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September 23, 2008

Prospectus Today

Fixing It

by Joe Sheehan

Barring an apocalyptic turn of events-winning the rest of their games, the last four against the Red Sox, who would have to lose out all the way through a one-game playoff-the Yankees will miss the 2008 playoffs. It will be the first time in the Division Series era that October will kick off without the Bronx Bombers. That's a reason for celebration in many quarters, and a cause for distress in others, but the team's failure to make the postseason inspires one question from everyone: What now?

The key thing to remember is that the 2008 Yankees are not a bad baseball team, and in fact, were MLB to send its top eight teams by merit alone, these Yankees would probably be included. They're tied for eighth in MLB in wins and winning percentage, and when you consider that they've put up their 85-71 mark in the toughest division in baseball history, that record understates their performance. Here are the best teams in baseball by third-order record:


Team         W     L
Red Sox    99.2  56.8
Rays       93.7  61.3
Cubs       90.6  64.4
Blue Jays  88.1  67.9
Yankees    87.1  68.9
Mets       85.1  70.9
White Sox  85.0  70.0
Dodgers    84.5  71.5

No, the Yankees aren't a bad team, and in fact, they'd probably have won four of the other five divisions in baseball, something you could say for all four of the good teams in the AL East. It's important that they not overreact to missing the postseason. Missing the postseason says more about their competitive environment, which included four of the top five teams in baseball, than about the Yankees themselves. (It also, as an aside, makes what the Rays did this year all the more impressive.)

Of course, an 85-71 mark (or 87-69) is still a bit below expectations. The Yankees' failure to reach the mid-90s in wins can be attributed largely to two areas: young players and injuries, with the former the primary reason. Brian Cashman's goal over a period of years has been to lower the payroll and change the roster by letting the products of a suddenly productive farm system play. This was the rationale behind not trading a package of young players for Johan Santana, or making big deals at the trade deadline in 2007. This year, however, the plan backfired because the young players spit the bit.

Center fielder Melky Cabrera is a defensive improvement on late-career Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon, with speed and a strong arm that counter his sometimes questionable routes in center. However, he took a huge step backwards this season at the plate by batting .243/.296/.337. His walk rate slipped, and his ability to put balls in play with authority disappeared. A solidly built 5'10", Cabrera has eight extra-base hits and 10 unintentional walks in his last 241 plate appearances, which is why he spent most of August at Triple-A. Robinson Cano didn't have quite as bad a season, but his .264/.299/.403 line has been a significant dropoff. As a player who doesn't walk much, Cano has to hit .300 to keep from being a problem on offense, and his defense doesn't begin to make up for poor offense. In 2007, Cano and Cabrera were worth 13.6 wins above replacement a year ago. This year, they were worth 6.7. That alone accounts for the gap between the Yankees' expected performance and their actual one.

The other big problem on offense was the injury to Jorge Posada, a torn right rotator cuff that required surgery and limited him to 51 games played. The Yankees replaced him first with Jose Molina, and then Ivan Rodriguez, neither of whom remotely approached Posada's production. All told, the Yankees used five catchers in Posada's stead, and none of them posted a .300 OBP. Their defense was a bit better, but not enough to make up for the extra outs being made.

The Yankees played the 2008 season getting sub-.300 OBPs from three lineup spots. That, more than any other factor, is why they're not going to play past Sunday afternoon. That, more than any other problem, is what they have to address in the offseason.

It won't be easy. The three years remaining on Posada's contract dictate that the team waits for him to rehab and hopes that he can catch at least semi-regularly. Cano now has a contract that pays him $25 million through 2011, and with his trade value gone, he almost has to be back as the second baseman. There are no viable center fielders on the free-agent market; the outfielders that are available are below-average defensively even on the corners and more middle-of-the-lineup types. Johnny Damon's limited time in center field this season has confirmed that he's no longer an option as an everyday player at the position. Signing Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez and sliding Damon to center would give back many of the runs such a signing would create on offense. Additionally, a deal of that nature could exacerbate the logjam at DH, where Posada and Hideki Matsui may need to get their playing time.

The Yankees find themselves in a terrible bind. What they need is OBP up the middle. What they have are flawed players with immovable contracts and significant questions as to what they will produce in 2009, and a market that offers little in the way of solutions.

In the same way that Cano and Cabrera took down the offense this year, with an injury to Posada finishing it off, the pitching suffered because two notable farm products failed to produce. Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy were expected to step in at the back end of the rotation and combine for league-average work, but they instead made 16 starts and allowed 61 runs, averaging less than four innings a start. Chien-Ming Wang played the Posada role, missing half the season with a foot injury suffered running the bases. The great work the team got from Pettitte and Mussina was largely canceled out by the lack of production by the three homegrown starters. Nevertheless, on the whole, the Yankees' run prevention was good enough to win.

