Extreme Makeover: Yankees edition


Of all the Yankee teams since 1996, the 2008 edition is one we would all most like to forget. For the first time since the pre-strike days of 1993, the team missed the playoffs, and they do so in a spectacularly unmemorable fashion with 13 starting pitchers and Darrel Rasner as their de facto third starter.

That year, the Yanks’ biggest issues went hand in hand. They were an old team, and they suffered through far too many injuries. Behind Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte (36) and Mike Mussina (39) were expected to anchor the pitching rotation. Around the diamond, Jorge Posada (36) would have manned the plate with Jason Giambi (37) at first, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, a pair of 34-year-olds at the corner outfield positions, and Hideki Matsui (34) as the DH. After Posada and Matsui went down with injuries and the pitching turned sour, the team limped to an 89-73 finish.

Since then, we have witnessed a veritable age movement in the Bronx, and come Opening Day 2010, the Yanks’ roster will look nothing similar to the 2008 edition. Of course, the roster will still have its fair share of old men. Derek Jeter will be playing his age 36(!) season and Posada his age 37. A-Rod will turn 35 in late July; Mariano Rivera will be an ageless 40; and Andy Pettitte 38. But that’s it.

With the arrival of Curtis Granderson, the Yankees have become a team more focused on youth and athleticism than any Yankee team in recent years. Around the infield, we’ll see Mark Teixeira (30) and Robinson Cano (26). Nick Swisher (29), Granderson (29) and, as it stands right now, Melky Cabrera (25) will star in the under-30 outfield club. Even if the Yanks do something crazy — such as sign Matt Holliday as iYankees urges them to do — they would be bringing about a 30-year-old. We can’t forget that the Yanks’ Opening Day starter will be playing his age 29 season and that two other potential cogs in the rotation or bullpen will both be playing their age 24 seasons.

Thus, in the space of just two years, Brian Cashman has won a World Series and reestablished the Yankees as a team eying long-term dominance. This isn’t the one-and-done teams from the mid-2000s that seemed to be reliable on aging sluggers and weak pitchers. This is a deal that, if all the pieces fit properly, could make a good run of it over the next three or fours years.

More impressive though are the costs. To put this team together cost the Yankees a pretty penny in dollars and nearly nothing in prospects. Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are products of the farm system. Nick Swisher came from Chicago in exchange for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nuñez. Sabathia and Teixeira were free agents, and for Curtis Granderson, they had to give up Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy.

To build a better club, to become younger and more versatile, the Yankees did not have to sacrifice two thirds of the Big Three. They kept the two guys with the best stuff, and the two guys with the highest ceilings. They still have a farm system with a few live arms, a few intriguing outfielders and a catcher carrying lofty expectations and a very big bat. That, my friends, is one extreme baseball makeover in very little time. It’s why Brian Cashman has been holding court in his hotel room in Indianapolis, and it’s why the Yankees probably aren’t quite through yet with their off-season plans.

Categories : Musings


  1. vietnam vet says:

    What to make of this:
    “From Buster Olney: If the Yankees sign Johnny Damon, that will increase the likelihood that they will attempt to trade Nick Swisher. It’s increasingly unlikely that the Yankees are going to re-sign Hideki Matsui, regardless of what happens with Damon.”

  2. Bo says:

    It’s amazing what focusing on adding elite talent to the farm system does for an organization.

    The sad part is this should never have been neglected for so long. Not with the revenue streams the Yankees have.

    • It’s amazing what focusing on adding elite talent to the farm system does for an organization.

      The sad part is this should never have been neglected for so long.

      Were we really “neglecting” or “not focusing” on adding elite talent to the farm system?

      Or, did we just have some picks that didn’t pan out? Guys like C.J. Henry, Estee Harris, Jeff Marquez, Bronson Sardhina, John-Ford Griffin, Drew Henson, or your favorite whipping boy, Eric Duncan, these were all high-upside potential “elite talent” guys who just busted.

      It happens.

      • A.D. says:

        Yeah, i think before they neglected using financial muscle to get signability guys in the later rounds, seems to be more recent. Then on top of that they had some bad luck with consensus top talents guys not panning out.

        With the set-up now, a top pick can bust, and they’re going to be okay because they’re getting early round talents in the later rounds by using financial muscle.

