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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What to do this Yankee Offseason - Q&A

In a fair and just world, I'd be the Yankees General Manager. However, it's my lot in life to be a Software Architect and I'm forced to leave that to the capable hands of Cashmoney.

But, if given the task of preparing the 2008 Yankees, WWFD? (bracelets soon to be available at the Fridge Marketplace) Well, here goes, Q&A Style.

Q: Whither Joe Torre?
A: Hardest question first. I'm a huge critic of "Sleepy Joe/Green Tea Joe/For the Love of God stop picking your nose on TV Joe". It's been my adamant position that his baseball strategy acumen places him as at best average amongst his managerial peers. However, I must acknowledge the following. He is exceptional in handling the mildy retarded and constantly irritable NY Media. He is exceptional in managing the diverse personalities of a clubhouse. In fact, the only players who've talked bad about him in the 12 years he's been the Yankee manager were Chad Curtis and Gary Sheffield, both of whom are clinically insane. Addditionally, he did a pretty darn good job handling the team over a difficult season where one third of the games were started by rookies. Several key players returns hinge in part on his return. Lastly, there's the legitimate question of where the available upgrade is? It's hard to see. So... as much as it will pain me to say so.... Bring back Joe Torre.

Q: What should be the prevailing vision of the offseason?
A: Continue rebuilding around the core of All-Stars. Lost in the tearful dismay over the Yankees loss is that they in large part rebuilt on the fly and those parts that they introduced to the team were mostly young and are likely to get even better. Each player should be evaluated into these. Keep players who are approaching or in their primes. If they are in their primes, be sure you have a reasonable window of prime performance left. If you don't fall into one of those categories, sayonara. The first phase of rebuilding is seeing what you have in the young guys. The second phase is placing those young guys in important roles. It is time to be cutthroat with some of the veterans. Lets' apply this approach on a case-by-case basis.
Q: What are the weaknesses of the team?
A: In order:
1) Need younger arms in the rotation
2) power arms in the pen
3) Right-handed hitting

Q: What to do with A-Rod?
A: Duh! You try and keep him. He's the best player in baseball and your team won't be as good without him. It's that simple. Whatever his way overrated faults may be, he's a dude who works incredibly hard, plays hard every day and if anything wants to win TOO much. Hopefully, we can extend him, thereby keeping the 10 million that Texas pays each year to be rid of him. However, it's not up to the Yanks completely. Should he leave, swing a deal for a big first baseman and play Betemit at third.

Q: Who's under contract and not going anywhere?
A: Jeter, Melky, Cano, Wang, Joba, Hughes, Vizcaino, Farnsworth, Mientkiewicz, Betemit. Jeter is the captain, the face of the Franchise and is entering the Cal Ripken at the end of his career phase where his diminishing range is becoming an issue. Still, #2 will be the SS. Melky is the starting CF. Cano is the best second baseman in the AL. Minky is relatively cheap and keeps A-Rod happy. I'll address the pitching in a minute.

Q: Who should be sent to a condo next to Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld in Del Boca Vista?
A: Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. Clemens is a no-brainer as his obscene contract, bad hamstrings, injured elbow and declining velocity should mean the end for the Rocket. The Yanks are under no obligation to re-sign him and I say let someone else pony the $$$ if he dusts off the ol' jock strap again in '08. Moose is a different situation. He's under contract of increasing cost with decreasing skill. When I close my eyes I see the word "buyout". Give him half the 12 we owe and he can go off and do whatever really smart guys from Stanford with 85 MPH fastballs do.

Q: Who should we simply get rid of?
A: Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano. Pavano is obviously a blight on humanity. If you can get anyone to take anything for him, fine. Giambi is in the last year of a guaranteed contract and has a 5 million buck buyout in 2009. That's 26 million. I say pay 13 of that and trade him to someone else. He simply is too one dimensional at this point in his career. He can't do anything but take walks and hit home runs. His defense and base running are pathetic. He's not the hitter he was. Maybe Houston would take him to play first? Maybe back in the bay area to fill up some of the gap from Bonds? I don't know, but if the Yanks take half the salary, someone will want him.

Q: Who's options should we pick up?
A: Bobby Abreu. He's not the most exciting player out there. He isn't a leader. But he is a grinder and was one of the few Yanks who didn't look lost against the Indians. He's the ideal hitter between Jeter and A-Rod. He's merely OK in the OF, but RF in Yankee Stadium is pretty easy to play. He seems to be well liked and a good teammate.

Q: Who's gonna opt out that we should resign?
A: Other than the aforementioned A-Rod, who may want to opt out, but I think the Yankees should extend, Andy Pettitte! He gave himself the out for not wanting to stay in NY. But he looks as strong and gutty as ever. Bring him back and give him a raise on a 2 year, 30 mill deal. It's a big hole in the staff in terms of innings and leadership if he opts out. We gotta make this happen.

