Girardi Press Conference Notes

All 30 managers meet with reporters at designated times during the winter meetings, and this afternoon Joe Girardi sat down with a horde of media this afternoon to talk about the state of the team. The managers go two at a time, so Jim Leyland was on the other side of the room doing his presser simultaneously. I’m not joking when I say there were half-a-dozen reporters around Leyland and about two dozen around Girardi. It was the New York media circus at its finest.

Here are the highlights from the presser, with audio to follow…

  • Andy Pettitte is leaning towards retirement, and it’s the first time they’ve heard that from him. Girardi plans to call Pettitte after the meetings.
  • “Everything you want” said Girardi about Cliff Lee, who he simply gushed about. He talked about his command, his repertoire, his playoff performances, his left-handedness, the whole nine. You can tell they love him and really want him.
  • As far as what happens if they fail to sign Lee, Girardi simply said “We have explored options.”
  • Girardi has spoken to A.J. Burnett quite a bit during the offseason, and the righty was the first to reach out to new pitching coach Larry Rothschild after he was hired. They’re going to go to town on A.J.’s mechanics, but Girardi cautioned that it won’t necessarily be a complete overhaul or something that’s easy to see with the naked eye.
  • Although he said “not right now” when asked about moving Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation, you can tell there’s no chance of it. Girardi just used the wrong words there. He added that Joba and David Robertson are fine candidates for the setup job should they not bring anyone in.
  • Joe talked about his transition from a full-time catcher to a backup, joking that he couldn’t figure out why they didn’t move him to designated hitter. He’s talked to Jorge Posada about the switch, but the team has also told Jorge to prepare as if he’s going to catch, and why wouldn’t they?
  • The Yankees love them some Jesus Montero, and they feel he made “big strides” last year. That said, the kid will have to win a job in Spring Training. Nothing will be handed to him.
  • Girardi also gushed about how the team’s minor league pitching depth, going out of his way to praise Manny Banuelos and talk about being “exciting about the progress of [Andrew] Brackman.”

The audio file is uploading, so give us a few minutes and we’ll have the full interview up on the site. Check out some more choice quotes on our Twitter feed.

Here’s the audio…

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RAB Winter Meetings Chat

Chat coming up in 15

It’s assumed at this point, but we just wanted to remind you of today’s winter meetings chat. I am going to house a Four Loko before we start.

Some right-handed outfield options

While most of the focus is on Cliff Lee and to a lesser extent Carl Crawford, the Yankees also have to address their need for a right-handed hitting outfielder at some point this offseason. Matt Diaz was said to be a target, but he signed with the Pirates for two-years and $4.25M last night even though he’s almost guaranteed to finish that contract in another uniform. There’s also the chance that he’ll be exposed with regular playing time and see his value plummet, but I digress.

With Diaz no longer an option for the Yankees, they’re left scrapping the bottom of the free agent barrel for someone that can hit left-handed pitching in part-time duty. Marcus Thames is still out there despite the interest from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and there’s always personal fave Scott Hairston, but let’s take a look at who else is available. I’m going to assume that Austin Kearns is not an option given how his stint in pinstripes ended (with 14 strikeouts in his final 25 at-bats).

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jeff Francoeur

Nope. (also: inevitable)

Reed Johnson

Johnson, who turns 34 today,  was one the team’s leftfield targets last winter, but he ended up with the Dodgers and had a rather forgettable season. He missed close to a month with back spasms and hit just .262/.291/.366 (.287 wOBA) in 215 plate appearances overall, though he did hit lefties for a .342 wOBA. Johnson has a .368 wOBA against southpaws over the last three seasons and is relegated to left defensively (ugly, ugly UZR‘s in center and right), which means he’s not far off from what Thames was last offseason. He’s a legit option, just not a terrible interesting or safe one.

Gabe Kapler

Once upon a time Kapler could mash lefties, tagging them for a .404 wOBA in 2008 and 2009. He fell off to a .255 wOBA against southpaws and .264 overall in 2010, playing so poorly that Tampa stashed him on the phantom disabled list in mid-August so they wouldn’t have to demote Dan Johnson when Carlos Pena came off the disabled list. Kapler’s 35-years-old and is actually a fine defender in the corners (+9.2 UZR in RF, -1.0 in LF (SSS) over the last three years), though there’s quite a bit of risk here.