      • Steve H says:

        And you can take Marquez out of that. He worked out exactly like A-Jax did, by getting a young, good, proven MLB player. Did he peak? No. Did he work out for the Yankees? Damn straight.

  3. Extreme Makeover: Yankees edition


  4. Rob says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Ben. This is truly scary organization when the farm is productive and the front office uses those resources wisely.

  5. larryf says:

    Thinking about the Yankee coaching staff and maximizing GrandPerson’s potential. How about bringing in Ricky Henderson (or someone else) as a basestealing coach in spring training? Grandy and 50SB’s? Sounds good….

    • Steve H says:

      Not if he’s hitting in the 2 hole. If he’s on base, A-Rod and Tex can drive him in without giving up outs by attempting steals.

      • larryf says:

        only with a homer (usually). Putting the pressure on the pitcher will give A-rod and Tex better pitches to hit. They get lots of off speed stuff now but not as much if Granderson is running alot. More fastballs to Tex and Arod is good for their stats!!

  6. SM says:

    Nearly nothing is a strech, they also gave up Tabata and comp picks.

  7. Meat Loaf says:

    The days of Sidney Ponson (!), Darrell Rasner (!!), Dan Geise (!!!) in our rotation while Morgan Ensberg (!!!!), Richie Sexson (!!!!!) and Chris Steward (?) roamed the field are long behind us.

    Oddly enough, I think I stopped contemplating suicidie the day those guys left the roster.

  8. Chip says:

    Also, keep in mind that they have guys like McAllister, Nova, Aceves and Gaudin who would all at least be seriously considered for the back end of a rotation on most teams.

  9. TLVP says:

    8 more years of A-Rod and 1B blocked by Teix for 7 of those years is probably the biggest concern right now

    The biggest risk to the makeover is how they chose to deal with Mo and Derek next year. Its all fine to let Matsui, Damon, Pettitte or even Posada walk when their time comes, but Mo and Derek? The two most iconic players in baseball over the last 15 years? If they perform well in 2010 the FO will have two big headaches.

  10. steve s says:

    As good as it looks today the “age” issue is still the one that can derail the Yanks more than any other. As much as we would like to think that Mo, Posada, Jeter and Pettitte (once signed) and even Arod (with his hip issue and perhaps years of potential PED abuse still yet to physically surface) cannot all suffer rapid declines what if 2 or 3 do? The same way adding 3 prime players last year shot the Yanks back to the top, a precipitous loss of 2 to 3 prime performances may push the Yanks back to the pack in a blink of the eye.

  11. paul says:

    Mo and Jete will be back for sure…Tex at 1b for 7 years is fine…Arod is a concern in 3-4 years…
    AJAX-they did some good marketing there–cause c grand is a great pickup…
    IK and coke are replaceable…
    Matsui-1 more year
    Damon maybe 2 more
    Posada will finish this contract and be done…
    Our minor leagues have a lot of quality players to use and move around…
    B cash has done a phenom job!!!

  12. theyankeewarrior says:

    With LF and DH open, I think it’s safe to say the Yankees will bring back one of Damon or Matsui. Granderson gives them some decent leverage there on top of the fact that the marketplace is down and they are aging.

    It’s my opinion that the Yanks need to “fill out” the lineup if you will. Aka they should have a true DH and at least try to get an everyday LF that isn’t named Melky Cabrera unless they are actually strapped for cash.. which we know isn’t true.

    From this pool, they need 2 players:


    (Other aging DH types that may end up only getting ’09 Abreu money)

    This gives them lineup depth incase of injury.

    Pitching is easier to figure out. I think we all agree it’s Pettitte and then a blind guess at one of these…


    A solid “8th inning guy” that doesn’t cost us pick #32

    Think I’m close?

    • Megatron says:

      I’ll take Damon in LF, Pettitte and Sheets, and no new bullpen arms. We’ll figure that out from the minors.

      The majority of the time Damon is DH, but Melky can spell anyone in the OF, moving them to DH for a day. Use Pena to do the same in the IF.

      • Rose says:

        Rather have Matsui at DH and Melky or Cameron in LF.

        I’m perfectly fine with telling Johnny Damon to take it easy.

        • jackson says:

          Kelvim Escobar or Ben Sheets would be a major pickup in my book. I don’t know if NY would be the best place for Duke, even if he doesn’t have a ton of pressure on him.

