As Clemens opines, Torre waits the weekend

Roger Clemens today joined the growing litany of folks expressing their support for Joe Torre. In an interview during which he expressed at least a passing interest in playing in 2007 — DO NOT WANT — Clemens also said that Torre should be the one to close the old Yankee Stadium and open the new one. This guy sure has a lot of supporters, and I hear that, as Torre is one of the city’s most prominent Catholics, the Pope wants to issue a papal bull in support of Torre.

In more interesting Joe Torre news, the Yankees braintrust has delayed the meeting about Torre’s (and Alex Rodriguez’s) future to next week. The group will meet in Tampa on either Monday night or Tuesday morning. Clearly, Torre won’t attend the meeting, but ESPN reports that King George, his sons and their aides — whoever they are — will be in attendance.

Right now, the Yanks are pretty much jerking Torre around. A week ago, a maybe-lucid, maybe-senile George Steinbrenner — Tyler Kepner’s piece at the Bats blog on this topic is fantastic — issued his favorite “win or else” ultimatum. Since then, we’ve heard nothing but silence, and the Yanks will wait until at least a week after they were eliminated to deterine Torre’s fate. It’s possible Joe could grow so sick of this crap that he simply holds a press conference to announce his resignation. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

When all is said and done, I bet Torre’s back in pinstripes next year. A delay of this length means that those who aren’t George are lobbying the Boss on behalf of Torre. Or they’re waiting it out until Steinbrenner simply forgets about this ultimatum. That wouldn’t surprise me either.

Don’t stay up late for the Torre decision

SI’s Jon Heyman is reporting that we might not hear anything on the Torre situation until next week:

The Yankees’ brass is in the process of arranging a high-powered meeting in which the club’s top decision-makers will consider the cases of Torre, as well as three star players: Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

The big sitdown, which would take place in Tampa, Fla., could happen as early as Friday. More likely, it will wait until early next week. The reason for the delay isn’t known.

I hate to see things drag out like this, but I think the longer it takes, the better the chance that Torre stays. Not sure how well that sits with the rest of y’all. The good news: I can finish my assessment of the situation, which I was rushing to get done for tomorrow. So now you might see it Friday.

Oh, and make sure to check out Mike’s mind-blowing Andrew Brackman profile. The dude’s good at writing these, and this is his best. Don’t want it to get buried as we talk about the state of the Yanks.

Yanks replaying 2003 Andy Pettitte negotiations with Rivera

When Andy Pettitte left New York after 2003, two schools of though prevailed. The first was that the Yankees didn’t make much of an effort to sign him to a contract extension during 2003 because they assumed he would never leave New York. The second was that Pettitte’s elbow, long a cause for concern, had pushed the Yankees beyond the point where they would consider signing Pettitte, but the team didn’t want to insult him by saying so.

Now, four years later, a similar negotiation – or lack thereof – is under way in the Bronx between the Yankees, but the stakes are bigger. The contract in question does not belong to Andy Pettitte but rather to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ stalwart closer and future Hall of Famer.

Based on a few reports – such as this one from Bryan Hoch at MLB.com – Mariano Rivera claims that he will test free agency. But more damning is his indictment of the Yankees. Hoch writes:

Rivera said he was not sure if the Yankees were his first choice. He seemed stung by the fact that he and his agent, Fernando Cuza, campaigned the Yankees for a contract extension in Spring Training but were rebuffed. Now, Rivera said, the Yankees are just one of 30 teams who have a fair shot at his services for 2008 and probably 2009.

“I’m going to be open to hear all offers,” Rivera said. “The Yankees had their opportunity and didn’t do nothing with it. I’m going to wait.”

Now, while this may just be a negotiating tactic Rivera and Cuza are using to leverage the Yankees, it is more than a little disconcerting to hear Rivera issue such a statement. Again, the Yankees have backed themselves into a situation where they think they can easily re-sign Rivera and may end up losing out. A lot of competitive teams – the Phillies and Cubs come to mind – could use a reliever of Rivera’s caliber and could afford him too.