The Yankees' failure to score enough runs to win, while allowing about as many runs as expected, is why the predicted off-season emphasis on acquiring pitching is misguided. There's an assumption that the Yankees will sign CC Sabathia and at least one other starting pitcher from the upcoming free-agent pool. However, the lesson of the 2008 Yankees should be that you can build an effective staff without committing $150 million over seven years to any one hurler. Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina have provided 65 starts of above-average pitching, and while the price is high ($28 million), the length of commitment is not. Both contracts expire this week, and both provide a guideline as to the kind of deal the Yankees should be looking to make again: short-term, high-dollar deals that provide certainty if not upside.

The risks on the market are far too great to justify the costs. Sabathia has thrown a ton of pitches the last few years and will almost certainly struggle to manage his body as he ages. Ben Sheets and A.J. Burnett have never been able to string multiple healthy and effective seasons together. Ryan Dempster and Oliver Perez have rarely been able to string multiple healthy and effective half-seasons together. There are nothing but land mines out there, and unless you can get one of these pitchers to take a shorter deal with a very high average annual value, the likelihood of a disastrous contract is high. The Yankees have a fair amount of pitching talent already on hand, and do not need to assume the massive risk involved in a market-price contract for one of these pitchers.

Moreover, the Yankee bullpen was surprisingly effective, and while Mariano Rivera made $15 million to pitch the ninth inning, it was the development of Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras, as well as low-profile pickups such as Dan Giese and Brian Bruney, that made the sixth through eighth innings a strength. They don't need to look elsewhere for pitching help, and they certainly don't need to gild the lily with a certain hard-throwing righty better-suited for more work.

So what should the Yankees do this winter? How do they get back to the postseason in 2009 in a way that leverages their assets while avoiding the kind of massive mistakes that kill a team for years to come? Here's the course of action:

  • Sign Mark Teixeira. With Jason Giambi's contract expiring (there's a $22 million option likely to be bought out for $5 million), the Yankees don't have a first baseman in place for '09. Teixeira is the most complete position player on the market, bringing power and OBP from both sides of the plate and strong defense. Most contracts for players on the left side of the defensive spectrum are bad ideas, but Teixeira's age (29 in April), durability (one DL stint in his career) and performance level make him worth the risk. The Yankees' cash position means they can meet or exceed any offer to Teixeira, and using him to replace Giambi ($21 million in 2008) means that signing him would be nearly cost-neutral while improving the team's first-base play by two wins. Signing Teixeira would be consistent with the Yankees' approach to free agency prior to the Carl Pavano signing: getting the best free agent on the market, while staying out of the overpriced middle. This, and not Sabathia, is the key move of the offseason. There is no free agent like Teixeira.
  • Try to bring back Bobby Abreu. Abreu's approach at the plate is valuable to a team that doesn't work the count as well as it might. Unfortunately, he's another aging corner outfielder with defensive issues. If you can sign him for, say, two years and a vesting option, it would be worth the investment; anything longer than that is probably too risky. There are not many right fielders on this roster or in the market, and Xavier Nady is not an everyday player-you need a lefty partner for him.
  • Avoid the pitchers. Only Sabathia has the kind of track record that might warrant the contracts the pitchers will be getting from the market this winter. As good as he's been the last two seasons, there's an enormous amount of risk involved in signing a pitcher who has been worked like a dray horse of late, and who carries a lot of weight. It works for him now, but will it work for him in 2012? With the expectation that he'll get a seven-year deal for upwards of $23 million a season, that's the critical question.

    Once you set Sabathia aside, the rest of the class is easy to dismiss. Sheets and Burnett simply don't have the track records to warrant five-year commitments, and Dempster and Perez have three good years between them. These guys are the Pavanos and Jaret Wrights of this offseason. Let someone else make those mistakes.

  • Put Joba Chamberlain in the rotation and leave him alone. Chamberlain didn't get hurt because he was used as a starter, and the idea that he should be a reliever is misguided. He was a starter his whole career until the Yankees needed bullpen help in the summer of 2007 and alighted on him as a solution. They have to stop diminishing his value by turning him into a 75-inning contributor in moderate-leverage situations. Let him prepare this winter for 32 starts, and then turn him loose on the AL.
  • Re-sign Mussina or Pettitte. Try and get some kind of Yankee discount on one of these two, both of whom have quietly been anchors this year. Even if Mussina were to regress to his 2007 level, he'd still be worth a deal comparable to what he's coming off of, a two-year, $15 million commitment. As with the signings of Rivera and Posada last winter, it is probably worth it to the Yankees to use their cash to overpay slightly for some certainty. You're buying 60 starts over two years of league-average baseball without having to risk what that might become in years three through seven. This enables the Yankees to work in the young pitchers behind them in the rotation.
  • Pick up Carl Pavano's option. It seems like a ridiculous idea, but Pavano's late-season performance has shown him to be a reasonable back-end option for a big-league rotation. You can laugh, but if he hits the market, some team will give him a two-year contract just off of the last month of work. The Yankees can pay $13 million-$11 million marginal considering the $2 million buyout-and have a fifth or sixth (insurance) starter in place for 2009, one who will be better than Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner. This is, again, a situation where the Yankees can use their deep pockets to overpay in the short term as opposed to committing more money to an uncertain future.

