Nick Johnson and the New Yankee Way

Brian Cashman's getting the hang of this general managing business

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    There will always be those who moan and groan about the Yankees using their wallet to buy championships, but if the end of the 2010 season mimics the end of this year's World Series it won't be because of quantity of money spent. It will be because of the quality. 

    The imminent Nick Johnson signing, pending a physical that isn't quite a rubber stamp for a player with his medical history, is the latest sign that Brian Cashman and the Yankees have figured out that you don't need to make the biggest splash to make the best move. Johnson's addition might lack the headline appeal that comes with signing Matt Holliday or John Lackey, but, like the trade for Curtis Granderson, it makes the Yankees younger, cheaper and better.

    You're free to disagree with the last part of that assessment, but it's a hard argument to make. Johnson gives the Yankees three players who posted on-base percentages of .400 last season, something that should lead to scores of runs crossing the plate. The chances of the aging Damon and Matsui maintaining their production is lower than the likelihood of Granderson's rebounding. Even if all four players turned in the same seasons they did in 2009, though, the Yankees would be getting the same production for less money.

    Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui made $26 million last season while Granderson and Johnson will make $9 million in 2010. Some of that money can now be used to shore up the back end of the rotation and address the need for a versatile bench player who can take some pressure off the remaining older members of the lineup. Or, and we're just dreaming pie in the sky here, it gives Cashman some ammunition to use to convince the Steinbrenners to make a late swoop and sign Holliday at the last minute.

    Really, anything and everything is possible for the Yankees now because of the way Cashman has operated the last two seasons. He made the obvious moves for CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, but he also swung a trade for Nick Swisher that kept enough money on hand to pounce on Mark Teixeira. Now he's made two low profile moves that keep the Yankees at the top of the standings with more room to improve their chances of staying there.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.