Furthremore, the Joe Torre job watch comes into play here too. According to reports from the clubhouse, Rivera said today that Joe’s return could affect where he ends up. In other words, if Torre comes back, Rivera may stay. If Torre goes, Rivera may at least test the free agency waters and give the Yankees and their fans a little scare.

We could debate for hours whether or not players should start dictating management and personnel issues to the media. But Joe Torre is a factor with Rivera, and his return is probably a factor in the Jorge Posada negotiations as well. Managerial loyalty is just life in baseball, and Rivera, who was entrusted by Joe to pitch high-leverage innings in 1996 after a disappointing 1995 rookie season, owes a lot to Torre.

I don’t know why the Yankees aren’t being more aggressive with Rivera. Despite his stellar numbers this year – 74 K and 12 BB in 71.1 IP – he wasn’t as dominant as he had been in the past. His location and velocity were off at numerous times during the season, and he didn’t seem to have it as often as he has in the past.

Maybe the Yankees are worried about the elbow that pushed Rivera out of service at the end of 2006. Maybe they see a reliever quietly losing his effectiveness. But no matter what, I think the Yankees need to re-sign Rivera. Unless they’re willing to move Joba into the closer role, Rivera should come back to the Yankees.

Their corps of potential closers – and there are a lot of them – are still a year or two away from the Bronx. By the time Rivera’s ready to retire, they should have an internal replacement or two waiting in the wings. But for now, the Yankees need the Sandman, and I would hate to see them blow these negotiations.

Boras starting the A-Rod negotiations

Now that we have a nifty little Spring Training countdown in place of what would have been an idle Joba Watch, let’s start the Hot Stove League off with a bang. I’d like to revisit the Jack Curry article on Scott Boras Or rather, let’s revisit what the article did not say.

In the piece, Curry talks at length about Scott Boras’ comments today that lay out in no uncertain terms his desire to see his number one client Alex Rodriguez opt out of his Yankee contract and head to free agency. Fine. That’s not news. What’s not in the article is the news.

In story after story yesterday, the word from Boras is, well, rather ridiculous. He feels A-Rod, 32 now, could and wants to play until he is 45; could break Pete Rose’s all-time hits record; could hit 1000 HR; could draw in $1 billion in revenue for a team with its own cable network; and should earn $33 million a year.

If all of those things happen, baseball should just stop because you would never ever see a player of that caliber again. But hyperbole aside, wading through Boras’ statements reveals the start of a negotiation. First, the age is important. Alex Rodriguez is 32 now, and his current contract runs out when he’s 35. He wants a ten-year contract extension.

Now, the money. In an ideal world, a team — the Yankees with their deep pockets and, conveniently enough, their own cable network already estimated to be worth a billion dollars — would hear out Boras and say, “Ok, Mr. Rodriguez. Here’s your ten-year, $330-million contract, guaranteeing your presence in pinstripes until you turn 45.”

But negotiations don’t work this way. The Yankees will offer a counterproposal, and they have a very firm and very public starting point from Boras. A counteroffer from the Yanks would probably be for seven years and $210 million or $30 million a year. A-Rod would be paid exceedingly well once he hits his early 40s, and the Yanks would keep him in pinstripes during what promises to be his next few very productive seasons.

There’s a catch. With A-Rod and the Yankees, there’s always a catch. Should the Yankees sink $30 million a season into one player? Should they be ready and willing to fork over $30 million for A-Rod to play his age 40, age 41 and age 42 seasons in the Bronx? That is a very, very tough call.

This year, Jason Giambi has been the poster child for overpaid, aging sluggers. Now, Alex Rodriguez, one of those genetic freaks who are amazingly healthy and great at baseball, doesn’t come with the needle-induced health problems of Jason Giambi. But only one baseball player has ever played well enough past 40 to deserve anywhere close to $30 million a year, and that person — Barry Bonds — is not saint.