Lastings Milledge

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Pirates non-tendered the former Met last week rather than give him a sizable raise through arbitration, and it’s tough to blame them really. He’s a slightly below average hitter (.322 wOBA) and a bad defender (-8.0 UZR/150 career), so the only thing that makes him appealing is his age (26 in April) and status as a former top prospect. Milledge can hit lefties (.350 wOBA career) and there’s always the potential to get better, bet I prefer a veteran guy that’s been a platoon player before when it comes to replacing Thames. It’s not an easy job, and a young guy that’s used to playing every day might be able to make the adjustments.

Xavier Nady

Been there, done that. Other than his great 2008 season (3.6 fWAR), Nady’s never been even an average player, topping out at 1.4 fWAR way back in 2003. He put up a .295 wOBA for the Cubs this season after having his second Tommy John surgery and was below replacement level (-0.4 fWAR) in a pretty good amount of playing time (347 plate appearances). The Yanks can do better.

* * *

It’s an ugly crop of righty hitting outfielders out there, especially with Diaz off the board. Hairston is clearly the best option in my eyes with Thames a distant second, even though the latter’s unlikely to repeat his 2010 success. Perhaps Brandon Laird will get thrown to the wolves a little sooner than expected, though something tells me that movie will have a tragic ending.

Heyman: Yankees will make a ‘very strong’ offer to Lee today

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees will make a “very strong” six-year offer to Cliff Lee today. He guesses that it’ll be worth $23M for year, though anywhere from $20M-25M would not be surprising. It’s about time we got some movement on this front, the offseason doesn’t last forever.

Update (11:36 a.m.): Joel Sherman is hearing six years for $140-$150 million. That’s one enticing amount for an initial offer.

Could the Yanks afford both Crawford and Lee?

Of course they can. But are they willing to take the payroll to that level? That remains to be seen. Buster Olney says Brian Cashman had a long meeting with Carl Crawford’s people last night, and that Crawford himself might have even been there. Jayson Stark adds that if Andy Pettitte does indeed retire, the team is hinting that they’ll have room for both Crawford and Cliff Lee. I suspect this is all posturing though, Darek Braunecker is playing games and Cashman wants to get the ball rolling with Lee. Showing interest in Crawford is likely nothing more than a decoy.

Sabathia doesn’t say much about his opt-out situation

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

We have definitely heard this before. In August, speaking to the New York Post, CC Sabathia discussed the opt-out clause in his contract. Unlike three prominent opt-out cases — Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, and J.D. Drew — that came before him, Sabathia said that he’s a Yankee, “hundred percent.

I think you know I’ve built a house here, right? My kids go to school here. We live here year round. So I’m not going anywhere.

Situations can always change, and we could certainly see that with Sabathia. This winter another left-handed ace, Cliff Lee, figures to get six, or maybe even seven, years at a similar average annual value to Sabathia. Why, then, wouldn’t Sabathia use that leverage to turn what is essentially a four-year, $92 million player option into another seven-year deal?

According to the Post, Lee’s situation will not influence Sabathia. “It has no effect on me at all,” he said. Unfortunately, that is the only quote that the Post article provides. Apparently Sabathia’s stance hasn’t changed since the summer. We can refer back to the above quote for Sabathia’s stance on the matter.

Still, I can’t help but notice a glaring omission. Never has Sabathia said the words “I will not opt out of my contract.” He has just talked about how he’s sticking around. I don’t think this means he’s seriously considering an opt out, but I do think that he’s not prepared to surrender all of his leverage by saying, in no uncertain terms, that he will decline to exercise the clause. It’s hard to fault him for that.

The lesson, as always: don’t trust Post headlines. In this case it was, “Sabathia won’t opt out,” but he didn’t say that. He just said it has no effect on him, which references a previous statement, which also didn’t explicitly mention the opt-out clause. I don’t think he will, but it’s definitely a stretch to take Sabathia’s words and say that he won’t.