Thursday, October 16, 2008

Building The Yankees

The Yankees had the highest payroll in the MLB last season but still managed to come in third place in the AL East, eaking their streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances. The Yankees epitomize the changes baseball's going through right now. The Yankees for many years have based their talent pool around old free agents who had previously led them to World Series titles. In baseball today if you rely on free agents you will get crushed. The MLB is slowly slipping away from free agents and drifting towards player development. The Yankees have still been acquiring these types old expensive players(Ivan Rodriguez)that are basically useless, and who have led to their team's demise, while taking many steps forward in player development the Yankees still like to lean on these old expensive guys for reinforcements.  This causes teams to be thus losing the easiest way of acquiring talent, a.k.a. bringing up players from the minor leagues.  The one part that the Yankees got down right is stressing OBP.  On-Base Percentage is a key component of having success in the regular season.  If you look at all their hand selected, old free agents signees they all at least get on base at an extremely high rates. So if you'd like to say that the Yankees are flawed go ahead but just remember that the Yankees one hidden talent before the start of the season, starting pitching, took hits to all its top three members; Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes who all succumbed to injuries over the course of the season. 

The Yankees(Hank and Hal Steinbrenner) have to learn that signing free agents doesn't work and that they now have to let Brian Cashmen do his job without them butting in. In my opinion the Yankees don't need much work at all but I'm almost positive that the Yankees will at least sign two big name, expensive free agents to bad contracts. The free agents that the Yankees already dished their cash out to aren't worth trading for three reasons: a)no one will take on their tremendous salaries, b)they are producing and getting on-base so you might as well keep them and c)for lack of better options to play at their positions. So without further ado your 2009 New York Yankees(if I was at the helm):

Part I - Impending Free Agents                                            
Yankees have quite a few impending free agents but most of them are expensive, old and have replacements waiting in the wings.  I would decline Jason Giambi's $22MM option and instead pay him his $5MM buyout because Jorge Posada will surely take over first base for he can no longer catch and he is under contract.  I would also decline Carl Pavano's $13MM option and pay him his $1.95MM buyout(that's a given).  Bobby Abreu is a free agent and will command at least a three year deal, since the Yankees have many outfielders they are better off letting him go and using the money elsewhere.  Offering him arbitration is the smartest plan because he wants a long term contract, so if you offer him arbitration and he signs with another team the Yankees pick up a couple draft picks and if he accepts arbitration you get a .380 OBP player for around $16MM for one year, a true bargain. Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina are both free agents and are both contemplating retirement. I believe one of them would accept a one year contract for around $10-12MM with a cheaper club option for a second year, I would bring back one of the two to be the fourth starter, but wouldn't push it because the Yankees have many other alternatives for the last two spots in the rotation(Alfredo Aceves, Darrell Rasner, Ian Kennedy, etc.).  Even though Damaso Marte was roughed up in his two months as a Yankee I believe he'll return to form in 2009, his option is an easy choice at $6MM especially after shedding most of the other free agent's salaries.  So I would let Jason Giambi, one of Pettitte/Mussina(or both), Pavano and Ivan Rodriguez go while offering arbitration to Bobby Abreu and bringing back one of Pettitte/Mussina(or neither) and Marte.

Part II - Free Agent Market                                                                                                        Free agents are overpriced and old.  The Yankees don't really need help at any of the positions with top free agents 1B(Teixeira), LF(Manny) and SP(Sabathia/Burnett).  They're also very deep in the bullpen(K-Rod) so they could look to add a couple cheap high ceiling guys for the bench like the Rays did(Hinske, Pena) and he all know how that turned out(cough, World Series, cough). The Yankees should instead invest their money in long-term contracts for Joba, Hughes, Wang and others down the road(Austin Jackson a top 50 prospect who plays CF). They could also use the extra money to further develop their international and amateur scouting along with their player development. 

