Ben’s 20 Most Important Yankees


Mike unleased his on Monday. Joe chimed in on Tuesday. Now, it’s my turn.

These are my top most important Yankees to the continued success of the franchise. This is a look at the team that goes behind just the 2009 season.

1. Brian Cashman
The three of us all agree: The Yanks GM has earned himself the top spot on the list. He will be the General Manager, barring a catastrophic Yankee disaster, through at least the 2011 campaign. His decisions over the next few seasons will shape the next generation of Yankee stars, hopes and dreams.

2. Joba Chamberlain
No one embodies the future of the Yankees more than Joba. His peripherals — 152 K’s, 45 BB’s in 124.1 innings — through age 22 are off the charts. The Yankees are either looking at their future ace for the next 10-15 years or the heir to Mariano. In that regard, 2009 is a big year for Joba. If he can stay healthy as a starter, the Yanks should have a legitimate star on their hands. If he can’t, well, then the $64,000 question surrounding Mariano’s successor beings a lot easier to answer.

3. Alex Rodriguez
Nine years, $270 million left. He is, for better or worse, the core of this franchise right now. Need I say more?

4. Mark Teixeira
When the Yanks inked Teixeira to an eight-year, $180-million deal, they committed their future to a 29-year-old Gold Glove, power-hitting first baseman. He’ll be here well into his decline phase but shouldn’t suffer the chemical- and age-related breakdowns that plagued Jason Giambi. He also represents the Yanks’ new commitment to defense.

5. A.J. Burnett
While CC Sabathia was the real target this off-season, as I’ll mention in a minute, he’s here for three years. Burnett, coming off of a career year, will be here for all five years of his $82 million deal. The Yankees are hoping his injury troubles are behind him. They don’t need — and can’t really afford — Carl Pavano The Sequel. So far, Burnett has looked every bit the bulldog Pavano wasn’t, but arm injuries aren’t necessarily within his control. The Yankees will need him as an anchor for the next half decade.

6. CC Sabathia
Sure, he inked an seven-year deal, but that opt-out guarantees a three-year cameo for Sabathia in New York. Either he’s hurt and takes the money or opts out for the greener pastures of a Barry Zito-less San Francisco Giants team willing to spend money. The Yanks need him now, but in three years, as he hits that decline phase, he should part on good terms from the Bronx. I can’t justify ranking him higher and could almost go lower.

7. Hal Steinbrenner
Joe and Mike both ranked Hal second on their lists, but I think he deserves to be lower. Hal signs the checks and keeps his brother in check. He doesn’t have that attention-seeking drive of his father, and it remains to be seen what the Steinbrenner family will do with the team when George passes. For now, though, he’s Brian Cashman’s boss, and that makes him important.

8. Austin Jackson
It’s tough to put a 22-year-old kid who was just reassigned to Minor League camp — after walloping a Grand Slam nonetheless — to the eighth spot, but much of the Yankee future is tied up in Jackson. With Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady free agents this year, Nick Swisher an unknown and center field seemingly in flux, Jackson could be the future of the Yanks. He can catch and run, and if he can emerge as the hitter he showed he could be in Spring Training, the Yankees will have one less outfield position to worry about for the next, oh, ten years or so. If he falters, the Yanks will have to go to the pocketbook in an effort to lure Matt Holliday east.

9. Jorge Posada
As 2008 showed, as Posada goes so go the Yanks. He’s the only legitimate offensively-minded catcher on the team right now, and while Derek gets the honorific, Jorge is every bit the leader Jeter is. That sounds like a bunch of intangible-minded mumbo-jumbo, but that’s the way it is.

10. Derek Jeter
He could be lower. While New York is Derek’s town, we’re witnessing the long, slow decline of Derek Jeter. There’s nothing wrong about that. After all, he’s 35, and baseball players don’t live forever. What the Yankees do with him after 2010 will set the stage as well for the next few years. A Bernie Williams-like divorce won’t happen, but the Yanks and Jeter will probably not see eye-to-eye on his value right away.

