Looking forward on the cusp of the Hot Stove League


I was on the phone with my dad tonight during game four of this lopsided World Series, and as is often the case, our talk turned to the Yankees. “I’m a bit worried about the off-season,” my dad said. “The Yanks have so many holes to fill.”

His voiced tailed off a bit at the end, and we both knew what went unspoken. The Yanks are on the cusp of a rather important off-season, one that could make or break the team over the next few seasons. They have a lot of old players coming off the books, a lot of financial resources at hand, and a few clear needs. They also have an aging core of players and a few needs, tougher to fill, that aren’t so clear.

On the flip side, the 2008-2009 winter also offers up a rare combination of free agents. One of the game’s best pitchers and one of the league’s premier hitters are both free agents at the peak of their baseball prowess. Rare are the days when young players hit free agency at the right times in their lives, and in CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees have two obvious targets who would both fill two of the team’s glaring holes. Whether or not they can actually land them is a different story.

If the Phillies manage to dispatch the listless Tampa Bay Rays this evening — and with Cole Hamels on the mound, the odds are in their favor — we’ll be two weeks away from the start of the free agent frenzy. Tonight, A-Rod won’t opt out from his contract, but bigger moves await on the horizon.

For some reason, over the last few years, some baseball insecurities have crept into New York’s attitude. Once upon a time, the Yanks had swagger. The team, coming off of four World Series in five years, was good, and they knew it. Free agents — Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi — wanted to come to New York. They didn’t hedge their bets. They were the best; the Yankees had money; and everyone went home happy.

But the Yanks have won no World Series since then. For the first time since the early 90s, the team didn’t make the playoffs, and before that, they hadn’t advanced to the World Series since 2003. What if, fans have wondered, the team is just becoming a bloated semblance of a team populated by overpaid has-beens on the wrong sides of their careers? Is Bobby Abreu a Yankee or a Philadelphia reject? Are we really going to suffer through another season of Hideki Matsui‘s hobbled knees?

Of course, it’s not as bad as the naysayers would have you believe, but it is not wine and roses in the Bronx right now. The Yanks are a flawed team in need of some fixing. But what happens if the Yanks can’t sign these very alluring targets?

Well, on the one hand, it wouldn’t be so great if the Yanks don’t sign Teixeira — my personal first choice — or Sabathia. It may make them go out and waste money on lesser pitchers. But on the other, the baseball world will not end. Even as a flawed team, the Yanks managed to hammer out 89 wins this year. Soon, they’ll have to replace Jorge Posada; he’s one of those not-so-obvious holes. But in 2009, they’ll have him back and healthy. They’ll hopefully have September’s version of Robinson Cano as well as a healthy Chien-Ming Wang.

Tomorrow, or later this week, when the World Series dust settles, the rumors will fly. But for now, we can’t let the worries of next month get too overwhelming. The Yankees are still the Yankees, and money talks. The Yankees need to spend; the players want to get the best deals; and the pieces will fall right enough, if not just right as we all imagine them to in our little Yankee-centric bubble. Optimism becomes us. This is, after all, Yankee baseball.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Matt K says:

    Although I agree with everything you said the yankees still won 89 games this year with a team that under achieved very badly and was very injured. I don’t think we are that far from being a top team the players we have just need to perform to their ability and stay off the DL (easier said then done) and all CC and Tex will help.

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, whenever anyone starts complaining about the state of the Yankees, I step back and remind myself that almost every other team in Baseball wishes they had our problems, stature and resources to fix it. I can only imagine how fans of other teams would view any hand-wringing by us

      • Relaunch says:

        I agree. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the Yanks in 08 did. The only thing that was a surprise was Mussina’s season (at least to me).

  2. dan says:

    Question: Do your parents/family read the blog?

  3. DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

    Watching these not so great teams in the playoffs this year makes me really feel if we could land a CC and Joba, or Phil step up we can win another WS.

    If we could also get Manny and somebody to play D at center and first without being too bad at the plate I think this team could dominate. Manny is the answer at for this lineup.

