Yesterday afternoon, with an assist from The Artist Formerly Known as “The” Steve, I explored the Yanks’ improved pitching depth heading into the 2009 season. Today, we move onto Steve’s questions about the lineup and bullpen. The quotes are his; the commentary is mine.
On Jorge Posada: “How does the shoulder hold up? What does another season of Jose Molina starting do to our offense?”
This is of course the $64,000 question surrounding the Yankee lineup this year. Already this Spring, we’ve suffered through a scare over Posada’s shoulder. The Yanks and Jorge insisted that the injury meant nothing, and Posada has been hitting this week. But that fear of a recurrence will linger well into the summer.
Over the winter, we covered this topic in a variety of posts. In wrapping up the season, I conclude that Jorge’s injury by itself led to the Yanks’ missing the playoffs. Joe raised some concerns about the Yanks’ potential back ups. In a nutshell, those analyses still stand. The rest of the Yanks who can hit will have to overcompensate for Jorge, and the team would have the equivalent of a pitcher hitting in the catcher spot if Posada can’t catch or misses significant time.
Right now, Ivan Rodriguez remains a free agent, and a few teams have some near Major League-ready catching prospects. Landing one of those coveted pieces will cost a king’s ransom, and the potential for Jorge’s shoulder to flare up again is something against which the Yanks haven’t really addressed.
On Brett Gardner/Melky Cabrera: “The league has already figured out Melky and may very well adjust back to Gardner’s effective late season adjustments. If Gardner is starting and hitting .220 in June, then what?”
This morning, Joe IMed me as I was heading out the door. “I wonder if there’s a chance, any chance, that this Manny-Dodgers fallout leads Manny to the Bronx,” he said. I countered with a one-year, $15 million that the Yanks could conceivably offer. I don’t see Manny signing for such little money though even if Ron Gardenhire envisions him in the Bronx.
But as long as Manny remains unsigned, Scott Boras has to be rooting for Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera to flame out. Manny’s availability always means the Yanks could shift Johnny Damon into center and sign Ramirez for the other outfield spot. It would create a terrible defensive outfield and one of the best lineups of all time. In reality, however, the Yanks are probably not heading down that path. If Melky and Brett can’t cut it, the Yanks could try shoving NIck Swisher, against his wishes, into center or the team will end up repeating 2008 when their center fielders hit a combined .261/.320/.391.
On Mariano Rivera: “Coming off a great season, but he is 39 and can’t keep it up forever.” I’d also add that he’s coming off of surgery as well.
Aren’t Yankee fans in denial about reality when it comes to Mariano Rivera? Every year, he gets a little older, but the only way that shows up is in his face (and lack of hair). I don’t like to and can’t imagine a scenario in which Mariano doesn’t throw in 60-70 games this year while notching 30-45 saves. One day though, it will happen. When it does, I don’t envy the person tabbed to Mariano’s heir apparent. It’s no small task to replace the greatest ever.