I've taken a couple of weeks to gain some perspective on this team. I've read all the rumors and the opinions out there as to what the Yanks should do for 2009 and now I'm ready to put pen to paper. After the jump, I'll lay out my offseason plan for the Yanks. What I would do if I was in Brian Cashman's shoes, and other teams/players would cooperate, obviously.
For me, the first order of business is writing as big of a check as it takes to get CC Sabathia to sign on the dotted line. Find out what the best offer out there is, top it by at least $10M and get him signed immediately. I realize pitching wasn't really the problem for the Yanks last season, but that doesn't matter. CC is probably the best pitcher in the game, he's a lefty, he's a workhorse who has been pretty much injury free, he has an astronomical K ratio. He is the epitome of a number 1 starter and getting him slots everyone else in the rotation back a slot. Whatever it takes, you have to get CC.
Of course, there is a chance that no matter how much the Yanks offer him, CC will still opt to sign elsewhere. Maybe he really does want to go back to Cali, maybe he wants to finish his career in the National League and get to face lineups like the Giants' and Padres' for years to come because it's much easier than facing real teams in the A.L. If this happens, it's time to turn your attention to another ace, Jake Peavy. The Padres are looking to trim payroll, and Peavy could be had for the right price. The second CC signs elsewhere, my first call would be to Kevin Towers.
Beyond those two guys I'm not really interested in anyone. I don't see signing A.J. Burnett (potential-Pavano #1) nor Derek Lowe (potential-Pavano #2) as a good move. Ben Sheets is already hurt. If you can't get an ace, don't overspend for one of these risky second-tier guys. Look for a bargain somewhere, or stand pat. Either way, Mike Mussina needs to be coaxed out of retirement. If you can get CC and bring Mussina back, this is your rotation going into the season. Let Pettitte retire.
- CC Sabathia (Jake Peavy, option B)
- Chien-Ming Wang
- Mike Mussina
- Phil Hughes/Alfredo Aceves
- Joba Chamberlain/Alfredo Aceves
Starting Joba in the number 5 slot of the rotation will allow you to skip his turn in the rotation from time to time and limit his innings. I realize he's going to have a finite number going into the season, but if you start him in the pen you're risking the same thing that happened last year. He could get a minor injury and miss his innings total for the year, then you're set back next season as well. If the real concern with Joba is his longterm development, then you need to get him in the rotation from the get-go. If he runs out of innings, fine. At least you know he'll get there if he starts in the rotation.
In the pen, I'd pick up Marte's option ($6M), and force Girardi to use him properly. He's a lefty specialist who should never pitch more than one inning. The rest of the pen is fine, assuming Mo is back from his surgery for Opening Day. Melancon will probably make the team out of camp and could slide into the 8th inning role.
- Long: Edwar, Robertson
- Middle: Veras, Bruney
- Set Up (R): Melancon
- Set Up (L): Marte
- Closer: Rivera
And now, the offense. The simplest, and cheapest (in terms of talent, not dollars) solution to our offensive woes would be to sign Mark Teixeira. On paper, there's nothing not to like about this guy. His splits are impressive: .912 OPS vs right-handers, .935 against left-handers over his career. He's got a great glove at first, he hits for average, he draws walks, he scores 100, knocks in 100, hits 30 bombs year in and year out. It's really, really hard to make an argument against signing him. Still, I'm not 100% sold that he's the way to go. I can't quite put my finger on it, and I'm pretty sure that it's nothing statistical, more of just a feeling. He's too bland. He doesn't strike fear into anyone. The thing that I really want for this lineup is a lefthanded bat that scares pitchers. A guy to bat behind A-Rod who will make pitchers think twice about pitching around him. Two guys come to mind, both would have to be traded for, and neither will happen unless Phil Hughes is involved. Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.