    • Steve says:

      We have someone who can catch the ball with anyone in CF, his name is Brett Gardner. Now we just have to see if he can hold down the position with his bat.

      • Matt K says:

        I dont think manny is the answer and i believe that the yankees will be at their best if gardner is given a chance to succeed in center. I do want manny but we already have to many outfielders and getting him would give us the worst possible defensive outfield.

        • I do want manny but we already have to many outfielders and getting him would give us the worst possible defensive outfield.

          1) LF/RF Xavier Nady – contract expires at the end of 2009
          2) LF Johnny Damon – contract expires at the end of 2009, probably needs to be rested/DH’ed frequently to keep him healthy
          3) CF Brett Gardner – young, cheap, and flexible; can start, come off the bench, or go back to the minors

          4??) CF Melky Cabrera- young and cheap, but has struggled mightily and probably spends most of the year in Scranton working on his game
          NR) DH Hideki Matsui – can’t play the field and should no longer be considered an outfielder, contract expires at the end of 2009
          NR) RF Bobby Abreu – contract expired, likely to depart in free agency

          We don’t have “too many outfielders.” If anything, we don’t have enough outfielders. And adding Manny wouldn’t give us the “worst possible defensive outfield”. Gardner or Melky in center are both well above average, Nady is average in right, and Manny himself is nowhere near as bad of an outfielder as he’s portrayed. You see his highlight-reel stupidity clips on Sportscenter, but that’s really only a handful of gaffes over a long career in the outfield. He’s not that bad that frequently.

          • Relaunch says:

            I disagree that Melky is well above average in center. The way this team in currently made up and unless someone is moved, there are to many players rotating between dh/of with Manny.

            • I disagree that Melky is well above average in center.

              Well, defensively, he is. Offensively he’s atrocious, but, as I said in my post, I don’t know if you can really count Melky as being part of our ’09 outfield mix since he’ll likely be banished to Scranton, so the point is pretty moot, no?

              The way this team in currently made up and unless someone is moved, there are to many players rotating between dh/of with Manny.

              Agreed, which is why i specifically pointed out that all of the people who would be “rotating between dh/of with Manny” (namely, Matsui, Damon, Nady, and Abreu) will all be gone within the next 11 months. Ergo, they’ll all be moved so soon, it’s hardly a reason to object to bringing in Manny.

              In ’09, Nady plays RF, Gardner plays CF, Manny can play LF, Damon and Matsui can split the DH (and be the pinch-hitter off the bench). In 2010, only Manny and Gardner remain; feel free to put them wherever you’d like.

              And, if you’re really so adamant about the DH “logjam” that you’re unwilling to sign off on even one year of a Damon and Matsui timeshare (even though they’re both injury risks and its probably smart to timeshare them anyway,) then trade one of them. They’re both in their walk years, and facing the prospect of diminished playing time, they’d both gladly waive any NTC’s to move on to greener pastures. It wouldn’t be that hard.

          • Matt K says:

            Getting manny means he plays Left or right which means moving Damon to center. Making our outfield manny damon nady. defensively an outfield of damon gardner nady would be much better. I would like to see gardner get a chance to play consistently obviously that would not happen if manny was on the team,

            That would be to many. As of right now there are Damon Matsui Nady and either Gardner/melky for 4 lineup spots including DH. I would rather see those 4 players occupy those spots. If we could get manny and trade matsui that would be a different story. I stand by my statement that we would have to many outfielders.

  4. yankeefan91 (sign manny) says:

    i agree donniebabeballhallofane we need manny he can bat in front of arod this is a dangerous lineup wit him but the most important thingg is pitching we ned to land cc and burnett if he opts out

  5. Emac2 says:

    We need to get off this idea that the world has collapsed and the Yanks need a complete rebuild.

    They need a number one starter and that is all that is needed.

    It would be nice to add Tex as well but he isn’t needed until next year when Damon, Matsui and Nady leave.

    Sign CC, Tex and Hairston for a utility role….Furcal would be an interesting option with Jeter Moving to the outfield but I suspect they will hold off a year on a move like that so Jeter can play SS in the new stadium.

