No baseball for old men

For the past few years, the Yankees haven’t exactly embraced the designated hitter position. In 2009, Hideki Matsui made 108 starts as the team’s primary designated hitter. In 2010, no one had more than 41 starts as DH, and this past year, Jorge Posada‘s 91 starts led the team as 10 other players also took their turns as the designated hitter.

This isn’t a new approach for the Yanks. As their core has gotten older, the club has embraced the idea of a rotating DH. Give one guy the bulk of the playing time, but keep the spot open to spell A-Rod, Jeter and even Teixeira and Granderson. It keeps everyone fresher, but on the flip side, it means more playing time for the likes of Eduardo Nunez. The Yanks are weakening their lineup without someone to fill the DH slot.

This winter, the Yanks are at a crossroads. They aren’t going to bring back Jorge Posada, and the market for DH types is thin. They could have explored bringing aboard an Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder type, but the Front Office feels that they have a fearsome enough offense without overspending for another first baseman. Plus, Jesus Montero lurks.

Once upon a time, I would have loved to see the Yankees pursue David Ortiz. Despite his generally whiny demeanor and the fact that he’s made a career out of beating the Yankees, Ortiz is a lefty power hitter custom built for Yankee Stadium. After a down year in 2009, he’s hit .290/.384/.542 with 61 home runs over the past two seasons. Even as he ages, he’s still an offensive force.

Yet, Ortiz has drawn nary a lick of interest. His signing would cost a team a draft pick, but I figured that an offensively-starved club — the Orioles, the Blue Jays, the Mariners — would eye Ortiz as a potential short-term solution. Instead, Big Papi is likely to accept arbitration from the Red Sox. Unless the two sides work out a longer solution, he’ll earn a small raise over his 2011 salary and stick with the Sox for another season. That is, frankly, one of the bigger surprises of the off-season.

For the Yanks’ one-time catcher, then, this Ortiz development isn’t a good sign. Jorge Posada is a few years older than Ortiz and isn’t quite the hitter any longer. He can still hit with some pop from the left side, and he doesn’t cost a draft pick. But teams don’t seem to be in the market for DH-only types right now. Rather, the DH slot is today reserved for those MLBers playing out the back ends of their long-term deals. It’s not really about finding a spot for a premiere offensive player who can’t field.

So as Ortiz stays with Boston and Posada rides off into the sunset, likely to scrounge up a Spring Training invite if he doesn’t just call it a career, the Yankees will head into 2012 with a youngster and a bunch of older guys as their designated hitters. Montero will get the chance to shine while A-Rod and his balky legs will need some rest. Jeter might DH a bit too as he nears his 38th birthday. This is what the DH has become, and it’s still far better than watching some pitchers attempt to bat.

Sweaty Freddy passes his physical, gets sweaty

Via David Waldstein, Freddy Garcia has passed his physical, so his new one-year deal worth $4M (plus incentives) could be made official any day now. The two sides are still working out some contract language, but I think that’s just code for “we don’t want to fill our last open 40-man roster spot before Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.”

Physicals are usually routine, but they’re a little bit more than that when it comes to pitchers like Freddy, guys with major shoulder problems in the not-too-distant past.  That said, it’s not like Garcia’s going to unexpectedly lose his stuff all of a sudden — a la Javy Vazquez in the second half of 2010 — it’s pretty much all gone already.

Sherman: Yankees will watch Zumaya’s showcase next week

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees are one of about ten teams that will watch Joel Zumaya throw next week. He hasn’t pitched in nearly 18 months after fracturing his elbow during a pitch, an injury that required two surgeries. Zumaya is still only 27 years old and is about as good as bullpen reclamation projects get, but obviously it’s minor league contract for bust. There’s just no way they could guarantee him anything given all his health troubles.

Open Thread: Winter Meetings Day Two

Miami? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It was a busy day everywhere except Yankeeland today. Albert Pujols rightfully dominated the headlines, with the Marlins dangling a ten-year contract while the Cardinals sat there saying “really? we’re really doing this?” At least that’s what I imagine they were doing. I have to think they were unprepared for a serious bid by the Marlins of all teams. The Blue Jays got their new closer, sending a Double-A pitching prospect to the White Sox for Sergio Santos. Santos, who was an infielder as recently as 2008, is signed dirt cheap for the next three years with another three club options after that. Nice little deal for them.

The Yankees continue to do not much of anything, at least not as far as actual transactions go. The most notable deal they’ve made on this date throughout their history came in 1992, when they traded three players (Jerry Nielsen, J.T. Snow, and Russ Springer) to the Angels for Jim Abbott. Abbott had an okay two-year run in the Bronx (4.45 ERA in 56 starts), but he’ll be most remembered for being born without a right hand and throwing a no-hitter anyway.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. Both the Devils and Islanders are playing, and that’s pretty much it as far as local sports go. You can talk about that or whatever else you want here. You know what to do, so have at it.

The price for Gio Gonzalez

We already know what the White Sox are seeking for John Danks (though that may change given their imminent rebuild), and today Joel Sherman fills us in on what the Athletics want in exchange for Gio Gonzalez: young, high-end outfielders. Oakland is hilariously thin in the outfield, but so are the Yankees, at least at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. That means they’d likely have to swing a three-team swap to make everyone happy, except me of course. Gio has gotten pretty overrated over the last few weeks, something the hot stove is guilty of doing time and time again. Do not want.

Kuroda “now definitely willing” to pitch on the East Coast

Via David Waldstein, Hiroki Kuroda is “now definitely willing” to pitch for a team on the East Coast. His preference for the West Coast is no secret, but the Dodgers’ effectively slammed the door on his return by signing both Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. He’s reportedly seeking $12-13M a year, which the Yankees see as a tough fit financially according to Joel Sherman.

Obviously the price has to be right, but Kuroda makes a ton of sense for the Yankees given their rotation questions. He shouldn’t require a long-term deal at age 36 (37 in February) and is a true power pitcher with three offerings (91-95 heat, slider, splitter). As Waldstein mentions, the Yankees might have a bit of advantage in Russell Martin, who caught Kuroda for the first three years of his MLB career and presumably knows the right-hander well.