Joey on the spot

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It’s hard to know what to make of Bob Klapisch’s latest on Joe Girardi. On the one hand, it’s a rather obvious piece exploring how Girardi may lose his job if the Yanks don’t get off to a good start in 2009. On the other, it’s something of a hack job designed to rile up the anti-Girardi factions among us.

While much of the piece focuses around some non-existent conflict between Joe Girardi and Manny Ramirez that may not even be an issue, Klapisch fires some blanket warning shots Girardi’s way. Take a look:

This is bad news for Joe Girardi, who’s already facing a difficult 2009 agenda. Despite the apparent imbalance in the Yankees’ roster — terrific pitching, questionable offense — the manager is expected to get the Bombers to the playoffs or else lose his job.

Of course, the front office hasn’t issued a win-or-else edict to Girardi. But officials are aware that his leadership style was too rigid and too intense for a veteran clubhouse. It’s hard to believe Girardi can loosen up in the span of one off-season, but he’d better: If the Yankees are playing .500 ball in mid-May, the clock on his dismissal will be ticking loudly.

This is the same pressure that Willie Randolph faced early in 2008, and look how the Mets responded: They got their manager fired as they sunk under .500. Girardi is getting one more chance to undo last year’s mistakes, including his over-reliance on team meetings, his inability to digest and process tough losses and his ill-advised policy of banning junk food in the clubhouse.

Got that? We have “questionable offense,” Girardi’s “inability to digest and process tough losses,” and an “ill-advised policy” designed to encourage healthy eating in the clubhouse. I can’t help but wonder what the agenda is.

In truth, Girardi probably will face a tough 2009 if the Yanks falter. The brass seemingly gave him a pass on 2008. The Yanks were facing some growing pains as they tried to determine how their young arms would fit in, and the teams had to overcome far too many injuries to make the playoffs. A poor start in a few months will land Girardi in the hot seat whether he deserves it or not. It won’t be over some junk food ban or Girardi’s inability to cope with losses. It will be because the team just doesn’t perform up to anyone’s expectations.

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Update 1:22 a.m.: According to SportsCenter, Manny won’t be taking any offers until after Teixeira signs. That news could be in response to this leak and a sluggish market for Teixeira or it could be more reliable. Just keep it in mind as you read about the Impacto Deportivo report about Manny I highlight below.

* * *

The Yankee news of the night doesn’t come from ESPN, FoxSports or Jon Heyman. Rather, it’s from a Spanish-language sports site based in the Dominican Republic.

According to Impacto Deportivo, the Yankees and Manny Ramirez are on the verge of a three-year, $75-million contract. The short report says that negotiations are advanced with an official announcement set to come on Monday or Tuesday. It also notes that Manny would have liked to stay in LA but that the Dodgers didn’t want to pay the steep price.

Tim Dierkes, at MLB Trade Rumors, reported this story about 40 minutes ago but did so with an eyebrow raised in skepticism. Impacto Deportivo has a mixed track record when it comes to breaking stories. They did, however, break the Damaso Marte signing earlier this winter.

I, like Tim, am a bit skeptical of this news. First, it’s the first we’ve heard of advanced negotiations between the Yanks and Manny’s camp. Considering how Scott Boras runs the exact opposite of a tight camp, news embargoed until the negotiations are at an advanced stage would be shocking. This may also just be a mistranslation of Mark Feinsand’s story of a Manny offer. Furthermore, the Mark Teixeira situation has not been resolved, and in fact, the Yanks could be emerging as prime players in that market.

To wit, the Angels have officially dropped out of the Teixeira bidding, and reports say that the Red Sox have not contacted Boras since Thursday. While ESPN, as you can see at right, clearly wants all Mark Teixeira to involve the Red Sox — how is Angels’ news not deserving of an Angels logo? — this latest development would increase the Yanks’ chances. Unless Teixeira absolutely wants the Nationals’ money, he may be fielding offers from the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles and Nats. The field is that more wide open.

We’ll of course monitor as this new develops, but things may be coming to a head for the Yankees, Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira as Christmas looms. Who knows which one, if any, will be under the Steinbrenner tree. If tonight’s Impacto Deportivo story is to be believed, Manny it will be.

