The Winter Meetings may have passed, but it’s still relatively early in the baseball off-season. As you can see on our sidebar widget, there are still two months until pitchers and catchers report (the biggest day of the year on which nothing happens). That’s plenty of time for the Yankees to sift through their options and decide on the best course of action for the 2009 team. We’ve been debating this hotly in the comments, and aside from a few overzealous folks, most everyone is making cogent points.
I explained on Friday night that I think there are two paths the Yankees can take right now. First is to create a more balanced team. This would entail bringing back Andy Pettitte to fill the fourth/fifth slot in the rotation and trading for Mike Cameron. The lineup would then be filled with solid, established players (and a high-ceiling guy in Cano), and the rotation would be solid one through five. It would give the Yankees the depth to deal with an injury or two. It would give the team even more of a veteran presence.
The other path the Yankees can explore is an all-in push for 2009. By signing CC and A.J., the Yankees have begun such a movement. Adding a big bat like Manny Ramirez or Mark Teixeira (as we’ve heard from our favorite rumormonger) or even Adam Dunn would re-ignite the talks of a 1,000-run offense. The difference, of course, is that this year the Yanks have the pitching to match it. The lineup would be disgusting one through nine, and the rotation would still feature a top four you can place against any team in the league.
At this point, adding Cameron might hamper the team’s ability to sign one of the boppers on the market. While some cite the $88 million that came off the payroll after last season, that’s not the whole story. Some players are due raises, and others weren’t on the opening-day payroll (Marte, Nady). So let’s go through the team’s current commitments (plus arbitration estimates):
* AAV of contract
** Arb estimate
That totals $173.85 million in committed salaries for 15 players. That leaves 10 more players, likely for the most part under the reserve clause, which will keep their salaries in the $400 to $500,000 range. Even at the high end, $5 million for those 10 players, that leaves the Yanks with a $183.85 million opening day payroll. Notice how it’s right around the team’s stated goal of $180 million.
Still, we know the Yankees. They could find a way to squeeze another contract in there. Perhaps they backload A.J.’s deal, knowing that $26 million comes off the books from Damon and Matsui after the year. That would give them the flexibility now to add a bat and still keep the payroll under $200 million.
If you add Andy Pettitte, it’s almost impossible to add a bat without exceeding 2008′s payroll. Same with Mike Cameron. So the choices going forward:
1) Sign Pettitte. Sign bat. Screw payroll.
2) Sign Pettitte. Trade for Cameron. Go into season like that.
3) Let Pettitte retire or go elsewhere. Let Milwaukee pay Cameron’s salary. Sign big bat.
Without choosing one over the rest (though No. 1 is clearly the best option), this all leads me to believe that the Yankees should hold off on this Cameron deal. Wait until the rest of the bats are off the market so you can see where everyone else stands. Some might say that this would drive up the price for Cameron. Not so. At least, I don’t think it will. What other teams would be interested in a 35-year-old CFer making $10 million? That list begins and ends with the Yankees.
If the Yankees do add Teixeira or Manny or Dunn, they won’t have room for Cameron anyway. All three make the outfield rather crowded — Tex by moving Swisher there, Manny and Dunn because they play there. True, the later two could DH, but what about Hideki? You can’t blindly rely on him to play in 120, 130 games, but you also can’t relegate him to bench duty. He’s too good when healthy, and is making too much money.
Mike Cameron will still be available in January. The Yankees might as well wait on that and see if they can better improve the team with a better bat.
Ian Kennedy hasn’t pitched in eight days; not sure what’s up with that. Mayaguez has had a few scheduled off days and weather issues since he last pitched, so it could be that the rotation’s a bit off kilter. They don’t play again until Tuesday, so we’ll see if he gives it a go then. His last three starts have been dynamite (22 IP, 11 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 17 K).
The winter league notables:
- Melky Cabrera: 20 for 65 (.308), 13 R, 4 2B, 6 RBI, 8 BB, 8 K, 2 SB in 17 games
- Robbie Cano: 16 for 54 (.296), 13 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 5 BB, 3 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP in 13 games … still more BB than K after 13 games? who is this man and what has he done with Robinson Cano?