11. Phil Hughes
I was almost tempted to put Hughes and Joba together in the two spot. If Hughes thrives this year, he affords the Yankees so much flexibility, and if Joba can’t stay healthy while Hughes excels, a lot of Yankee pitching question marks would be resolved. Despite a disappointing 2008, Hughes is 22 and starting the year at AAA. He has a ceiling as high as anyone’s, and this year could be That Year for him.

12. Mariano Rivera
He’s a 39-year-old closer whose dominance has long been appreciated. He’s also a one-inning guy who doesn’t contribute as much as the 11 guys ahead of him on the list. In Mo we trust.

13. Robinson Cano
Would the real Robinson Cano please stand up? Cano will either be the Yankee second baseman of the future or gone when he hits free agency. He needs to play better defense; show more patience at the plate; and pick up his game a little bit. The Yanks have no internal options so they will be wedded to Cano for now, but he is in danger of turning into Alfonso Soriano without the power.

14. Damon Oppenheimer/Mark Newman
What Mike and Joe said. These guys have the reins over the future of the organization. Don’t screw it up, boys.

15. Jesus Montero/Austin Romine
Jorge Posada will be 38 in August. These guys better get here fast. If neither of these two pan out behind the dish, the options elsewhere are slim at best. Montero will probably be a big league hitter, but his durability and ability behind the plate are in question. I’d probably expect Romine to catch over Montero, but the Yanks sure could use both in the not-so-distant future.

16. Nick Swisher
Much like Austin Jackson, Nick Swisher could help solidify an outfield that, post-2009, looks dicey. The Yanks have him under their control through 2011. Thus, he earns a spot on the list. He’s probably not integral to the Yanks’ future.

17. [Insert Young Arm Here]
Dellin Betances. Jairo Heredia. Andrew Brackman. Zach McAllister. Take your pick. The Yanks have earned some high praise early on in camp over their young arms. The more of these guys pan out, the more the Yankees’ future looks like that of the Rays. That upstart organization is a lesson in developing from within, and if the Yanks want to compete with them, they’ll need their own source of young, live arms.

18. Nardi Contreras/Dave Eiland
These two — the pitching brains of the organization — go hand-in-hand with 17 (and 11 and 2). They’re here to make sure the Yanks’ young arms fulfill their potential.

19. Mark Melancon
If he can do at the Big Leagues what his Minor League peripherals say he can, the Yanks won’t need to worry about Mariano’s retirement. He’ll be up sometime this year, and then, we’ll get to see what the hype is all about.

20. Joe Girardi
I’m on the fence about Girardi’s spot on the list. If the Yanks don’t make the playoffs this year, he probably won’t be back in 2011. How important can a hot-seat manager be when the fate of the Yanks rests largely on the pitching staff and not on his hands?

Categories : Analysis


  1. “Ben’s 20 21 Most Important Yankees”

    You cheating bastard.

    • Ben K. says:

      Ah crap. I forgot to edit that out last night. It’s been fixed.

      • Nah, I was kidding. I liked that you refused to be constrained by the limitations of the stated rules and boundaries of the question posed.

        They were all like “Who’s the 20 most important Yankees?” and you were all “F$%& NAW, HOLMES, I GOT 21! THAT’S HOW I ROLL!!!”

        You’re like James Kirk vs. the Kobayashi Maru.

        (Yeah, that’s right. I name-dropped the Kobayashi Maru again. I don’t even like Star Trek, that’s the funny part of all of this.)

  2. Either he’s hurt and takes the money or opts out for the greener pastures of a Barry Zito-less San Francisco Giants team willing to spend money.

    Heh, the Giants will still have 2 years and 46M left to pay Zito when CC opts out after the 2011 season.

    12:$19M, 13:$20M, 14:$18M club option ($7M buyout)


  3. Mulls says:

    I read all three of these top 20s and i havent seen carmen angelini on any of the lists wtf is this not the guy thats gonna replace jeter.