Since I can't figure out a way the Yanks could trade for either of those guys without giving up Hughes, Teixeira seems to make even more sense, but I'm still not sold. I don't think shelling out $120M+ for a guy who isn't your first option is ever a good idea. Instead, I think the Yanks need a stopgap at first. Ryan Howard may or may not be available this Winter, probably not. The Phils will have to pony up about $15M in arbitration for him, then he has 2 more arb years left after that. They don't seem to want to sign him long term, so the asking price in a trade should fall as time goes on. (fixed, see comments)
The Yanks need to stay patient and wait for Howard.
I see two viable options at first, neither is particularly palatable, but here there are. 1. Buy out Giambi's $22M option ($5M) and then sign him to a one-year deal for somewhere around $10M. He stays at first for this season, then the Yanks go after Howard hard next Winter in free agency. 2. Sign Hank Blalock to a short deal, possibly 2 years. Like I said, neither one is a quick fix, in fact neither one would really fix anything, but you have to be patient. Going out and signing the best available this year could mean you don't have the money or a position to play an even better fit next year.
The next order of business is something that I think has to be done. Robinson Cano needs to be traded. I love the guy's swing as much as you do. I also see a second baseman who could hit 20 home runs and bat .300 every season. Unfortunately, I just don't think he's ever going to fully realize his potential. It makes me laugh when so many people who live and die with sabermetric stats seem bound and determined to completely ignore them where Cano is concerned. Robinson is one of the most impatient hitters in the league, and I'm afraid that just isn't going to change. He's walked a grand total of 99 times in his four years with the Yanks. That's pitiful. You could live with a second baseman who has a little pop in his bat if he plays a great second base, but there again, he hasn't realized his poential. The guy makes a ton of amazing plays, then boots routine grounders or doesn't get to balls because he's trying to look smooth.
Cano finished off the season hot, perhaps he raised his value a little. Either way, I don't see things going much better for Cano next season. The book is out, don't throw him strikes. As long as he's chasing, which he has never shown a willingness or ability to avoid doing, he's never going to be a middle-of-the-lineup guy. Now is the time to sell.
The first call I'd make is to the Dodgers. Torre and Bowa know him, they can probably get more out of him than anyone else. The Dodgers have a glut in the outfield, even more so if they decide to bring Manny back. See if you can package Cano with a prospect to get Matt Kemp. Play Kemp in center, go out and sign Orlando Hudson to play second and your offense is set for 2009. More importantly, the team is poised to make upgrades and stay young in the coming seasons. Unfortunately, Abreu is probably gone. Someone is going to offer him a 3 or 4 year deal.
- Damon (LF)
- Jeter (SS)
- A-Rod (3B)
- Giambi (1B)
- Nady (RF)
- Posada (C)
- Matsui (DH)
- Kemp (CF)
- Hudson (2B)
On the bench, you should have Gardner for speed and a defensive replacement for Damon. Betemit should be cut, or tarred and feathered, whichever is more embarassing. Molina is your backup catcher. I'd like to see Shelley and/or Miranda as a power bat off the bench, but if they can't do it internally, there are cheap options on the free agent market. (Millar, Hinske, Darryl Ward). Ransom could be a utility guy off the bench, or they could look elsewhere.
So, the big question is how much better would this offense be than the 2008 version. The answer is probably not all that much. If everyone stays healthy, this offense should easily outscore last year's version, but it's not going to set the world on fine. You'd have a full year of Posada, Kemp is an obvious upgrade over Melky/Gardner in center. Hudson couldn't possibly be as bad as Cano was in 2008. Matsui would be around for a full year.
The key to my plan is to keep an eye on the future. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction that we have to spend money right now to fix things. Hudson would be the only older player you bring in. Kemp comes in to play center until A-Jax is ready to take over, then he moves to left. Giambi buys us a year, maybe even less if Howard or another power bat at first becomes available via trade during the season. Patience isn't only about giving your prospects a chance to develop, it's also about realizing when the right pieces just aren't available and finding a way to put yourself in position to get them when they are available.
This Winter, the top priority, maybe the only priority, needs to be CC Sabathia. Sign him and no matter what else you do before April, the offseason was a smashing success.