    • Steve says:

      I danced with the idea of Jeter in CF for a while, but eventually dropped it. Especially when you see the kind of plays that Upton, Carlos Gomez and Brett Gardner make out there. Plays that turn game changing doubles and triples into outs. Then you remember that winning teams are built with outstanding fielders up the middle.

      Cashman has made it clear he wants a real 1B to play first base next year, so forget about moving him (or Posada) there, either.

      Jeter’s going to be our SS until he retires, for better or worse. There’s nobody in the farm who’s banging down the door to take his place. The only possibility I see is moving him to LF, and that wouldn’t even be talked about until after next year when Damon/Matsui are gone.

      • Emac2 says:

        I wouldn’t consider Jeter a long term answer in center though I culd see it for a year or two.

        You do make a couple of interesting comments though

        “Cashmen wants a real…” shouldn’t that mean a real shortstop at some point? just because he has always played there doesn’t mean he is still really able to play the position well which is what the comment really means….

        “Then you remember that winning teams are built with outstanding fielders up the middle”

        again we sort of support my point.

        Jeter plays in the middle of the infield and isn’t a strong fielder. I think he would be more of an asset in Center as a fielder than he is in the infield. He is still very fast and his arm would be plus in center.

        No way he plays short until retirement unless he decides to go play for the Tigers.

    • We need to get off this idea that the world has collapsed and the Yanks need a complete rebuild.


      They need a number one starter and that is all that is needed.

      Meh, I think we need more than that. We need to address the offense as well… But again, yes, the sky isn’t falling.

      It would be nice to add Tex as well but he isn’t needed until next year when Damon, Matsui and Nady leave.

      I think Texy is needed this year as Abreu and Giambi leave. But really, this is a moot point… You can’t just say “Tex isn’t needed until next year” because he won’t be available next year. He’s available now. We can only act on it now.

      Sign CC, Tex and Hairston for a utility role….Furcal would be an interesting option with Jeter Moving to the outfield but I suspect they will hold off a year on a move like that so Jeter can play SS in the new stadium.

      Hairston is pretty atrocious (whichever brother it is you’re talking about… they both suck). Furcal i’m not a fan of; he’s already just as old as Jeter and more injury prone. I don’t want to give a 3-5 year deal to a guy who’ll probably need to be moved off of SS himself in short order.

      But I do think Jeter probably could/should move to CF eventually (not until 2010 at the earliest); I think his athletic skillset profiles better there anyway. Jete is great at covering ground and he’s got a strong arm, but his throws aren’t super accurate and his lateral movement isn’t great (he’s more fast than quick)

      • Mike A. says:

        Hairston is pretty atrocious (whichever brother it is you’re talking about… they both suck).

        Scott’s a pretty decent player. Hitting for the kind of power he did playing in Petco is impressive. Wouldn’t want him in an everyday role, but of the bench, sure.

        • In respons to your (and Emac2)’s Hairston suggestions, I went and looked them up:

          Scott: .248/.312/.479 (115 OPS+) in 326 AB’s at CF and LF (only played one game at 2B this year for the Padres)
          Jerry: .326/.384/.487 (124 OPS+) in 261 AB’s at SS, 2B, and all three OF spots for Cincy

          Scott’s younger with decent pop but doesn’t have all that great of a bat (lifetime .303 OBP) and seems to be more of a reserve outfielder than a true utility infielder (75% of his major league appearances have been in the outfield, his RF at 2B is a rather pedestrian 4.88, and he’s never played SS or 3B).

          Jerry, on the other hand, can indeed play anywhere, and run, as Emac2 states, but I’m just not sure on the hitting yet. The aforementioned 2008 line was great. The ones before that? Decidedly not.

          05 – .261/.336/.368 (82 OPS+)
          06 – .206/.270/.253 (36 OPS+)
          07 – .189/.249/.289 (42 OPS+)

          My socks aren’t knocked off. What do you guys always say? “Name 3 utility infielders better than Wilson Betemit?”