  4. “…and if Joba can’t stay healthy while Hughes excels, a lot of Yankee pitching question marks would be resolved.”

    I assume you mean by that that if Hughes pitches well in 2009 he joins the rotation in 2010 and thus resolves that real “pitching question mark” and means we don’t need to sign Lackey or anything like that this offseason, which would be pretty awesome.

    And, I also assume you mean by that that if Joba struggles with health issues in 2009 he becomes the titular heir to Mo in 2010, and thus resolves that utterly ridiculous and bullshit and retarded and false and fabricated “pitching question mark” and while you may be right, that would be all kinds of incredibly, remarkably stupid.

    • Ben K. says:

      Gentle now, TSJC.

      I’m thinking three years out. I’m assuming that Rivera is going to retire at the end of his current contract. It’s not a very compelling question, but at that point, the Yanks will be faced with the unenvious task of replacing Mariano Rivera. One of the options, for better or worse, is Joba. So I see two scenarios unfolding between 2009-2011:

      1. Joba is healthy as a starter. Hughes fulfill potential. The Yanks get two great young arms in the rotation. Mo is filled elsewhere.

      2. Joba cannot stay healthy as a starter. Hughes fulfills potential. Yanks can move Joba to the pen and use Hughes in the rotation.

      I think I overplay it. But I don’t think it’s “incredibly, remarkably stupid” to be thinking about it. After all, if we’re talking about today’s top 20 most important for 2009, half of these people aren’t on the list, and we’d just to be republishing the better part of the 25-man roster and the Major League coaching staff.

      • SS says:

        But surely scenario 1 is preferable to scenario 2. The better your starters are, the less important your closer is.

      • 3. Joba cannot stay healthy as a starter. Hughes fulfills potential. Yanks can show appropriate patience with Joba as a starter, like what the Phillies showed with Curt Schilling, and keep him in the starter’s role and work with body mechanics specialists to try and minimize his injury risk as much as possible and use one of the several good (yet far inferior to Joba) pitchers they have in their possession, such as Melancon, Coke, Sanchez, Cox, Robertson, Claggett, Whelan, SteJax, etc. to fill the FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR, FAR LESS IMPORTANT closer’s role.

        • Ben K. says:

          Oh sure. We could get into all sorts of scenarios here. But try this one on for size:

          Basically, Hughes’ fulfilling his potential gives the Yanks all sorts of flexibility regardless of what happens to Joba.

          Is that a better summary of a non-ridiculous statement (which, admittedly, I may have been making when I wrote this)?

          • Yes.

            But notice that I didn’t give you an alternate scenario, I just gave you an alternate strategy with which to deal with that scenario.

            Scenario 3 still has the same underlying factors: Hughes is healthy and good, Joba is good but not healthy. Given that scenario, you’re saying the Yankees can use the flexibility afforded them by Hughes success to put Joba in the pen; I’m saying that while Hughes does indeed afford them that flexibility, putting Joba in the pen is still horrendously retarded. Because he’s too good, EVEN IF HE’S ALWAYS INJURED, to be wasted in a role that lesser pitchers can handle with aplomb.

            Particularly since we also already have many said lesser pitchers.

            • andrew says:

              The idea is that Joba getting injured as a starter could still give us 120 innings or so in a year, while in a closer’s role, he still wouldnt come near that. So, in that sense, I agree that regardless of what happens, Joba should be a starter.

      • I think I overplay it.

        Perhaps. And perhaps I’m too overenthusiastic in railing against the alternative scenario. My bad, I’m sorry for it (not really.)

        But I don’t think it’s “incredibly, remarkably stupid” to be thinking about it.

        It is. I stated earlier that I’m not ready to get off the “Joba as a starter” train until he’s 25 and has had 3 straight injury plagued seasons. The more I think about it, that’s not enough time. I’m probably not ready to get off that train until he’s 30 and has had 6 straight injury plagued seasons.