Part III - Trades                                                                                 
What the Yankees should do is trade Derek Jeter.  You can call me crazy but if you look at his stats from the past few years he's cleary been declining and has never in his career played defense well.  The best part of trading Derek Jeter is that the Yankees already have a superior and younger SS on their 25-man roster in A-Rod.  Now, who would take on Jeter and his enormous ego?  The Dodgers.  The Dodgers are losing both their starting SS(Rafael Furcal) and their icon(Manny Ramirez) to free agency this offseason and this trade would solve both problems for them, plus Joe Torre  is the manager of the Dodgers meaning that if Jeter would hit the trade market he would demand the Dodgers to go all in, in order to acquire DJ.  The Dodgers are said to be not overly enamored with his[Russell Martin's] makeup".  The Yankees desperately need a young catcher who can take control of a game(on the pitching side) and help out his pitchers, along with hitting very well, this my friends is Russell Martin.  Him alone isn't enough so I would demand James McDonald(a Dodgers major league ready, top pitching prospect) and Blake Dewitt(the Dodgers future 2B but can play all over). In order to settle the money matters the Yankees would also be getting Andruw Jones and his albatross contract.  Andruw Jones would be a nice pickup for the Yankees because he could revive his career by playing for a perennial contender, playing in a hitters park and of course wearing pinstripes.  This gives the Yankees a one year bridge in CF until their top prospect Austin Jackson is ready to roam centerfield in the new Yankee Stadium.  This move doesn't only free up $23MM(Jeter's owed $41MM over '09-'10 minus Jones' $18MM one year commitment) but also fills in most of the team's holes with young talent.

Part IV - Overview                                                                                                                     The Yankees have almost every spot up for grabs in their bullpen along with the 5th starter spot.  I would set up competitions for each of these spots along with a few others(bench spots) heading into spring training and wait and see which players come out victorious; the journeymen, the rookies or the veterans.  This is what the Yankees '09 roster should look like: 

C: Russell Martin
1B: Jorge Posada
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Blake DeWitt(If he can’t handle the offensive production for a 3B, him and A-Rod could flip-flop)
SS: Alex Rodriguez
LF: Johnny Damon
CF: Andruw Jones
RF: Xavier Nady
DH: Hideki Matsui
C: Chad Moeller(not really needed, Russell Martin only misses a game or two per season)
IF: C.J. Henry/Cody Ranson(could use a new backup IFer)
1B/LF: Shelley Duncan
OF: Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner(I would start Melky out in AAA to refine his swing)

SP: Chien-Ming Wang
SP: Joba Chamberlain
SP: Phil Hughes  
SP: Andy Pettitte/Mike Mussina(If both leave McDonald becomes the #4)                          
SP: James McDonald(frontrunner)/Darrell Rasner/Ian Kennedy/Alfredo Aceves                      
CL:Mariano Rivera                                                                                                                        
LOOGY: Damaso Marte                       
The other 5 spots would be an open competition between a number of talented pitchers and I'll be listing them from "best to worst":                                                                                                  
Darrell Rasner, Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney, Alfredo Aceves, Dan Giese, Phil Coke and Humberto Sanchez.

This is how the Yankees roster would look if I were in charge.  To bad I'm not(it would be a really hard job for me).  I have to say, the Yankees are based around young pitching and OBP which is what teams need to reach the playoffs(look at the Boston Red Sox).  If Wang, Hughes and Joba didn't all get injured last season we might've been seeing a Yankees-Phillies World Series, no just kidding, but they would've been much better with those three atop their rotation.  Anyways all this virtually has 0% chance of happening and instead the Yankees will probably sign CC Sabathia and Teixeira to monstrous contracts and in 2018 they'll come crying to me asking for help because they'll be stuck paying two 40 year olds $25MM a year.

Editor's Note: Sorry about the messed up format, I was experiencing some technical difficulties that have now hopefully been resolved(these problems always start from having a crappy technician). Not to mention that I'm my own technician.