In advance of this week’s GM Meetings, John Perrotto at Baseball Prospectus offered up some off-season preview capsules for all 30 teams. On the Yanks, Perrotto writes:
Despite Hank Steinbrenner’s yearning for Ramirez and an interest in Teixeira, they need starting pitching desperately, particularly with Mike Mussina leaning toward retirement. They’ll make big plays on the free-agent market for Sabathia, and also for right-hander A.J. Burnett if he fails to work out a deal to stay with the Blue Jays. There is some sentiment to acquire a center fielder, though many in the organization believe rookie Brett Gardner can ably fill that position. Right-hander Ian Kennedy is their top trade bait, and they are also more than willing to deal veteran outfielders Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.
Perrotto is on the right track; the Yanks certainly will need some starting pitching help next year. They probably won’t have Mike Mussina and shouldn’t count on Andy Pettitte to deliver too much. But his either/or construct is a bit faulty.
The Yankees, as they sit right now, days after the World Series and months before Opening Day, need both pitching and hitting, and they need both equally. On the season, the Yanks scored just 789 runs, good for seventh in the AL and just seven runs more than the listless Orioles. All playoff teams but one — Tampa — far outscored the Yanks, and the Yanks themselves scored nearly 200 fewer runs this year than last.
On the one hand, we can easily point to a few key injuries — Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui — as well as the struggles of Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera as the root causes of this offensive slump. But on the other hand, this team isn’t getting younger. Bobby Abreu declined; Derek Jeter declined; A-Rod had a great season, but it didn’t measure up to his MVP campaign in 2007. For next year, Xavier Nady is an offensive enigma. His career .280/.335/.458 isn’t encouraging. So yes, the Yankees need offense, and Hank has that one right.
But the Yankees do need pitching too. Hopefully, they’ll have Joba and Chien-Ming Wang healthy and effective for a full year. Hopefully, Phil Hughes can put it all together. But that still leaves two or three holes in the rotation with or without Pettitte. The Yanks’ pitching was rather middle-of-the-pack last year, but that’s because their bullpen was one of the tops in the game. Their starters were only slightly better than the 75-87 Royals. Next year, we won’t sit through Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner, but someone has to take their places.
In the end, the Yankees clearly need both hitting and pitching, and it’s going to be a tough off-season. We all want them to sign everyone, and while some people think the team will do just that, it’s rather unlikely. The ride kicks off with the GM meetings today, and it should be a wild one.