that for a second. The market has moved against Damon; Cashman didn’t need to make a window-dressing offer if he didn’t want Damon, he simply would’ve passed. Instead, he made offers consistent with his accurate reading of the market for Damon’s services which peaked at 2Y/$20M and tumbled down to 1Y/$6M with deferred money. Unless there’s a surprise team lurking out there, I feel safe in assuming that Damon doesn’t sign for more than 1Y/$7M at this late stage in the game where it’s a buyer’s market.

    14. MJ
      January 30th, 2010 | 3:45 pm

      ken wrote:

      e need to consider what Damon would do in the next two years, not just assume that his best performance last year would be the guy we see in the future. There is a definite down side: injury-prone and noodle-arm.

      1) A player that consistently produces should not be expected to suddenly decline from one year to the next. On a one-year basis, Damon remains as safe a player as any in baseball.

      2) His weak arm is but a fraction of the overall picture with Damon. He has average to slightly below-average range for a LF but gets graded down for a very weak arm. The offense saves him and has him as a 3-WAR player.

      3) Injury prone? That’s revisionist history all of a sudden. He’s played at least 141 games in each of his 14 full MLB seasons. How did we get to injury prone from playing in an average of 144 games a year over the life of his four-year contract in New York?

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