As per Yankees beat writer Ken Davidoff in the Tweetosphere, the Yankees will bring back fan favorite 1B/OF/DH Nick Johnson for a one-year stint, valued around $5.5 million. Johnson was a Yankee farmhand and played a big role on the 2002 division-winning team before missing half of '03 with ouchies and then getting traded to Montreal as part of the Javy Vazquez trade. Since that point, Nick has played exactly one full season in his shuffling around between Montreal, Washington, Miami, and the free clinic.
Johnson will assume the role of D.H. for the Yankees, but although it seems he's replacing Hideki Matsui on the defending World Champions, he's really filling the departed Johnny Damon's shoes as the #2 hitter in the lineup. Is this a good thing? Well, with a career OBP of .402, he'll outperform Damon in getting on base ahead of the big boppers, but since he hasn't posted a SLG over .431 since 2006, he might not be able to replicate Damon's pop, even as a lefty hitter in Yankee Stadium.
Also, Johnson strikes out more than 20% of his plate appearances, compared to just 12.5% of the time for Damon, and grounds into double plays at a high rate (14.3%). Damon was one of the league leaders in GIDP.
What does all of this mean? I have no idea, I just like to throw numbers and stats around as if I were some sort of sabermagician. I do know this much: folks in the Bronx were very sad when homegrown product Johnson went away and Jason Giambi assumed the role of mustachioed slugger. Still, this is a new New York Yankees team that is willing to let a fan favorite like Matsui walk away in favor of getting a cheaper and equally productive option. I think Brian Cashman is rolling the dice a bit with Johnson's health problems, but even if Nick can be half as productive as he was in his career season of 2006 (149 OPS+ in 628 PA!), he'll be worth the $5.5 million.