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Ian Kennedy’s season is over, he was sent home after throwing 34.2 excellent innings in Puerto Rico. He finished the year at 168.1 IP (counting the Triple-A playoffs), meaning he’s good for 190-200 IP in 2009.

Here’s the other winter ball notables:

  • Melky Cabrera: 27 for 83 (.325), 19 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 13 BB, 10 K, 2 SB in 22 games … Gammons says the Yanks stopped pursuing Mike Cameron because Melky improved his plate approach this winter, but I don’t buy it for a second
  • Robbie Cano: 19 for 68 (.279), 14 R, 8 2B, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 7 BB, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP in 17 games … he’ll be done soon, he was only scheduled to play for a month
  • Frankie Cervelli: 12 for 49 (.245), 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 9 BB, 12 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, 1 HBP in 22 games
  • Edwar Gonzalez: 26 for 73 (.356), 8 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 BB, 16 K, 2 SB, 1 HB in 27 games … they resigned him after he became a 6 year minor league free agent
  • Walt Ibarra: 15 for 75 (.200), 3 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 17 K, 3 SB, 1 CS in 35 games
  • Ramiro Pena: 29 for 114 (.254), 13 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 14 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, 2 HBP in 32 games
  • Jorge Vazquez: 69 for 198 (.348), 37 R, 12 2B, 15 HR, 46 RBI, 23 BB, 50 K, 2 HBP in 54 games … Yanks just signed him as a minor league free agent after he spent the last ten years playing the Mexican League … MTOM has more info on him if you’re interested
  • Jon Albaldejo: 16 IP, 11 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 WP in 14 appearances
  • Wilkins Arias: 10.2 IP, 16 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 7 BB, 12 K, 2 WP, 1 HB in 16 appearances

Wafy Rufino & Abe Almonte just reported to their winter league teams in the Dominican, but haven’t had any signifcant playing time yet.

Use this as your open thread for the night. The G-men kick off against the Panthers at 8:15pm, and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs could very well be decided in this one. Have fun, but play nice.

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  • Padres sign Britton

    The Padres sure love the Yankees cast-offs. They nabbed Scott Patterson when we placed him on waivers. They selected Ian Nova in the Rule 5 draft, someone no one thought a possibility. Now they’ve grabbed yet another Yankee reliever: Chris Britton. The Friars have inked the hefty righty to a minor league deal. As with Patterson, I wish Britton the best of luck and hope he doesn’t spend the year traveling between the majors and minors. That might not be much of an issue now, as he’s out of options. · (22) ·

Update (3:00 p.m.): Buster Olney says that the Yanks had an offer on the table but have since pulled it. “They want to cut payroll,” Olney writes, “and basically, they cannot do this if they sign Teixeira.”

It is of course a bad time to cut payroll as Teixeira fills an obvious need. Additionally, as has been pointed out in the comments, the Yanks could withdraw their offer to Pettitte and just commit to Melky and Brett Gardner in the outfield for instant savings. After 2009, enough money is coming off the books that Teixeira makes sense. I’d hate to see them opt out off this signing as they did with Carlos Beltran over a matter of a few million dollars for one season. But as more and more stories come out, I’m less inclined to believe that Teixeira will wind up in the Bronx.

Dan Graziano says we should forget about a Yankee discount. Teixeira is a true Boras client through and through.

* * *

Scott Boras really wants the Yankees to either land Mark Teixeira or at least be more involved in the bidding. As I wrote this morning, the Yanks may be willing to make Teixeira a $160-million, eight-year offer, but it won’t be enough.

Meanwhile, Boras keeps pushing. He has anonymously sourced reports everywhere. Jon Heyman had the Yanks in on Teixeira; Micheal Schmidt in The Times has them interested. But today, Kat O’Brien unveils the most interesting take of all. It seems that Scott Boras is more interested in the Yankees than the Yankees are in Boras and Teixeira for now.