So now, the fun begins for Brian Cashman. They’ll have to debate and analyze the numbers. They’ll have to look at budget projections, attendance numbers and TV ratings in an effort to make sense of a single player out of 25 making $30 million a year. The wild card in all of this is that robust salary. I don’t think any other team can come close to affording it while still putting a half-way decent team on the field, but I could be wrong. I certainly don’t envy Brian Cashman and the Yankees baseball people as they try to make sense of this. Good luck, folks. I have no answer to this A-Rod question right now.

Should we trust Will Leitch’s ‘sources’? And other sundry questions about The A-Rod Article

Oh, boy. Right on the precipice of the playoffs, this whole A-Rod/Cubs business is sure to rile more than a few feathers. So as I rub my hands together in glee and anticipation, let’s jump in.

First up is the backstory: In the issue of New York Magazine due to hit newsstands later today, the inestimable Will Leitch pens a piece on Alex Rodriguez. The first 1100 words rehash familiar territory: A-Rod’s contract history; the near-trade to Boston; his playoff flame-outs; his 52-home run, 146-RBI season; the Yankees power structure; and the inevitable use of the opt-out clause.

It’s on the second page where things get really good. Allow me to quote at length:

The team that observers believe has the best shot is the Cubs. They’re up for sale, but a source with knowledge of the situation says Boras knows which group is most likely to be awarded the team. (That’s not loudmouth Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, by the way; he has no chance.) The source says Boras has already been in touch with that group about the possibility of a contract that could reach $30 million a year over the next ten years while deferring a certain portion of money toward an eventual stake in the franchise.

The good stuff continues though. Leitch claims that the left shoulder tic — possibly a source of A-Rod’s recent power outage — and subsequent ribbing aren’t good natured. The teasing is supposedly “the kind of thing that does not speak to an undying attachment between player and team.”

So take a deep breath; suck it all; and let’s tear it apart.

[Read more…]

Abreu likely to remain in pinstripes in ’08

To exercise or not to exercise. That is the Yankees’ question. And with regards to Bobby Abreu, it looks like the Yanks are going to exercise.

Bobby Abreu has had one roller coaster ride of a season. One of the main culprits behind the Yankees’ early-season struggles, Abreu really turned it around this season to become a steady number three hitter in the Yanks’ potent lineup.

Through April and May, Abreu was awful. In over 200 plate appearances, he was hitting .228 with a measly .313 OBP and a wimpy .289 slugging percentage. He had 2 HR, 22 RBI and 42 strike outs, and we were writing him off left and right.

Well, one apology and three-and-a-half months later, Abreu has turned in one hell of a season. Since June 1, Abreu has around 400 plate appearances. He’s hit .320/.398/.548 in that span with 14 HR, 27 2B and 72 RBI. When Abreu broke out of his two-month slump, the Yanks started winning. His turnaround was just as responsible for the Yanks’ playoff push as his struggles were for their terrible start.

Now, comes the word on the street via MLB Trade Rumors that the Yanks plan on picking up Abreu’s 2008 option. As Tyler Kepner and Buster Olney both noted yesterday, it’s almost a definite certainty that Abreu will remain with the Yanks in 2008.

I personally like this move. The Yanks have recognized that the 2007-2008 free agent class of outfielders isn’t a particularly deep one. They see that Abreu’s .300/.400/.500 line from June 1 on is more indicative of his perfromance that his .200/.300/.300 line from April and May, and they know they would be hard-pressed to replace Abreu’s production. With Alex Rodriguez‘s future in pinstripes fairly uncertain, keeping Abreu’s bat around is a must.

If Alex leaves, we will be compensated

Just read this bit over at Pete Abraham’s blog. It appears that should A-Rod opt out of his contract, the Yankees could (and by that, I mean will) offer him arbitration, thereby receiving a first rounder and a sandwich pick.

There has been much talk about this, and many people referred to the clause in Alex’s contract that says a team cannot offer him arbitration after the deal expires. Apparently — and this comes from Abraham via Brian Cashman himself — that clause does not apply for this opt-out years. It makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t offer Drew arbitration (or did Boras stick a “no arbitration” regulation in Drew’s opt-out clause?).

I’ll believe this for now, since it comes from Cashman. However, should it prove wrong, we might want to consider who we have running our baseball operations.