- Frankie Cervelli: 11 for 43 (.256), 8 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 8 BB, 12 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP in 19 games
- Walt Ibarra: 14 for 71 (.197), 3 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 16 K, 3 SB, 1 CS in 33 games
- Ramiro Pena: 24 for 91 (.264), 10 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, 2 HBP in 26 games
- Jon Albaladejo: 13.1 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 WP in 11 appearances
- Wilkins Arias: 10.2 IP, 16 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 7 BB, 12 K, 2 WP, 1 HB in 16 appearances
Use this as your open thread for the evening. The Jets already won a bit of a nailbiter against the Bills, while the G-Men take on the Cowboys at 8:15pm. Brandon Jacobs is sitting this one with a bum knee, spelling certain doom for my fantasy team in Round One of the playoffs. Damn you tommiesmithjohncarlos, damn you to hell.
You know the deal, talk about whatever’s on your mind, just keep it kosher.
Picking up on Buster Olney’s argument is Ken Rosenthal. He notes that, while the Yanks have spent a lot of money so far, they’re still shedding payroll. With all the money coming off the books this year, the Yanks very well could sign another big-ticket player, and if that player ends up being Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez, I won’t be disappointed. · (175) ·
One of the implications of my post on fan sports coverage is that I’m not too enamored with most national personalities. So it was refreshing to see Buster Olney’s article on ESPN.com this morning (the relevant part is free). I was just going to set this as an aside, but there are some relevant passages I’d like to quote. A lot of it you read on RAB last week.
So the Yankees, in the end, were patient and got Sabathia, and the pundits who are saying that the team has blown up its plan for player development are simply not paying attention. In fact, the signings of Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are absolutely in keeping with the refocus on the farm system.
Because the Yankees waited to pursue Sabathia, rather than deal for Santana, they still have Hughes and Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson and all the players mentioned in the Santana talks, and as the pitching talent pool has increased at the major league level, there is now more time for those youngsters to develop. It’s actually been more than a decade since the Yankees have had as much minor league talent stacked up as they do now.
Yes, they will sacrifice draft picks, in landing Sabathia and Burnett. But keep in mind that the Yankees will have picks in the first and second round of the draft in 2009 because of players unsigned in 2008; it’s not as if they are being shut down.
Olney goes on to list the Yankees projected rotation, noting how it is considerably younger than that of past teams. Except last year, of course. This one, though seems a bit more balanced overall.
|CC (28)||Wang (28)||Wang (27)||Randy (42)||Randy (41)|
|Wang (29)||Andy (36)||Andy (35)||Wang (26)||Moose (36)|
|A.J. (32)||Moose (39)||Moose (38)||Moose (37)||Pavano (29)|
|Joba (23)||Phil (22)||Pavano (31)||Chacon (28)||Jaret (29)|
|Andy (37)||IPK (23)||Igawa (27)||Jaret (30)||Brown (40)|
So here’s what the Yankees have done so far this off-season:
1. Added the two top pitchers on the free agent market.
2. Retained all of their relevant prospects.
3. Kept payroll at worst to the 2008 level, probably shaving a bit.
Sounds like a good deal to me.
One of the more intriguing non-tendered free agents is Ty Wigginton. The 2008 Astros’ starting third base, Wigginton wasn’t invited back by a Houston team set to save money. He can hit for a bit of power and play first and third base and left and right field. He would, in other words, be the ideal utility man for a Yankee team with a weak bench right now. Of course, Wigginton can probably get a better offer and more playing time from the Twins or Indians, but I certainly think the Yanks should give him a call and see if he’s interested in New York. · (100) ·
Here’s something to chew on overnight: The Yankees have seemingly decided that Ben Sheets is not a good fit for the team. In Newsday’s wrap-up of the A.J. Burnett signing, Kat O’Brien and Ken Davidoff dropped in a tidbit about the Brewers’ former hurler:
The Yankees, who had hoped to sign Pettitte or Sheets to round out their starting rotation, have decided that Pettitte would be a better fit. Sheets did make 31 starts in 2008, going 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA for the Brewers, but injuries kept him from topping 160 innings between 2005 and 2007.
Another advantage of signing Pettitte instead of Sheets is that Pettitte will require just a one-year contract. General manager Brian Cashman flew to meet with him at his Houston-area home Thursday in hopes of convincing him to accept the Yankees’ one-year, $10-million offer. Pettitte has resisted a pay cut from the $16 million he made in 2008. A club official said: “They just had a good meeting and [Pettitte's] thinking about things.”