      • Emac2 says:

        I would sign Tex now because he is available and because we will need him after next season. I disagree we NEED him this year. He would be a nice addition but I think we would be fine without him until next year when we lose 3 more big hitters and just don’t have enough surplus at that point.

        Jerry Hairston can hit, can run and can play anywhere. Big upgrade to Wilson.

        I’m not a big furcal fan but shortstop is not a deep position.

        Jeter will just slow down so I think he ends up in right or left.

  6. Ken Waterford, CT says:

    If Abreu leaves and Tex signs so where else. Will the Yankees sign Manny Ramirez?

    • Steve says:

      No. As great a player as he is, he’s too much of a a headache to deal with. And as he ages, you’ll get more of the aggravation and less production, which is the worst of all worlds.

    • Reggie C. says:

      I think the Yanks make a competitive 4 year offer. Does Manny take it? Who knows. To count out the Yanks from a bidding war merely b/c of Manny’s eccentricities is missing the point that Manny’s bat would in all likelihood maintain its potency for a short-term duration. Remember that Arod cannot do it alone in 2009.

    • ceciguante says:

      i’d be shocked if the yanks signed both tex and manny. no way i see them spending $20M-25 each on 2 bats. sure, they’d mash, but they wouldn’t spend anything significant on pitching after laying out the dollars it would take to get those two.

      that team would score 900+ runs and lose in the first round to, say, the angels, when they’d boot the ball all over the field and watch their own pitching get hammered. no thanks.

      tex is the better fit b/c manny is going to decline any year now, he’s a major defensive liabilty (LF is much bigger in YS than the fens), he’s a ticking timebomb in the clubhouse, and he generally adds to our strengths (hitting) and deepens our weaknesses (defense, speed, age, team first attitude). tex in a landslide.

      • Okay: According to PinstripeAlley.com, if we lop off all the expiring contracts (including options/buyouts like Giambi, Pavano, and Marte) we’ll have a baseline payroll of 133M for 2009. Let’s add Marte’s 6M option to that, and Giambi’s 5M buyout (which should probably be included in our figures for fairness sake), and I’ll tack on 10M for Pettitte (sounds fair.) We’re now at 154M before signing any free agents.

        If CC takes 22M AAV and Texy takes 20M AAV, we’re at 196M payroll for 2009, with the following roster:

        7-Damon (13M coming off the books at end of year)
        9-Nady (5M coming off the books at end of year)
        DH-Matsui (13M coming off the books at end of year)

        C-Molina (2M coming off the books at end of year)
        IF-Betemit (2M coming off the books at end of year)

        SP-Pettitte (10M coming off the books at end of year)

        RP-Marte (6M coming off the books at end of year)

        Say we could find someone willing to take on half of Hideki’s salary in return for a non-prospect. (Like, say the Mariners, who have Jose Vidro as their DH and will likely lose Raul Ibanez?) That cuts the above ’09 payroll down to $189.5M, with an additional 49.5M coming off the books after next year (the other half of Hidek + Johnny + Pettitte + Marte + Nady + Molina + Betemit + my 5M accounting total for the Giambi buyout). Meaning that, even after adding CC and Texy, our 2010 payroll is 140M.

        Would you be willing to give 25M a year for 3 or 4 years of Manny, knowing that we could add CC, Texy, AND Manny and still have a 2010 payroll of under $180M and that he’d have a natural slot at DH within a year? I would. We’d have a bloated $214.5M payroll for one year, but we still have a lot of expiring money in our future. (Don’t forget that Mo’s 15M falls off the books after 2010.)

  7. stewman23 says:

    Mike, any details on how Angelini did with his first full year. Looked up his stats, but was wondering if I missed any insight from you. As long as we’re talking about Jeter moving places, could Angelini project to be ready by 2011 if everything pans out?

    • Reggie C. says:

      What insight did you miss from his stats? Lots of errors and seemingly overmatched at the plate for the bulk of the season, Angelini is going to repeat Charleston.