        Joba = Schilling. He’s just a special, special pitcher; you don’t find guys with stuff that he’s got and a makeup he’s got who can just dominate ML hitters for 7-8 innings straight. You don’t give a guy like that a year or two to see if he can make it, you give a guy that talented an entire career to see if he can make it.

        I’m sorry, putting him in the bullpen because he’s had injury concerns for two or three years, when he’s still under the age of 25, just because we “saw” him in the bullpen being flashy and effective is retardedly stupid. It’s like putting Brandon Jacobs at long-snapper because he gets a little banged up but he’s really, really snazzy with his long-snapping.

        • Yankeegirl49 says:

          Well said!

        • steve (different one) says:

          even though i am 100% in agreement with you idealistically, i think you are overlooking the complexities of the CBA/Service time, etc.

          if Joba is injured, but accruing service time on the major league roster/DL, there DOES come a point where the team has to start extracting value from him before he can just become a FA and walk away. or before you have to start paying really high prices for the right to keep “developing” him.

          i’d say the best comparison is Kerry Wood. eventually for the Cubs, it came down to get something vs. get nothing, and they chose to get those bullpen innings.

          again, i am firmly in the Joba is a starter camp.

          just saying that the “Schilling timetable” might not be so realistic during an age where salaries are so high…

          • Age at which Kerry Wood was converted into a closer and all plans to have him in the starting rotation were permanently abandoned:


            • To be fair, though, he was healthy until his age 27 season and was in the bullpen 3 years later at age 30. It’s not like they stuck with him in the rotation for 8 years even though he kept getting injured. Wood got injured in 2004, they tried to get him back in the rotation in 2005 and 2006, then they put him in the bullpen in 2007.

              What that means for your discussion, I have no idea. Just throwing it out there.

              • What that means for your discussion, I have no idea. Just throwing it out there.

                What it probably means is that Wood isn’t really all that good of a comp for Joba. He was a horse that broke down due to overuse. We haven’t seen that yet from Joba.

                • Agreed. I can’t think of a good comp for the hypothetical Joba-to-pen situation (a guy who is a top=talent starter, can’t stay healthy, then moves to the pen (due to health issues) and has a good career as a closer).

                • Agreed. I can’t think of a good comp for the hypothetical Joba-to-pen situation (a guy who is a top=talent starter, can’t stay healthy, then moves to the pen (due to health issues) and has a good career as a closer).

                  Probably because it’s really dumb to do that, so teams don’t do that. We shouldn’t be the first.

                • Probably because it’s really dumb to do that, so teams don’t do that. We shouldn’t be the first.

                  I agree, although my way of saying it probably wouldn’t be as bombastic. If a guy can’t stay healthy as a starter, he’s not magically going to be able to stay healthy as a reliever, and I think that’s the argument/reason why Joba should be a starter and not a reliever (when health is the issue under discussion). (i.e. He’s no more likely, and possibly less likely, to be healthy as a reliever, and starters are clearly much more important than relievers, so it makes no sense to move him to the ‘pen for health reasons.)

                • Jack says:

                  (a guy who is a top=talent starter, can’t stay healthy, then moves to the pen (due to health issues) and has a good career as a closer).

                  Papelbon. He could totally start if he wanted to.

                  For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.


                • Ben K. says:

                  Papelbon isn’t half the pitcher Joba has the potential to be. That’s a bad comparison.

                  Papelbon was a B/B+ starter and an A reliever. Joba’s an A starter. Big difference.

                • Jack says:

                  It’s ab bad comparison because it’s a joke comparison.

              • Jonny not the Damon says:

                Besides Wood, does anyone remember how Jason Isringhausen ended up in the pen? From what I can recall, Bobby V. never wanted to use him that way, but once he was dealt to the A’s, they had no problem converting him to be a closer. He had a rocky road (as far as injuries were concerned) in his first few seasons….but it was during my cry-baby “steroids-have-ruined-the-game” phase where I wasn’t watching very much baseball (and let my subscription to Baseball Weekly lapse). Thankfully, I snapped out of it.