That makes sense to me at this point. While Sheets may have been an intriguing choice based on the roster flexibility his shorter contract would have afforded the Yanks, at this point, there’s really no need to sign him to a multi-year deal. I wonder what the final Ben Sheets market will shake down to be this winter.
(Hat tip to one of our various Steves.)
Interestingly enough, with the Yanks out of the picture, rumors about the Red Sox’s interest have dried up as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lowe wind up in Boston, but I don’t think the Red Sox are as concerned with Lowe as they were with the Yanks in on him. After all, Theo is the one who let him go in the first place. Crasnick sees Queens as the likely destination for Lowe.
Anyway, that’s about it for Yankee news tonight. Use this thread as your Saturday night open thread. Anything goes; just play nice.
With this new stadium on tap, we hear a lot of talk about reduced revenue sharing and higher revenue streams, but a lot of people — including me — don’t quite understand how baseball’s complicated tax structure works. Enter Richard Sandomir. In a fairly comprehensive and comprehendable article earlier this week, The Times sports business writer explored the how’s and why’s of the Yanks’ revenue sources. Basically, the new stadium allows the team more opportunity to draw in more money while deducting from their revenue payments and the YES Network’s subscriber fees keeps the team relatively insulated from the projected decreases in advertising money due to the economy. Makes sense to me. · (18) ·
With A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia now in the Bronx fold, the Yanks’ once-barren starting rotation is now filling up. The team will probably lead with Sabathia and follow with Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and the fifth starter. As problems go, having no fifth starter isn’t a bad one, but the Yanks, according to a few columnists, may not afford themselves the flexibility they could have if they act quickly to fill the fifth spot.
In particular, this problem — if we want to call it a problem — revolves around Andy Pettitte. The long-time Yankee lefty had a sub-par 2008, and the Yanks are willing to bring him back on their terms. Pettitte hasn’t jumped at the one-year, $10-million offer on the table mostly because he doesn’t really want to take a 37.5 percent pay cut. The Yanks have seemingly made a take-out-or-leave-it offer, but even that seems a little too generous. As Ken Davidoff wrote today, the Yanks should let Pettitte go. He writes:
There’s still one path the Yankees can take to prove they’re not solely a “win now” organization — to show they haven’t fully destroyed the culture shift that Brian Cashman worked so hard to instill the previous three seasons. Call Andy Pettitte, and tell him sorry, but his time is up. Keep in touch, keep in shape. Maybe he can do a Roger Clemens-esque return close to the All-Star break — at the $16-million salary he wants, moreover, just prorated.
With A.J. Burnett coming aboard Friday, the Yankees have four high-end starting pitchers in CC Sabathia, Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. That’s your October starting rotation right there, and it’s superb.
So don’t give up entirely on the youth movement. Allow Alfredo Aceves, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy a chance to contribute from that fifth starter’s role, rather than overspending on the fading Pettitte. Maybe Phil Coke and even Andrew Brackman can get into the mix.
Of course, with Joba in the rotation and A.J. Burnett’s injury history, the point may be moot. Chamberlain can go only about 150 innings if he stays healthy, and Burnett has made 30+ starts in a season just twice in his career. They’ll have ample opportunities to get Hughes, Kennedy and Aceves into the mix if they deserve to be there. I just wonder about paying too much for Pettitte.
In the end, it’s a matter of nostalgia. Is there a legitimate baseball reason to hire Andy Pettitte beyond the fact that he pitched on four teams that won the World Series a decade ago? The Yanks can spend all they want, but they will also need to develop from within. Sure, they had their David Cone, David Wells and Roger Clemens back in the 1990s, but they also had their Andy Pettitte. If they’re going to restore that tradition to the Bronx, they’ll need to let these kids pitch their ways on to the team.
As Davidoff writes in closing, “It’s understandable why the Yankees went so hard after Sabathia and Burnett. And it would be inexcusable to dismiss their young pitchers without a better opportunity to be part of this new era.”
With the Yanks’ dual signings of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, Las Vegas is now calling the Yankeesthe prohibitive favorites to win the 2009 World Series, Jack Curry reports. Of course, they don’t play the games on paper, and October is a long way away from December. It is, however, comforting to hear that the bettors think the Yanks are making some good moves. · (72) ·