  • Don't touch the bullpen. Resist the temptation to use the available money on the 2009 equivalents of Kyle Farnsworth or Chris Hammond. The Yankees have a plethora of live arms who can help them control games in front of Rivera, and they just keep coming: both Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke have, in just the last few weeks, put themselves in position to be key contributors out of the pen in 2008. The best bullpens are homegrown and inexpensive, and the Yankees can have that by just leaving theirs alone.

This doesn't solve all of the short-term problems, most notably leaving the same hole in center field that existed all year, and assuming calculated risks behind the plate and at second base. The contract status of Posada and Cano make the latter problems intractable; you could conceivably offer Cano in a deal for the Orioles' Brian Roberts, signed through '09, but I'm not sure the Orioles would take on Cano, even though they'd get all the upside in the deal. The only way to solve center field is by taking on a contract, with Gary Matthews Jr., Vernon Wells, and Aaron Rowand all springing to mind. None of those three solve the Yankees' OBP issues, though, and with the contracts involved, giving Cabrera one more shot at the job, with Austin Jackson coming up behind him, seems prudent. In Cabrera's favor is that he's just 24 years old, and is still the best defensive outfielder on the team. Signing an extra outfielder who can play center and bat left-handed-I'll name Endy Chavez for his defensive skills, but you probably want a better bat-would help.

So, were I in charge, this would be your 2009 New York Yankees:

C: Posada, Molina
1B: Teixeira
2B: Cano, Betemit
SS: Jeter
3B: Rodriguez
LF: Damon
CF: Cabrera, Chavez
RF: Abreu, Nady
DH:Matsui
SP: Wang, Chamberlain, Mussina, Hughes, Kennedy, Pavano
RP: Rivera, Ramirez, Veras, Coke, Aceves, Giese

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  AL Center Fielders,  Yankees,  A's,  The Who,  Work,  Year Of The Injury

56 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

RahulN

Pretty good read, Joe. Will this be some type of offseason series for teams that may be able to contend in 2009?

Sep 23, 2008 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
hansklopeck

Ha. It would be nice, but I'm pretty skeptical that this would be the case. In fact, discussing what steps the Yankees need to take to contend next season is probably one of the most boring and mind-numbing treks one can embark on. Here's your answer: "Spend more money". There you go. So now I think a more difficult question would be "How is Kansas City going to contend in lets say 5 years?". Or "What steps the Cleveland Indians need to take to make it back to the playoffs next season?". Heck, why not look at the Oakland A's. These are all front offices that have many more obsticles to making the playoffs than The New York Yankees.

Sep 23, 2008 15:26 PM
rating: 4
 
Drew Miller

How is Sabathia a land-mine? Everyone keeps seeing him as an injury-risk due to his weight, but he has yet to fulfill that risk. To me, Sabathia is the kind of guy you take that risk on, given what he's done and his age. Especially given a) TINSTAAPP (see Hughes & Kennedy), and b) guys like Sabathia don't show up on the free-agent market very often. I remember years when the Yanks and other teams have had to settle for big contracts to relative mediocrities because of the lack of big free-agent pitchers.

If you're the Yanks, you sign Sabathia AND Teixeira. Then, you hope Austin Jackson can play a credible CF.

What do you think?

Sep 23, 2008 11:58 AM
rating: 1
 
akachazz

Sabathia is going to go for 6+ years. You don't sign a pitcher to a 6 year deal. You just don't.

Sep 23, 2008 13:21 PM
rating: 0
 
SC

The mistakes come in signing second-tier pitchers to 6+ year deals (see Zito, Schmidt). Best in breed players are worth locking up if only because you can't get a better performer at any cost (see Santana). Certainly there are injury risks with pitchers, but Sabathia will get 6+ years.

In all likelihood he will be among the best in the league for at least three of those years. You have to pay an enormous premium for this, but fortunately for the Yankees, you can afford it.

Sep 23, 2008 21:57 PM
rating: 2
 
MichavdB

What do you think the chances are they trade young arms (albeit with diminished value) for a center fielder? Or do you think they haven't given up on Cabrera quite yet?

Sep 23, 2008 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
kcboomer

The season's not even over yet and we are already worrying about the lowly Yankees. Sheesh.

Sep 23, 2008 12:14 PM
rating: 1
 
Scott D. Simon

John P.'s column from Sunday said the Yanks would try to sign Orlando Hudson in the offseason and trade Cano to the Dodgers. Maybe they trade Cano for Andruw Jones?

Sep 23, 2008 12:23 PM
rating: 0
 
Shaun P.
(676)

I'm not sure I want to risk anything on relying on Carl Pavano staying healthy for any stretch of time. Given that, why not have Aceves fill that 5th/6th starter slot instead? Aceves is a cheaper option, and that opens up a bullpen slot for one of the many other candidates the Yanks have, such as David Robertson, Chris Britton, and (especially) Mark Melancon.

