Fan Confidence Poll: December 7th, 2009

2009 Season Record: 103-59 (915 RS, 753 RA), won AL East by 8 games, finished with the best record in MLB by 6 games, won 27th World Series

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Bruney might be headed to Atlanta

Via MLBTR, a team interested in reliever Brian Bruney contacted the Yanks, but was told “he is going to the Braves.”  This is the first we’ve heard about this, and frankly I’m surprised a team is interested in an inconsistent and injury prone reliever that’s about to get expensive through arbitration. I guess people love seeming those mid-90’s on the radar gun.

An option for 2010: Build with pitching and defense

After weeks of celebration, followed by a week of organizational meetings, the Yankees are ready to deal. They have a budget, they have a plan, and now it’s time to find the players to fit the 2010 team. We’ve discussed the issue from most angles, debating who would fit best in left field, what pitchers the team should pursue, and how they should handle the designated hitter spot. Over the next week we might get a glimpse of the plan, as the Yankees will probably be active at the Winter Meetings.

In the past the Yankees have treated us to offensive powerhouses. In the mid 2000s many wondered if they could score 1,000 runs in a season. It never happened, but the Yankees were routinely over the 900-run mark, among the league leaders in runs scored (if they didn’t lead overall). They could still turn in an offensive machine for 2010, but with uncertainty in the left field and DH spots, and with many key contributors getting further away from peak age, the Yanks could see a dropoff in offensive production this season.

That doesn’t mean they won’t contend, though. Instead of seeking out the best bats — Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, namely — they could put that money towards pitching. With an improved rotation and better outfield defense, they could make up for the lost offense — and then some. It’s not a strategy we’re used to the Yankees pursuing, but with their roster and payroll limitations, it might make the most sense this year.

They could go about this in a number of ways. They’d probably add Andy Pettitte and one other starting pitcher. The safe way is John Lackey, though there are a few teams who figure to bid on his services, and he won’t come cheap. The Yankees can find room for him if they think he’s their guy, but if not they could take a look at the riskier starters: Erik Bedard, Rich Harden, or Ben Sheets. Acquiring one of those pitchers would bump either Joba or Hughes to the bullpen, but they’d also be No. 6 on the pecking order. As we’ve learned over the years, there’s a 100 percent chance the Yankees will need more than five starters during the season.

A better outfield defense already exists on the roster. Going with Melky in left, Gardner in center, and Swisher in right would give the Yankees an above average defense in the outfield, combined with a hopefully average one in the infield. With a better pitching staff and outfield defense (and hopefully some improvement from A-Rod in the infield), the Yanks could save many of the runs they otherwise would have scored with better hitters in the outfield. In other words, they’ll be scoring fewer runs, but so will their opponents.

The 2009 Mariners showed that defense can win you ballgames. After a 100-loss season in 2008, the Mariners improved greatly in 2009 by focusing on defense. They led the AL in ERA by a decent margin, yet had just two pitchers with more than 100 IP — and one of them they traded at the deadline. A Cabrera-Gardner-Swisher outfield wouldn’t be as good as the Chavez-Gutierrez-Ichiro combination, but the Yankees also figure to have a better staff than the Mariners. Good pitchers and solid defense count for a lot in baseball.

As for the DH, the Yankees could choose to bring back Damon to fill in as DH and occasionally in the outfield, or they could bring back Matsui, who will presumably cost less. That adds yet another good hitter to an already good lineup. Even without Damon or Matsui, the Yanks have one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, one of the best 3-4 combos, and three other good, useful hitters. A team with that type of lineup, especially with Damon or Matsui at DH (making four other good, useful hitters), and a rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Sheets/Harden/Lackey/Bedard, Pettitte, and Chamberlain/Hughes can afford to carry Melky and Gardner hitting eighth and ninth.

There is more than one way to build a team. We’ve seen the Yankees build previous teams around power and OBP. The 2010 Yankees might be better off with an emphasis on pitching and defense. There are a few starters on the market who could strengthen the rotation, and the Yankees already have a good outfield defense under team control. Add a DH to that, and we could see a different, but still very successful, Yankees team in 2010.