Q: Who's a free agent that we absolutely NEED to resign?
A: Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada. Mo is getting up there. He's clearly not as dominant as he was, but he's still incredibly effective. He's publically said he wants to pitch until the new Yankee Stadium opens and that tells me a 2 year - 32 million deal is open to him. Posada is 35 and had a career year. The chances he'll repeat that are almost nil. But, he's still a very dangerous hitter, a solid defender and the fact is there is no one on the FA market or in the Yanks system to replace him. Pudge just got his option picked up in Detroit for 13 mill. That means Posada is worth at least 16 mill. 2 years, 32 mill.

Q: Who should be starting next year?
A: The rotation should be as follows, assuming the above moves: Wang, Pettite, Hughes, Joba, Ian Kennedy/Horne/Igawa/FA. Hughes and Joba showed in the Cleveland series that they are the Yankees best pitchers. Both should start. Some will say that Joba should stay in the pen, but to me, Sunday's game showed the value of starting pitching. We need to give Joba the opportunity to grow into the ace-level starter he has the ability to be. Hughes showed how much better he is with his legs under him now that he's completely recovered from the hamstring tear. Ian Kennedy looked very promising, but it's early to count on him to be a solid ML starter. He could be, but you have to plan for the case that he isn't. In the Yankees case, I recommend leaning on the ML depth with guys like Alan Horne, T-Clipp and Kei Igawa (I know, he's pretty bad) or potentially kicking the tires on a mid-level FA.

To me, the main difference between the Yankees and the Indians wasn't the bats, per se, as much as it was the difference between the "live" arms of the Indians and the "old" arms of the Yanks. The Yanks bats were dead because the the Indians were throwing gas (except for Byrd, who confounds with average stuff). The yanks, meanwhile, only seemed to pitch well when their young heat throwers were out there - Hughes and Joba. That's the model the Yanks need to continue to adopt as they have throughout the minors.

Alan Horne fits this mold as a hard throwing righty. He could be the mystery 5th starter if Kennedy needs more seasoning. His ceiling is nearly as high.

Q: What to do with the bullpen?
A: Re-sign Mariano. This is a must. After that, you'll need to fill out the space around the over-used Vizcaino and the fragile Farnsworth with a few younger power arms. Ohlendorf needs a shot. If Steven White, Kevin Whelan, Steven Jackson and others rock in the Arizona Fall League, they should get a shot. But, kick the tires on any available relievers. I also think there are a few Japanese closer types available. Those guys have had a very good track record of adjusting to the majors, moreso than starters (Saito, Otsuka, Okajima, etc). Bring in a real lefty if you can.

There are also three minor leaugers, all coming off of TJ surgery that can have a bit of a "joba-lite" effect on the bullpen. JB Cox, Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez. All of them, especially Sanchez, could be impact arms later in the season.

Q: What about Matsui?
A: DH. The dude can still hit but he can't run and he was always a bit of an adventure out there. If you're convinced that his declining speed will be better with an offseason of rest on his knee, than he is passable in left field.

Q: Johnny Damon?
A: Trade him. I like the dude, and he's been a solid citizen. But his numbers are diminishing and his defense is pretty sketchy, with the exception of his speed. He's very tradeable and doesn't have a no-trade. Maybe to SD for bullpen help?

Q: Any other outfielders?
A: This lineup needs to be more right handed. Or, we could go a totally different direction and play Brett Gardner in Left and Melky in center. Gardner is basically Juan Pierre with walks and would add a tremendous amount of speed and OF defense to the team.

Q: How about first base? You said to ditch Giambi.
A: No Minkie. No Phillips. Go out and get a plug in the middle of the lineup right handed hitting first baseman. Paul Konerko type. The team was destroyed by lefties all year and were exposed by Sabathia and Perez in the ALDS.

So, after all that. What would the roster look like?

C: Posada (+4 mill to payroll)
1B: RH power hitter (about 13 million more to payroll)
2B: Cano - no change
SS: Jeter - no change
3B: A-Rod (+8 to payroll)
LF: Brett Gardner (-13 Mill from payroll)
CF: Melky (no change)
RF: Abreu (+ 2 mill)
DH: Matsui (no change)
Bench: A. Gonzalez, Minkie, Betemit, Shelley Duncan
SP1: Wang (no change)
SP2: Pettite (+3 Mill to payroll)
SP3: Phil Hughes
SP4: Joba Chamberlain
SP5: Kennedy/Igawa/Horne/TBD (-35 million from payroll)
CL: Mo Rivera
Pen: Ohlendorf, Farnsworth, Vizcaino, New 8th inning guy, New Lefty

That's the 25 Man roster. 22 million trimmed from the payroll, too. That's how I'd build the team. What do you think?