Sep 23, 2008 12:28 PM
rating: 0
 
dbiester

When does Mr. Jeter move out of SS? How are all of their aging players going to fit at DH? Wouldn't it be helpful if they could move a current play to 1B? Really, if they hadn't been close to contending, it would have been a good year to move out some of their older but still useful players, Johnny Damon comes to mind as someone the Mets would love to have had down the stretch.

the risk in Sabathia is not year 1 or 2, it's that he becomes Kevin Brown in year 3.

Sep 23, 2008 12:51 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

They should switch Jeter and A-Rod, but one can only dream of that.

Sep 24, 2008 08:48 AM
rating: -1
 
TJS

Just to clarify, Mussina's deal was 2/$23, which included a $1M signing bonus. Given that Moose has made plenty of dough and professed a desire to come back to the NYY if offered the chance, I think they can offer him a one-year at something not insulting, perhaps plus a few incentives, and he'll take it.

Sep 23, 2008 13:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Christopher Taylor

I'd like to hear why Vernon Wells springs to mind in a list with Rowand and Matthews Jr. he seems quite unlike the others - he does have a big contract but it hasn't kicked in yet (it gets big in 2010, I believe) and after playing through injury in 2007 he's bounced back (with a freak wrist injury and a more troubling hamstring injury)... he is not the spare part that the other two you list are and unlikely to be traded as a) the face of the Jays franchise and b) he certainly won't go within the division.

Most Jays observers forget that they need to be at least mediocre or the fanbase will collapse again (at the gate, but more importantly for Rogers, on TV). The Blue Jays are a team where the marginal value of wins 82-87 are probably higher than any team. With a decent team they can draw 30,000+ on weekend and sell out the place for Sox/Yankees series and draw 150,000 on television. Less than 81 wins, those numbers collapse as they did in 2004.

Personally, as a Jays fan, I'd like to see him moved for SS/Kennedy because Rios is better in CF, Snider could be fine in RF and Lind in LF; but I just don't see him being moved in the way that Sarge Jr or Rowand could.

Sep 23, 2008 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Aaron/YYZ

Possibly because Vernon Wells is Xavier Nady with better defense? Seriously, look at the numbers.

Vernon is a hacker and really more of a #6/7 hitter offensively than miscast as a #4 because of his big contract and pretty smile. A ton of his overall value comes from his defense, which gets a lot of people overvaluing his offense. His offense is *very* batting average driven because the guy does not take a walk. If he loses any batspeed from either his injuries or aging, Vernon's contract will be a huge albatross for the Jays franchise.

Sep 23, 2008 20:13 PM
rating: 0
 
joudens

Joe's analysis, as usual, is convincing, but I beg to differ with the premise that "the team's failure to make the postseason inspires one question from everyone: What now?"

No, not necessarily from everyone, at least not yet. As of this morning, 14 teams have been eliminated from postseason contention (ahead of the Yankees), and unless I missed it, nobody on this site has seen fit to write a "What now?" for any of those.

Sep 23, 2008 13:38 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

The Yanks can't live with Johnny Damon in CF but can live with Carl Pavano picking up a check every week for doing nothing?

Sep 23, 2008 13:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Aaron/YYZ

Correct because for a team with the financial resources of the Yankees, the money paid to Pavano is less valuable than the cost of all the balls Damon can't get to and the roster spot used to fill LF instead of inhouse options.

Sep 23, 2008 20:17 PM
rating: 1
 
Llarry

I don't like the Yankees, so I'm certainly not invested in the idea of improving them, but...

I don't know if the Yanks have a home-grown solution that's at least "backup-worthy" for 2010, but otherwise it shouldn't be too hard to upgrade your "Posada Insurance" over Molina. The cost should be recoverable just in change found between the couch cushions in Hank's office... A *good* catcher is usually hard to find, and while there are a few available (see Rangers, Texas...), the price will be too high for a couple days a week's work. However, not all members of the IBBB are created equal. If Molina's mix of offense/defence is not what they need, it shouldn't be too hard to shift the balance.

Sep 23, 2008 14:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Joe

so, just to be clear, your prescription for the 2009 yankees is, essentially, 2008 yankees with teixiera swapped for giambi, and joba taking the rotation slot of one of moose/pettitte.

somehow i don't think hank is going to see it this way.

Sep 23, 2008 14:09 PM
rating: 1
 
treerat

No way. Imagine the unhappy place the new Yankee Stadium will be if they see a repeat performance of young players struggling. If they stay the course and it doesn't work, it's gonna get ugly. Better to have new people with a history of success to boo, if that's the way it works out.