      I’m not labeling him a bust. I’m stating facts and hope that his defense shows significant improvement. I think he shows a solid bat eventually, but nothing kills the spirit more than continuously booting grounders.

      • Stewman23 says:

        Yeah sorry, maybe insight was the wrong word to use. I was just kind of surprised in seeing how sloppy his defense was this year after reading rave reviews in all of his scouting profiles.

        I expect his offensive skills can be chalked up to his first full year in pro-ball and as you said, a little case of “Chuck Knoblauch-itis”. Guess I just figured I might as well put the question out there for Mike and see what response I’d get.

        • Mike A. says:

          His first season was rough, obviously, but it’s not the end of the world. Offensively the big thing is adjusting to quality of pitching – he’s never faced this many pitchers that good before. It’s not surprising he was overwhelmed a bit.

          Defensively, yeah his error total was ugly, but errors are not a cut and dry thing – the official scorer judges what is and is not an error. The fields aren’t great in Low-A, so I’m sure that played a part, and also he has to adjust to how fast the pro game is. It was a good learning year for him, and I’m sure he’ll start 2009 back with Charleston.

      • Well, Jeter “continuously booted grounders” at the beginning of his minor league career as well… But yes, Angelini struggling both with the bat and the glove is disconcerting. We’ll just have to cross our fingers for a better 2009.

  8. Shamus says:

    I think the ideal situation is to sign Mark Teixeira for 1B and CC Sabathia for the vacant role of ace. If both Moose and Andy return, a rotation of CC, Wang, Moose, Pettitte and Joba, with Aceves, Coke and others avail for spot starts/ depth. Start Hughes and Kennedy at AAA.

    For some reason, I see Teixeira as being the easier of the two to sign. All he wants is money and the Yankees have plenty of it.

    If they can’t sign CC, the options of (in order) Burnett, Lowe, or Perez don’t impress me, and then there will be problems. There isn’t a lot of available ‘ace’ pitchers on the trade market. I am NOT sold on Jake Peavy, nor the prospects Kevinn Towers wants for him.

    Adding a lesser free agent pitcher (a number 2 guy), such as Burnett, Lowe, etc. would give them two good number 2′s (signee plus Wang), but no clear ace. It can’t be Joba this year, b/c he has innings limits to abide by.

    IMO, signing Tex should be easy. He will go to the highest bidder. He has expressed interest in playing in NYY this past summer. Carsten Charles will be harder to sign. But if they can do it, and roll with:

    Damon LF/DH L
    Jeter SS R
    Teixeira 1B S
    A-Rod 3B R
    Jorge C S
    Matsui DH/ LF L
    Nady RF R
    Cano 2B L
    Gardner/ Melky CF S

    (fourth bench player)


    Championship caliber team. Fill out bench w/ backup 1B and think of hw good the bullpen will be with Aceves, Coke, Melancon (hopefully), MO!

    • jsbrendog says:

      miranda has to get a shot at the ML level to atleast get some ABs at DH or 1b or something.

    • Matt K says:

      Thats the exact line up i had in mind except i dont think jorge is a #5 batter unless he returns to 07 form which doesnt seem likely.

      • Reggie C. says:

        I’d be ecstatic if Posada put up a line of .275 BA / .360 obp / .470 slg.

        It’d still place him in the upper echelon of offensive catchers. He’s practically had a whole season of rest, so these numbers aren’t unreasonable. right? …..

        • ceciguante says:

          imo, those numbers are wishful thinking.
          he just had significant surgery on his throwing shoulder, and he’s 39. that’s a big deal. we have to find out if he can even play his position, let alone hit like he used to. true, he had a season of “rest,” but his shoulder was cut open. maybe his legs got rest, but shoulder surgery is a major hurdle. i wouldn’t feel comfortable assuming any level of production from jorge until i see him play for a month.

          i think the better way to look at it is that IF he overcomes the surgery to be able to throw at close to his former level, and therefore can continue to play C without being a huge defense liability, then we can hope that he’ll be able to swing well too and put up the triple slash numbers you suggested.