        • kSturnz says:

          good man. scenario 3 it is.

  5. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    Overall, I agree more with your list than with Mike or Joe’s.

    I do, however, think you are being a bit premature in declaring that CC will opt out after three years. No one knows what the financial landscape will look like then, but there is a good chance that it won’t be pretty.

    The economic fundamentals of the country stink, and unless the new new thing (hello nanotechnology) is on the immediate horizon, I don’t see what can turn it around.

    Not the Yankees, and probably not the Mets, but MLB overall is sure to see a decline in attendance in 2009. If that downward trend continues, it will certainly affect free agent signings, and CC may find that unless he is willing to take a huge cut in pay (which, if he has 2 or 3 rings he might), he won’t find a better deal than the one he has.

  6. steve (different one) says:

    Sure, he inked an eight-year deal, but that opt-out guarantees a three-year cameo for Sabathia in New York. Either he’s hurt and takes the money or opts out for the greener pastures of a Barry Zito-less San Francisco Giants team willing to spend money.

    first, a nitpick: CC signed a 7 year deal.

    next, i don’t really agree that it’s written in stone that CC is here for 3 years no matter what.

    there are many scenarios that could play out.

    1. the market keeps dropping and even an ace like CC can’t better the remaining 4 years of his current contract. this is far from impossible.

    2. CC is good but not great in his first 3 years in NY, making his current contract more attractive than any offers he could get, but making him still a valuable member of the yankees

    3. CC ends his 3rd year hurt, sticks around, but recovers fine to pitch in years 4-7 of his contract

    4. CC simply loves NY, loves winning the WS every year, and decides not to test the market

    5. CC is so awesome that he opts out and the Yankees give him a new, even more valuable 6 year deal ala A-Rod

  7. Drew says:

    I was disapointed that none of you brought up the Big Stein. I understand he’s not the figure head that he was in the past but his influence on Hal and Hank will be felt hopefully for the next few decades.

  8. Phrancis says:

    According to ESPN Melky Cabrera available for trade ?

  9. GG says:

    speaking of #3 on your list arod, when can we reasonablly expect this guy back?? If you do the math on 6 weeks, I would think that puts him back fairly early on in the season, like mid april and the word was he’s ahead of sched. Everyone seems to think April is off the table however…Of course nobody at ESPN really knows whats up anyway.

    • I don’t think April was off the table, I thought opening day was off the table.

      My guess is he opens the year on the 15-day DL and joins the club mid-month. (Probably held out a few extra games or DH’d, though, initially.)

      • GG says:

        I got him in my keeper league and was so pissed when ESPN dropped him all the way to 31 I thought it was a bit extreme of a drop and think hes still top 20. I want him for the years to come anyway so I’m holding him. My other keepers are Miguel Cabrera and Reyes. Should I try to deal Miguel for a dominant ace?? My friend who has CC wont do Miguel for CC heads up even though CC isnt as high on the player rater, aces are obviously harder to come by than good 1st baseman. The other cream of the crop: Johan, TimmyL and Halladay are all going to be kept by others. He wanted to play around with draftpicks to get something done with CC and Miguel. I dunno what to do especially with arod hurt. I’m open to all advice?? My gut tells me I should just be happy with my current 3 keepers.

    • Expired Milk says:

      I been hearing alot of mixed reports on when exactly he will be back but everyone seems to agree that Boli is ahead of schedule. Which is great news as it looks like he will not miss more than one month.

    • GG says:

      the home opener is 5.5 weeks after his surgery, I feel like its not going down but I wish there was some way!! Heal Alex Heal!

      • jsbrendog says:

        that’s what the hookers said when they had his dog colar tied to the wall and he was trying to get away.

        heel alex heel or the whip to you again!

    • Tampa Yankee says:

      Well per this article today on Teixeira, ARod’s out AT LEAST until the All-Star Break.

      What a douche!

  10. Wayne's World says:

    21. Freddie Schuman

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