Sep 23, 2008 18:19 PM
rating: 0
 
durron597

What about Alfredo Aceves in the rotation? He has 4 finished pitches (fastball, curve, change, cut fastball), and can go the distance. I don't think he should be in long relief this year, he's earned a chance to try to make it at the back of the rotation with his performance this year.

At the other end of the spectrum, I think Mussina has been great this year but I just hope that if he sticks around he becomes the old version of Greg Maddux instead of the old version of Pedro Martinez.

Sep 23, 2008 14:19 PM
rating: 0
 
cshaw006

I agree in principal, but have some changes:

C: Posada, Molina
1B: Teixeira
2B: Cano, Betemit
SS: Jeter
3B: Rodriguez
LF: Nady
CF: Damon, Gardner (Jackson?)
RF: Abreu
DH: Matsui
SP: Wang, Chamberlain, Mussina, Hughes, (Kennedy, Rasner, or Aceves)
RP: Rivera, Ramirez, Veras, Coke, Bruney, (Giese or Aceves)

-Agree on Teixiera but the contract will be scary
-I think you're selling Nady short. I look at his performance this year compared to his career and see a career year, which is a step up from a fluke. He may not repeat it exactly, but I think he'll be good enough to start.
-Sticking with the OF, I think you have to start off with Damon in CF and hope that one of Garnder/Melky/AJax gets off to a hot enough start to relieve him. As painful as Johnny's been in CF at times, I think the balance of his bat and glove in CF outweighs starting him in LF with one of those killer sub-.300 OBPs roaming CF.
-I'm optimistic about Hughes for 2009. Perhaps too much, but I'm going with it.
-As for the rotation, bringing Pavano back is just not going to happen nor would I want it to. Lost in the disappointment of 2008 Hughes and Kennedy was the lesson that the farm system and free talent pool is a deep source of innings that won't kill you if you have a good offense (the real problem with 2008). The 2008 combination of Rasner, Ponson, Pavano, Kennedy, and Hughes certainly wasn't world-beating, but if you mix in the performances of Aceves and Giese spot starts, you mix and match into a serviceable multi-headed fifth starter. And one with the potential (Kennedy & Aceves) to be much better than that.

That to me looks like a team that should win 93-96 games in the AL East and only requires a single free agent (Tex) and 2 re-signs (Abreu, Moose).

Sep 23, 2008 14:21 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

Shaun P: "I'm not sure I want to risk anything on relying on Carl Pavano staying healthy for any stretch of time. Given that, why not have Aceves fill that 5th/6th starter slot instead?"

They suffered through 36 starts from Rasner and Ponson. (Ponson in particular is a bad joke.) Given that, Joe is right: better to pay $11 million to have Pavano pitch for you rather than $2 million for him not to.

But something tells me the Yankees just won't be able to bring themselves to pay Pavano any more money. I'm _certain_ the Mike Francesas of the world will freak out - not that it matters.

Aceves can be another option as well.

I also think they gave up on Kei Igawa too quickly. He had a respectable year in AAA, and yet was given just one appearance in the majors -- during which he got unlucky in hits allowed -- and they never gave him a chance again. He does seem to have solved his gopher ball problem of 2007.

Sep 23, 2008 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

Following up... How do you keep Ponson in the rotation, yet not give Igawa another chance? How much worse than a 6.29 ERA can you get? Hell, everything went wrong for Igawa in 2007 and he still managed that -- with a better K/BB ratio than Ponson, who went 32-28 in BB-K.

At least Igawa has a smidge of upside. Ponson has none.

Sep 23, 2008 14:32 PM
rating: 0
 
cshaw006

"better to pay $11 million to have Pavano pitch for you rather than $2 million for him not to. "

Better to pay him $2m not to and make other arrangements than to pay him $11m to make 2 starts and go back on the DL with some new or old ailment. The only Pavano deal I'd even consider is one with a low guaranteed amount and heavy incentives.

Sep 23, 2008 14:55 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

I can't see Pavano coming back. From all indications, he isn't well-liked by the team.

Sep 23, 2008 15:06 PM
rating: 0
 
PeterBNYC

Joe, thanks for the thoughtful take on what the Yankees need to do. Tim Marchman and Steve Goldman in the New York Sun have also contributed wonderful pieces to this conversation. My take: This could be the best they can do for 2009, but there sure needs to be a plan beyond that! I simply don't see the Yankees, ownership or management, as capable of putting one together. For example, it has been (and is and will be) painful to watch the decline phase of Jeter, a great ballplayer. What is their plan for the position? Buy an FA? That's a shopping list, not a plan. So in 2010, Jeter, Abreu, Damon, Moose, Pettite are gone, Cabrera turns out to have no upside, Posada is no longer an "everyday" catcher, the young pitchers have worked out pretty well, all the salary which disappeared at the end of 2008 and 2009 was not spent on Sabathia. That's still not a plan. Aside from the pitching side working out, and a belief that Cano can be encouraged to reach his potential, I just don't see what else they have? This is a team which the best power hitter in the game (not necessarily the guy you can buiold a team around) hasn't helped! I agree about Texeira, he should be their highest priority. I agree about signing Abreu and Pavano to the right sort of deals (with no confidence the Yankees know how to do that). No more pussyfooting about Chamberlain. Let Nady play left until he plays himself out of a job, or a platoon partner appears. And yet- I still see a team with no (or a very aged) core "up the middle".