    • DCBX says:

      I think Robertson will have the 8th locked by the All-Star break. Assuming that $200M is a “soft” ceiling, I’d go with Matsui, Thome, Sheets.

  13. Kiersten says:

    If Mariano Rivera is God, then Cashman is… the other God?

    He’s been great. All those poor signings in the early 00s were all Steinbrenner. Cashman knows what he’s doing. That’s why when he does something like say, I don’t know, trade Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for Curtis Granderson, you understand that it’s a great move for the Yankees. Cashman knows more about the Yankees than any of us do and has gotten us some great players for cheap over the past few years.

  14. Jake K. says:

    This is why I can’t see Cash Money trading for Halladay. Not just because of his age, but because it would leave our farm system depleted and rob the organization of the balance he’s achieved.

  15. ortforshort says:

    Let’s see – with the abssolute boatload of money the Yankees have, their fourth and fifth starters the last several years have been Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, etc. They bought their starting rotation last year – for a fortune. Cashman nickle and dimed Pettitte all last winter and should have lost him. God did this? No wonder the earth is about to collapse.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:


    • Mike HC says:

      “They bought their starting rotation last year”

      Yea, it is called free agency. It has been around for a while now. Maybe you should read up about it. It actually allows players to switch teams after their original contracts expire. Novel idea.

  16. Mike HC says:

    It could be argued that the 2004 team is the one most fans want to forget.

    In retrospect, that 2008 team was the lull before the storm.

  17. Halladay says:

    Montero and Hughes for Halladay. That would make for a merry X-MAS.

    If you don’t have to give up one or the other even better, but Halladay is worth it.

  18. Rose says:

    Any chance you try to grab Boof Bonser and throw him in AAA for a little bit? Or do you think he’s going to look for a place to start…

    • What’s to like about him? The 5.12 career ERA? The 1.5 WHIP? He was just DFA’d for Carl Pavano. That speaks volumes about the guy.

      • Steve H says:

        His name is Boof though.

      • Rose says:

        Oh, so he has a better career starting ERA than Phil Hughes?


        • andrew says:

          But is 3 years older and much closer to his peak than Hughes is?


          • Rose says:

            Yeah, when he was Hughes age he had better numbers and similar IP. I’m not saying he’s better than Hughes…my point was that you can’t always go by what you see. Other people could see Hughes’ numbers and say the same thing. Bonser could very well be terrible forever though…you don’t know. Just like you don’t know how good Hughes might be either I guess.

            • His stuff sucks also. I can’t believe we’d even consider a pitcher with no track record of success at the MLB. We’re not the Theo Epstein Crappy Pitcher Reclamation Project here.

  19. Steve H says:

    Jayson Stark on the Yankees makeover:

    So out the door went 22-year-old outfield stud Austin Jackson, widely viewed as either the Yankees’ No. 1 or No. 2 prospect. And out that door, right along with him, went their most dependable left-handed reliever last year, Phil Coke. And the third guy on that exit ramp was pitcher Ian Kennedy, a guy the Yankees once balked at trading for Johan Santana.

    Is he on drugs with his IPK and A-Jax as possibly #1 prospect comments?

    • I saw that. The idea that Phil Coke is “dependable” is pretty laughable also. He threw 4 percent of the Yankees’ innings last year and wasn’t all that great.

      • All Praise Be To Mo says:

        Jayson Stark would have something bad to say about us if we traded Eric Duncan and Melky for Roy Halladay “Melky could be the next Griffey, and Duncan was starting to show signs of breaking through”


      • andrew says:

        He never said Coke pitched well, he merely said that he was their most dependable left handed reliever. I think it’s hard for anyone to argue with that. I can’t think of any lefties in the ‘pen who were better.

    • Jordan says:

      The short answer to this is, yes. Not conventional drugs though. Just huffing Rogaine.

    • ROBTEN says:

      Equally upsetting are Stark’s mixed metaphors…Are the Yankees a building or a car? Are Jackson, Coke, and Kennedy heading out the door or getting off the freeway?

      How can I be expected to irrationally respond to what the Yankees have done if I don’t understand where I am?!?

  20. [...] move would certainly make Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner (or both) expendable but works against yesterday’s discussion on the youth movement. Still, having a true DH is far better than keeping the slot open as a way to rest the regulars on [...]

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