I (and a lot of other people) made cracks about yesterday being a bad day for the Yankees, what with Matsui leaving, the Sox getting Lackey and Halladay heading someplace that wasn’t the Bronx. New York Magazine’s Will Leitch is having none of it, however. His take:
(1) The Yankees never had a real chance to get Halladay, so kudos that he didn’t go to Boston and kudos that he left the division;
(2) The Sox signing Lackey and Cameron means that they won’t sign Bay or Holliday; and
(3) The Yankees are now in a position of strength with respect to Damon and maybe someone like Jason Bay.
Maybe. But if what people are saying this morning is true, the Yankees could have had Halladay if they would have offered up Joba or Hughes. They ended up being the sticking point, not Montero, who most people assumed was off limits. I like Hughes and Chamberlain long term, but if one of them represented the sticking point it was a surmountable sticking point.
I actually think that Damon gained a bit of strength given Matsui leaving town, but probably not so much that it will get him more than two years, and that’s ultimately the whole game for New York with respect to Damon.
Finally, it strikes me that Lackey has gone from overrated to underrated in the space of about 24 hours. No, he’s not strong when measured against cream of the crop free agent starters, but the competition did just land a guy who would be an ace on most teams he could have joined. Between Leitch here and Edes earlier, I think he’s being sold pretty short all of a sudden.
Ultimately, however, Leitch is right: none of these moves dramatically shifts the balance of power in the cold war that is the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. To abuse the analogy, this is much more like the U.S. overthrowing the government of Chile than it is like, say, the Cuban Missile Crisis or something.
Not all that much has changed here. The Red Sox likely have one major move left in them, and that’s acquiring Adrian Beltre or someone like him. The Yankees could still move on Damon and/or Bay and add a second tier starter. Even if you assume the best for Boston and the worst for New York coming out of all of that, I think the Yankees are still the team to beat.