I think these will be very difficult years for the Yankees.

Sep 23, 2008 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

"The only Pavano deal I'd even consider is one with a low guaranteed amount and heavy incentives."

But he's already getting a low guaranteed amount, $2 million, for doing nothing except watching the Yankees buy out his option year.

Sep 23, 2008 15:51 PM
rating: 0
 
Schlom

I don't understand why people would think that the Yankees have any kind of payroll limitation. Since they carried a payroll in excess of $200m before and they are moving into a new stadium which will at the very least double their payroll, why in the world wouldn't they sign Sabathia? If he's a bust, who cares? Just sign the next big free agent. The Yankees have a huge built in advantage over every team in baseball with their huge revenue stream -- why throw that away and try to compete like the other teams? I can understand why Cashman would do it -- it's hard to get praise if you are spending twice as much as every other team but the goal isn't personal satisfaction for Cashman, it's for the Yankees to win the World Series.

Everyone has heard the saying that it's better to have the bird in hand than two in the bush. Luckily for the rest of baseball, Cashman decided that he'd rather have the "two in the bush" (Hughes, Melky, whoever else) than the "bird in hand" (Santana).

Sep 23, 2008 15:57 PM
rating: 1
 
Shaun P.
(676)

In the offseason after 2004, just before Carlos Beltran signed with the Mets, he/Boras called the Yanks and said they'd take a 7 year/$100M contract - less than what the Mets were offering - but the Yanks said no.

They'd already signed Pavano, Wright, and traded for Johnson (and signed him to an extension). Most Yankee fans have felt, since then, that there must be some upper limit to the Yanks' payroll, otherwise they would have signed Beltran too.

Sep 23, 2008 19:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Slingerland65

Great article, but I see a few problems:

1) the 30 inning injury rule for starting pitchers (Joba)

2) bullpens tend to be very unpredictable, and it's unlikely all those relievers with no track record will be as good in 2009 as 2008. The bullpen needs a guaranteed league-average reliver as much as the rotation needs a league-average starter

3) Your rotation won't make 100 starts next year, and you can't expect the kind of years Petitte and Mussina delivered again next year.

Even the Yankees have to get it right most of the time on their young players and high-priced additions, and they haven't. Now the bill comes due if the kids don't pan out.

Sep 23, 2008 16:00 PM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

Good points.

Sep 24, 2008 08:54 AM
rating: -1
 
Dan Malkiel

Gary Mathews? Really?

Sep 23, 2008 16:10 PM
rating: 1
 
honolua

Abreu is a must! This guy is good, wants to play, wants to be a Yankee, and gets his 100 rbi's, 300 ba and probably 100 walks!

I understand he has clubhouse charisma! Much needed with A-Rod in the mix!

Sep 23, 2008 16:32 PM
rating: -1
 
UrbanCowboy

Joe, you remain the best in the business, love your work. I do have some comments on the Repair process of the Yankees however. Not sure off the top of my head who he might be but your bandaid will struggle in the playoffs as without a big game one hurler going up against the likes of Beckett, Santana etc the Yankees may possibly start each series down one game to nil.
Priority one - Teixeira
Priority two - game one starter
Priority three- 8th inning set up- we lost in 2001-2003 because of the lack of a dominant 8th inning pitcher
priority four - another big game bat to make up for ARod's big game deficincies. The Yankees have great bats but not dominant big game bats- guys who are oblivious to the stress of big game situations. A five hole hitter with the ability to carry the team when the going gets tough.
Michael Bruce

Sep 23, 2008 16:52 PM
rating: 0
 
treerat

Joe, you didn't open the can of worms with the "trade" label on it. Might the Yanks package some combination of Cano/Cabrera/Kennedy/Hughs for Matt Cain or Matt Kemp or Justin Duchscherer? They would still be getting young talent back (to keep touch with their current plan) while moving the players that dragged them down this year.

Also, Randy Winn might be a good platoon partner for Abreu. High OBP plus SB and the ability to play center.

P.S. My sources say that Barry Zito is available. The Giants do want a (certified) Yankee Stadium toilet seat in return, however. I wonder what C. C. will be worth in seven years?

Sep 23, 2008 16:56 PM
rating: 0
 
James Martin Cole

Why would anyone give up Duchscherer, Kemp or Cain for all four of those players, much less two or three?

I mean, Cano is expensive, lazy, and bad, Melky is nothing more than a fourth outfielder, Kennedy is nothing more than a fifth starter (at that!). The only one with any real value is Hughes, and his stock is pretty low right now. No one is going to give up a young player who could be in the top 10 on a championship roster for players who are unlikely to be anything more than a spare part (no matter how many spare parts you offer).