O’Brien reports on what it would take to land Teixeira. She writes:

Despite agent Scott Boras’ efforts to get the Yankees involved in the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, the Yankees remain on the periphery of the bidding, sources said yesterday…

Two sources confirmed that Boras and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talked Friday, but they said it was Boras – not Cashman – who initiated contact. One source said Boras gave Cashman an estimate of what it would cost to land Teixeira, a superb defensive and offensive first baseman. The ballpark figure reportedly was about $22 million to $23 million per year on an eight-year contract, for a total of $180 million to $185 million.

The source said Boras wanted to give the Yankees an opportunity to make an offer. The Yankees currently do not have an offer on the table for Teixeira…A source said the Yankees have not ruled out making an offer for Teixeira, saying: “We’re debating it. Some in the organization want to do it.”

That’s, I think, the most accurate picture of where things stand. Boras wants the Yanks involved. Some of the Yankee Front Office would like Teixeira, and there seems to be a bit of a hold up over signing another costly free agent to a very long-term deal. But as things stand with the Red Sox and Angels, Teixeira could New York’s for the taking if they make the right offer.

If the team really is, as The Times noted earlier, willing to go to $160 million, what’s another $2 or $3 million a season anyway?

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Sunday morning brings with it an intriguing — and familiar — story about Mark Teixeira from The Times’ Michael Schmidt. He reports that the Yanks are interested but remain lurkers in the Mark Teixeira hunt.

Says Schmidt:

Although the Yankees have not actively pursued the free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, team officials continue to monitor the negotiations between Teixeira’s agent, Scott Boras, and other teams.

The Yankees are interested in signing Teixeira, according to two people in baseball with knowledge of the matter, but for the moment are unwilling to pay him more than $160 million over eight years, one of them said.

For the moment. That’s a rather pregnant phrase.

Schmidt notes that the Yanks would perhaps have to get creative with either the roster or the contract to add Teixeira, but it seems as though the Yanks could do that with so many contracts coming off the books following 2009. At this point, what’s the difference between $160 over eight years and $180 over the same time? If the Yanks want Teixeira badly enough, they will get him. It just depends on how badly that really is.

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According to the tireless Jon Heyman, the Blue Jays are fielding offers for center fielder Vernon Wells. Of course, as the Yanks are ever looking for an adequate center fielder, some fans have proposed kicking the tires on this one.

On the surface it’s not a terrible idea. While the Jays probably aren’t too keen to trade Wells to a division contender, the Yanks could use a steady presence in center field. But is Wells really the answer? Probably not

The first problem is that Vernon Wells is set to make a lot of money. Last year, he signed a seven-year, $126-million contract that, from the get-go, promised Wells, then 29 and now 30, far more money than he is actually worth. He may opt out after 2011, but over the next few years, his salary structure looks like this:


His salary is so low up front because the Blue Jays owe him a $25.5 million signing bonus. In fact, his contract is nearly guaranteed to ensure that Wells won’t activate the opt-out clause. Can you imagine a team paying a 33-year-old center fielder more than $63 million over three seasons?

And then there is the problem of production. Wells doesn’t cover that much ground in center, and his career offensive line of .283/.332/.480 just isn’t that good. His career OPS+ of 108 is better than what Melky or Brett Gardner can do, but it’s not $100 million better. In the end, if the Yanks are going to spend this much on a player, Mark Teixeira would be a far, far better investment.

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Now that I’m done with my first round of law school finals, I can dig out from under this avalanche of baseball articles I’ve been saving for various threads. Let’s start with some Maury Brown musings on baseball’s salary structure.

Basically using some recent numbers from Sports Business Journal, Brown argues against a cap. He notes that the Yanks have paid out over $120 million in luxury tax fees with the Red Sox and Angels the only other two teams ever to dole out a cent. “With revenues at an all-time high, the second highest attendance level on record, and as of late, the most parity, it seems a hard sell to say MLB needs a salary cap,” he concludes.

It’s hard to disagree with that. While I recently questioned baseball’s economic system, if the sport doesn’t need a salary cap, I won’t agitate for one. As Yankee fans, we should be happy seeing our team able to dole out the money it draws in by virtue of its being in New York and having great fans.

Anyway, use this as your open thread tonight. Talk salary caps. Talk baseball. The Knicks are off, but the Islanders, Rangers and Nets all have games tonight. Just play nice.

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