The Yankees signed Randy Winn to a $2 million, one-year contract this week, filling the hole left when Johnny Damon turned down their two-year, $14 million offer that Scott Boras, Damon's agent, says did not exist. (Damon told the NY Times otherwise.)
They're not exactly buying Winn at the peak of his market. Last season with San Francisco, he had an astonishingly bad year, with an OPS of .671, and an OPS+ of 75. (OPS+ measures a player against his league in on-base average and slugging, adjusted for his home ballpark. One hundred is average; Winn's season was 25% worse than average in the weaker National League.) Over the last ten years, Winn's 2009 season ranks in the bottom 15 for all outfielders -- a group containing over 600 player/seasons (min. 502 plate appearances).
Damon, who turned 36 the day after the World Series ended, had the best OPS+ of his career in 2009, bolstered by the slipstream that blew towards the right field stands in the House That Ruthlessness Built (17 HR at home, 7 on the road). He was a defensive liability when he joined the Yankees in 2005, and the years have done nothing for his range or arm. Other contenders may wonder how much of his power surge will vanish in another park, or fear he won't be able to sustain his .330 batting average on balls in play on the road.
Damon's agent, Scott Boras, was supposedly looking for two years and $20 million, a serious commitment from any team to a 36-year-old outfielder with limited power, especially now, when players once again age according to the calendar and not their pharmacologist.
Winn's a switch-hitter (using the last two syllables loosely) with almost no platoon differential (.758 v. RHP, .764 v. LHP). He's a much better defender than Damon. If he winds up playing as much in 2010 as Damon did in 2009, the Yankees will be noticeably weaker at a prime offensive position.
Who knew the Steinbrenners had a budget? Are season ticket renewals running a little slow?