Sep 23, 2008 20:35 PM
rating: -1
 
John Carter

Cano was considered an overachiever not too long ago. It is not fair to characterize him as lazy or bad.

Sep 24, 2008 08:57 AM
rating: 0
 
treerat

Kemp 300/341/472
Cano 300/334/467

Career stats. Plus rumors abound that this has been discussed. Torre seems to want Cano, the Dodgers seem to have had issues with Kemp.

Duchscherer is fragile, coming off a great year. Billy Beane loves to sell high, buy low.

The Giants would likely get similar value out of Hughes/Kennedy as out of Cain. A pitcher's park, lower pressure and they have only sketchy options at second.

The Yankees' greatest competitive advantage is.......money! After thinking about it, signing Sabathia then makes sense-they're the only team that can afford to release a $20m player if they fall apart and go get another one. This, and the fact that they (and maybe the Red Sox) are the only team that fails if they don't at least take a shot at the World Series puts them in a completely different world. A GM that has to win does not hope some kids figure it out. Sabathia, Wang, Cain, Pettite, Mussina is what you want to go into battle with. You overpay for Tex and Orlando Hudson. If you can get Rowand and Cain for every player that didn't work out this year, then look at your 2009 lineup and ypu'll have expectations...not hope. Let the other teams hope.


P.S. You have the money....sign your damn draft picks.
Your tripleA rotation should be a major league rotation.

Sep 24, 2008 14:29 PM
rating: 1
 
husier
(90)

Why not move Jeter to center field? I know it's heresy to do that to Mr. Yankee, but there is no reason to think it couldn't work. Jeter is a fine athlete with the speed and baseball instincts to make the move, and Rodriguez is available to move over to short if needed.

At his age, a move of Jeter to the outfield could extend his career a bit.

Sep 23, 2008 17:25 PM
rating: 0
 
ofMontreal

I don't think Jeter to the outfield would ever happen, but what about Cano? Is he too much of a headcase to play center? From what I have seen, he has had problems with concentration this year. Which may preclude getting a good jump on the ball in center. Anyway, he looks like someone who will rebound some next year (at least as a hitter).

Sep 23, 2008 17:46 PM
rating: 0
 
repeater

I'm with you on Texeira. But the rotation you prescribe lacks even the semblance of an ace. Wang's been great, but he's also been lucky (aside from the injury). Low to very low strikeout rate, plus a relatively high walk rate. Plus generous run support (i.e., more than 5 runs per). He's gone deep into games, to be sure, but that's because he's been lucky.

Chamberlain won't pitch enough innings to be a real ace, even if he continues to dominate. Hughes and Kennedy are still huge question marks. I love Moose, but he's wicked old. And the league is sure to figure him out in his new finesse incarnation. Pettitte eats innings, but that's pretty much all he's good for. That, and the postseason, which we won't make without someone like Sabathia. And by someone like Sabathia, I mean Sabathia. He may not be perfect, but he's the best available.

Sep 23, 2008 20:57 PM
rating: -1
 
repeater
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Oh, and would anyone take A-Rod in a trade (assuming he'd approve one)? He's poison. At this point, I would take a bag of peanuts and Larry Bowa in exchange.

Sep 23, 2008 21:01 PM
rating: -7
 
Ross11903

Any thoughts on brett gardener? or would melky be a more valuable asset in center and at the plate as they both continue to develop?

Sep 24, 2008 00:42 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

I agree that Tex seems like a must-sign. I disagree on Sabathia: I think he's worth the risk. Pavano... is one of those things that simply cannot happen. I get the reasoning, really I do, but no.

C: Posada, Molina
1B: Tex
2B: Cano
SS: Jeter
3B: ARod
LF: Damon/Nady
CF: Melky/Gardner
RF: Abreu/Nady
IF: Betemit (I guess, man he was awful this year)

Starters: Sabathia, Wang, Chamberlain, Mussina, Hughes, with Aceves, Giese, Kennedy and Rasner in reserve.
BP: Rivera, Ramirez, Veras, Bruney, Coke, Giese/Aceves/etc.

The backup plan to not getting CC would be another year or two of Andy Pettitte. The backup plan to not getting Tex is... The Return of The Stache, I guess.

If one wants to go out and get someone who can hit more than Gardner to split time with Melky in CF, I think he has to hit righty: Melky cannot hit RH. At all. Therefore, no to Endy Chavez.

Sep 24, 2008 07:05 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

I forgot Marte. I think picking up his option is the right call. So he's the lefty in the 'pen, with Coke as another option.

Sep 24, 2008 08:02 AM
rating: 0
 
aztropf

I'd agree that offense, not pitching, was the main 'problem' of the Yankees in 2008. But I'd still strongly consider signing Sabathia. For one, who knows exactly what Mussina and Pettitte have in the tank? If there's one thing about pitching, its always unpredictable. Sabathia provides lots of room for error among the other pitchers. Two, postseason. Studies show that teams with top notch pitching (both starting and bullpen) tend to win in October. Sabathia helps in that respect, and helps fill a void the Yanks have had for quite some time. They haven't had that true ace for many years. That's got to be a big bonus for whomever signs him.

