The winter of our contentBy
As noted by pretty much everyone, the 2011-2012 Hot Stove Season has been a slow one for the Yankees. Thus far the primary transactions relating to the Major League club have been extending CC Sabathia, picking up Robinson Cano‘s and Nick Swisher‘s no-brainer options, and re-signing Freddy Garcia to a reasonable one-year deal. While these have all been important moves — none moreso than keeping Sabathia in the fold — Yankee fans have grown accustomed to fitting the annual free agent du jour for pinstripes, and the general lack of not only news, but even pot-stirring interest has made for one of the most boring offseasons I can ever remember.
Ever since I discovered the wonderful world of Yankee blogging in early 2004, there’s almost always been a plethora of eagerly anticipated potential signings and/or cause célèbres each winter.
That 2003-2004 offseason saw the Yankees undergo some pretty radical changes, starting with the acquisition of Javier Vazquez for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate. Prior to executing that deal, the Yankees were also discussing the possibility of trading for Curt Schilling (and later on, Randy Johnson, who they eventually acquired a year later), but owner Jerry Colangelo’s hatred of George Steinbrenner meant nothing short of asking for the sun, the moon and the stars for his ace. Colangelo stuck it to the Yankees even further by subsequently trading Schilling to the Red Sox for a bag of balls.
This incredibly busy offseason — as you’ll recall, the Yankees wound up losing three-fifths of their 2003 AL pennant-winning rotation in Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells — also saw the Yanks swap problems with the Dodgers in the Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown deal; had Brian Cashman get overruled on what would have been an incredible signing in Vladimir Guerrero and undercut as Steinbrenner himself worked a three-year deal out with Gary Sheffield; sign key bullpen cogs (and eventual bullpen pinatas) Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon; extend Vazquez’s contract by four years before he threw even one pitch for the team; and, oh yeah, trade Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.
The 2004-2005 offseason found the team looking to atone for its historical exit against the Red Sox in the ’04 ALCS, and pitching was yet again at the top of the wish list. This time the Yankees patched their holes with Carl Pavano, who signed a four-year deal that at the time made a lot of sense but went on to become one of the most reviled contracts in sports history, and Jaret Wright. A few weeks later Steinbrenner finally got the long-coveted Big Unit, trading Vazquez away after a rather unfortunate first season in pinstripes, along with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro.
The 2005-2006 offseason was rife with speculation about the Yankees pursuing Johnny Damon, which they ultimately did, signing him to a four-year deal two days before Christmas. They also re-upped with Hideki Matsui for four years the previous month, but outside of securing two-thirds of their outfield it was a fairly quiet winter.
The ’06-’07 offseason was initially dominated by Daisuke Matsuzaka speculation until the Red Sox blew everyone out of the water with their insane bid, which prompted the Yankees to make their own ill-advised Japanese signing that winter in Kei Igawa. However, the most important move of that offseason was the bringing of Andy Pettitte back into the fold in the first of what wound up being four straight one-year deals.
The ’07-’08 offseason was perhaps the most intense I’ve ever experienced as a Yankee fan, as rabid talk of the Yankees acquiring Johan Santana for a package centered around Phil Hughes drove me to the point of kickstarting my Yankee blogging career. RAB of course also launched its heralded “Save the Big Three” campaign, and after all of the hoopla the Big Three did indeed make it through that offseason as Yankees. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy subsequently rewarded the Yankees with some abysmal pitching performances that season, but you know what they say about baseball, Suzyn. For the second straight winter the Yankees didn’t make any major external personnel moves, with the primary signings coming in the form of re-inking Jorge Posada to a four-year deal, and A-Rod to the dumbest contract of all time.
The 2008-2009 offseason was the most expensive in franchise history, but also yielded immediate fruit. Sabathia dominated the headlines and eventually agreed to his historic pact after a few weeks of silence, and the team followed that up by adding A.J. Burnett to the fold. At that point, it seemed as though the team was finished shopping, and while I’d been banging the Mark Teixeira drum all winter long, all signs were pointing to Tex signing with Boston. Which is why I’ll never forget finding out that Tex had indeed agreed to a deal on December 23, as that was pretty much the best holiday surprise ever.
Fresh off their 27th World Series trophy, the Yankees weren’t content to rest on their laurels, and made several big moves to heat the Hot Stove up during the ’09-’10 offseason, trading for Curtis Granderson and re-acquiring Home Run Javy Vazquez. They even brought what wound up being my personal biggest cause célèbre back into the fold in re-signing my favorite and yours, OBP Jesus himself, Nick “The Stick” Johnson. Of course, seeing as how Nick Johnson’s gotta Nick Johnson, he obviously got injured and wound up being near-useless, but I still have fond memories of how loudly I was beating the Johnson drum and how exciting it was to find that the Yanks were indeed signing him.
And of course, last offseason was all about Cliff Lee, until it wasn’t anymore, forcing Yankee bloggers to write post after post about every potential scrapheap option available to the Yankees, until they actually did sign what appeared to be two of the scrappiest of the entire heap in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
Which brings us to today. To be fair, this offseason hasn’t been entirely devoid of rumors and speculation. We know the Yankees have been linked to C.J. Wilson, but internally view him as more of a #3/#4 starter and will only acquire him if they can pay him like one. We also know the Yankees like Yu Darvish, and while most if not all of us at RAB wholeheartedly endorse a Darvish pursuit, it seems less and less likely that he’ll be posted with each passing day. And the team will continue to be mentioned in any and all trade rumors regarding young starting pitchers that may or may not be available, as these are the kinds of rumors that make the Hot Stove burn bright during cold winter nights, although as Cashman has been fond of saying for a good while now, he doesn’t seem terribly inclined to move any of his own players at current asking prices.
Unfortunately all of this inertia has made life a bit difficult for those of us trying to find a fresh angle to write about the team on a daily basis. However, in the aftermath of the Cliff Lee non-signing, standing relatively pat for the remainder of last offseason (with the exception of Pedro Feliciano; I’m pretty sure I could get a deal with the Yankees if I threw with my left hand) and continuing to stand his ground at the trade deadline back at the end of July, Brian Cashman’s strategy of waiting things out — and perhaps not even making a significant move at all — may not be such a bad thing. Especially if Kenny Williams finally comes calling bearing gifts of John Danks and/or Gavin Floyd.