  9. r.w.g. says:

    “It may make them go out and waste money on lesser pitchers.”

    this is the huge obstacle to avoid this off-season. the team needs new “best” players.. guys who can take some of the pressure off alex so he stops freaking out.

  10. Wayne's World says:

    High priced free agents has never been a strategy that really worked for the Yankes, though they have to go that route. The core of the Yankee great teams of the late 90′s and early 00′s came up through the minors or astute trades for lesser known players like Scott Brosius…as well as an amazing bench of well regarded players who might be past their prime but still contributing or excellent professional utility men. Whenever the high priced free agents were the fulcrum of the strategy, rather than just an adjunct, it’s never really brought home the bacon. But I know you all know this.

    • “But I know you all know this.”

      No, we don’t “know this”, because it’s not true.

      “The core of the Yankee great teams of the late 90’s and early 00’s came up through the minors or astute trades for lesser known players like Scott Brosius…”

      Wrong. Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Bernie, and Ramiro Mendoza were the “core” that you speak of. The rest of the “core” are great, veteran players/stars like Paulie, Cone, Wells, El Duque, Clemens, Kenny Rogers, Justice, Fielder, Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson, Knoblauch, etc. that we either signed as free agents outright or traded/hijacked from other teams as they were in their walk years (i.e., virtual free agents similar to the Johan Santana sweepstakes) and then resigned to big contracts commensurate with their free agent status.

      This has been well documented. Go back and look at those title teams again and see how few of those players were homegrown.

      • Wayne's World says:

        As I recall, the core also included another fellow who came up through the minors whose name, as I remember it, was Mariano Rivera. And I stand by what I said. It’s the core that came up through the minors that propelled the team to greatness, enhanced by other signings..I’ll acknowledge that some were high priced free agents…but they were not the core on which the team was built.

        • Sorry, I knew as I was typing it I’d leave a name out. Fact remains, the romanticization of the title Yankees as homegrown players is bunk. The core of those teams were acquired mercenary style. Yankee Dollars brought Cone, Rodgers, Key, Hernandez, Clemens, Wetteland, Nelson, Martinez, Knoblauch, Strawberry, Justice, Fielder, Sierra, etc. to the team, and they were the core (with Bernie) of the title teams. Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Mo came up as the young guns and supplemented THEM, not the other way around.

          The title Yankees were built equally through the free agent market (or the quasi-free agent market) and through the farm system. There was not a preponderance of homegrown talent.

  11. Brian says:

    If Sabathia and Teixeira both turn down the Yankees, we will probably throw money at guys that don’t steer the ship in an entirely new direction. My question is: who’s out there in off-season 2009 to keep in the back of our mind (like we did with CC during the Santana talks)? Probably nobody of Tex or CC’s stature, I’m just curious.

  12. RustyJohn says:

    If it came down to one of the two, they have to get Teixeira. 1B has been an issue since Tino left (the first time)- they have either had someone who could hit but couldn’t field for crap or vice versa. A team with Damon, Gardner/Melky, Nady in the outfield, Matsui at DH, and ARod, Jeter, Cano, Teixeira and Posada is pretty damn good- assuming of course that Posada and Cano regain some form.

    After 2009- Jeter in left field, hopefully Cervelli can transition to catcher the way they did with Jorge and Girardi- with Jorge getting split time at DH, and we land another outfielder or have AJax develop. Any ideas on a new shortstop?

    I don’t see an absolute need to sign Sabathia, especially if Mussian returns- Hughes and IPK have to get innings and they aren’t going to progress sitting in Scranton.

    I have more confidence in the pitching after 2009 than I have in position players.

  13. Shecky says:

    For the first time in my life, I’m not certain the Y’s will simply be able to sign whatever free agent they want. They’ll have the money to pay, for certain, but it seems playing in the Bronx may not be everyone’s end-of-the-road destination. Sabathia has hinted he may not want to play in NYC, Peavy too. We know the Yankees will get free agents but I’m not sure it’ll be “pick of the litter” time like it’s been in the past.

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