Yes, Sabathia is a risk. Given his age, weight, and workload there's probably going to be some dead money at the end of that contract. But is there any team better equipped to handle that risk than the Yankees? Ace pitchers don't fall off trees and this might be the right time to get one. Sabathia might be help as much with the regular season record as Texeira would, but he might help more with the postseason success.

Sep 24, 2008 07:05 AM
rating: 1
 
Rob_in_CT

Exactly: one way or the other, the Yanks need to improve their run differential. Scoring more runs would be good. So would giving up fewer. Best is to achieve both.

Sep 24, 2008 07:23 AM
rating: 0
 
jjgreen33
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I'm looking forward to today's column when Joe will write about what the Yankees -- despite being mathematically eliminated -- need to do to reach the 2008 postseason.

Sep 24, 2008 07:27 AM
rating: -4
 
BillJohnson

Two comments. First, the notion of a "Yankee discount" makes me physically ill. Couldn't you have picked some other turn of phrase? Second, I don't think that fans of Pittsburgh, Seattle, San Francisco, etc., are likely to be very sympathetic to the need to "fix" the Yankees. How about an article on fixing teams that actually NEED fixing?

Sep 24, 2008 07:58 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Joe's love is the Yankees, so I am more interested in his views of the Yankees more than any other team. The beauty of baseball is that every team needs fixing or, at least, tinkering. All those repeated Yankee championships came with a very significant addition or two. The Blue Jays overhauled half their team after their '92 championship and successfully defended it in '93.

Sep 24, 2008 09:03 AM
rating: 3
 
ScottyB

The upside to signing Tex is considerable. However, the downside to signing Tex is that he would fill 1b for 6 years or so. Probably the best way to deal with the declines of Jeter and Posada is to have Posada spend a lot of time at 1b over the next 3 years, and then slide Jeter there afterwards. There was even some talk of Damon learning to play 1st base.

Sep 24, 2008 09:10 AM
rating: 0
 
WAYNEJONATHAN

This was mostly a good article, but I think you are overrating the bullpen considerably. Looking at its members I see more overperformance than geunine quality and I think the Yankees could easily get burned badly next year if they 'stand pat' in that area.

Also, to second Arrian, the problem is not offense or pitching, but run differential. Because the Yankees have had a worldbeating offense and an average to somewhat above average pitching staff for a number of years prior to the silly people get the impression that the Yankees "need hitting".

Sep 24, 2008 10:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

At least some of the bullpen guys will not be good next year, it's true. They're middle relievers for a reason. But the Yanks have a pretty good bunch of them to throw against the wall. Mariano you can still count on to be good (if healthy), and I think Marte is a pretty good bet. I'm all for picking up more live arms and throwing them into the mix. I'm emphatically NOT for going out and doing another Karsay/Farnsworth style deal.

Plus, upgrading the starting would reduce strain on the bullpen. One of the big reasons the Yankee bullpen has struggled in recent years is that their starters haven't gotten deep into games with an regularity (Wang was the only guy who did). If they bring in CC and Wang is healthy, that right there lops off some innings from the bullpen's workload.

Sep 24, 2008 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
webcor1

Signing Tex would be a sexy move. But it wouldn't be a smart move.Not in the long run, at least. Posada, Jeter, A-Rod are all aging and 1B would be a logical destination for each one of them, eventually. Tex would block their way. Then there's the matter of one Jesus Montero. Every sign points to him being a monster power bat and to his being a kid who'll just be too damned big and not mobile enough to remain at catcher. By late 2010, he's going to be knocking on the big league door. It is a certainty that the Yankees will have another f/t DH by then. Where would Montero fit in?
If I were the Yanks, I'd offer CC Sabathia 3 yrs/$75mil. I'd sign Pat Burrell, and have him split his time between DH/RF/1B. Burrell would platoon at 1B with Juan Miranda. DH would be a lazy susan of Matsui (most of the time), Burrell, and Posada. I'd re-sign Andy Pettitte. I'd trade Johnny Damon and Ian Kennedy. I'd offer Bobby Abreu arbitration. I'd sign Jerry Hairston, Jr. That would leave me with a lineup of: gardner/nady/abreu/arod/jeter/miranda/posada/cano/matsui, with a "bench" of burrell, molina, cabrera, betemit, hairston
my rotation would be: sabathia/wang/joba/pettitte/hughes
my bullpen would be: coke/aceves//melancon/marte/sanchez/rivera
But hey, what do I know?

Sep 25, 2008 23:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Wolfken

Unfortunately, Sabathia won't accept your 3yr/75M deal.

Oct 01, 2008 03:07 AM
rating: 0
 
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