Davidoff: Wang all but non-tendered

This video is from Taiwan. It shows Chien-Ming Wang, managing at a recent charity, getting on the mound to throw a few warm-up pitches. Wang is just a few months’ removed from surgery and only just begun to throw right-handed. So he takes a few to glove from the left slide before turning the ball back over to his pitcher. He looks like he’s having fun, but Wang is a long way away from the days of being an ace.

For Wang, this week might be the last of his Yankee career. December 12 — next Saturday — is the deadline for teams to decide whether or not to tender their pre-free agent players a contract for 2010, and Ken Davidoff tonight reports that Wang might as well begin shopping his services now. The Yankees, he says, “don’t see Wang as being able to help significantly next year,” and the pitcher would make too much via arbitration to make it worth while.

Davidoff also notes that the Dodgers will be interested once Wang is officially a free agent. In L.A. he would be reunited with Torre, a manager who trusted him with a Game 1 ALDS start as recently as 2007.

It’s amazing to think how quickly Wang declined. Even before his foot injury, he seemed to have lost that touch with his sinker, and since that fateful day in Houston, he has been a non-factor. Maybe he’ll come back to contribute again. I’ll root for him, wherever he might land.

Open Thread: The calm before the storm

The craziest week in the baseball offseason kicks off tomorrow in Indianapolis, and surely there will be rumors that make you say “I hope this isn’t true” and trades that finalized that will make you say “why did the Yankees get in on that?” Joe is en route to Peytonville right now, as we plan to bring you the best possible coverage we can.

If you need a refresher in the best ways to access RAB during the hectic week, read this. More importantly, review our Commenting Guidelines so that all of this week’s thread can be nice and entertaining and informative and not full of nonsense. I don’t know what the Yankees have planned for this offseason, but I can almost guarantee they’ll leave the winter meetings with at least one player on their roster that isn’t there right now. Any guesses?

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Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. Your late game tonight is the Cardinals and Vikings, while the Rangers face the Red Wings at home. Talk about whatever your heart desires, and go ahead and be cruel and vicious to each other tonight. Need a little change of pace.

Winter Ball Update

Make sure you join Andy in Sunny Daytona’s “Bring Melvin To America” Facebook group. If you don’t, the Asesino de los Sueños will hunt you down.

Dominican Winter League
Abe Almonte: 16 G, 5 for 16 (.313), 6 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 SB
Juan Miranda: 11 G, 17 for 40 (.425), 8 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 SB – Bryan Hoch has an update on his elbow injury
Eduardo Nunez: 2 G, 1 for 4 (.250), 1 R, 1 BB – hasn’t played in about two weeks
Wilkins Arias: 20 G, 14 IP, 16 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 14 K
Ivan Nova: 5 G, 4 GS, 25.2 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 17 K – he’s been shut down
Jon Ortiz: 6 G, 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Mexican Pacific League
Walt Ibarra: 27 G, 16 for 54 (.296), 9 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 SB
Ramiro Pena: 11 G, 13 for 39 (.333), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 SB – just showed up
Jorge Vazquez: 19 G, 18 for 70 (.257), 9 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 9 BB, 18 K – he’s got the POWAH

Puerto Rican League
Amaury Sanit: 6 IP, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

Venezuelan Winter League
Frankie Cervelli: 6 G, 3 for 14 (.214), 3 R, 1 2B, 3 BB, 4 K – didn’t play at all this past week
Reegie Corona: 31 G, 31 for 89 (.348), 23 R, 13 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 16 BB, 14 K, 2 SB, 1 CS – shades in Melky Cabrera in winter ball last year
Jesus Montero: 9 G, 3 for 26 (.115), 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K
Luis Nunez: 13 G, 11 for 40 (.275), 2 R, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K
Romulo Sanchez: 20 G, 24.2 IP, 16 H, 15 R, 12 ER, 16 BB, 35 K - love the K/9, but not the BB/9
Josh Schmidt: 12 G, 9 GS, 48 IP, 45 H, 26 R, 19 ER, 18 BB, 42 – he’s also hit six batters
Pat Venditte: 7 G, 9.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Eric Wordekemper: 5 G, 1 GS, 8.1 IP, 12 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 5BB, 3 K

Football Open Thread

The Giants don’t kick off against the Cowboys until 4:15pm ET, but there’s still plenty of early games to keep you occupied. Talk all you want about the football games here.