State Of The Yankees
First off, I offer my sincerest congratulations to the 2007 Boston Red Sox. And I’m serious. I never thought this would be the case, but I prefer Boston as World Series champions than the St. Louis Cardinals. Boston’s a legitimate winner. They won 96 games in the toughest league and in a tough division. They beat two teams that would have swept the Rockies. I think the league disparity is greater now than ever. A team that won 21 out of 22 games against National League opponents gets swept by the AL pennant winner. The Red Sox looked better in every facet of the game. They won blowouts (13-1, 10-5) and won the close games (4-3, 2-1). They swept at home and on the road. Had an ERA of 2.50 and hit .338 in the series. Even Eric Gagne threw a scoreless inning. So congratulations to them, and they’ll be my World Series favorite again next year no matter what transpires this off-season.
Now on to important things.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ DRAMA
Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract yesterday. This is devastating for the Yankees. There’s no way to replace the best player in the game, but the Yankees will have to try. I firmly believe that they will not enter any bidding wars over him. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that Rodriguez spurred the Yankees after the Yankees had done the same to Torre. But I don’t think so.
Rodriguez gave his reason for opting out as the uncertainty surrounding the contract statuses of Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. But if that was the case, why not wait the 10 days to see what transpired between those players and the Yankees. It’s hard for me to believe that the Yankees won’t offer Posada and Rivera the best deals.
No, the reason is simple. Alex Rodriguez (and agent Scott Boras) thinks he is bigger than the game. And it’s no coincidence that he announced his decision to opt out maybe an hour before the World Series was over. The news was reported during the game. We can now assume everything Alex Rodriguez says is a lie. New York never “felt like home” and it certainly wasn’t “where [he] wanted to be.” His multi-million dollar mansion feels like home and wherever the most money is is where he wants to be.
He’ll still get a mega-deal, biggest in sports. But the Yankees were supposedly working on a 5-year, $150 million extension. Added to his remaining contract, that’s 8-years, $231 million, nearly $29 million a season. He’s still the best talent in the game, but this quick opt-out shows he never had any intention of staying in New York and never had or will have the balls to play under pressure.
So where will he go? He’s still going to command the most money baseball has ever seen, so that severely limits his options. Both Los Angeles teams make sense and Boston has been mentioned as a possible destination. Both LA teams have gaping power holes and third base available. Boston has neither, but that wouldn’t stop Theo Epstein from continuing to dole out foolish contracts. I believe Alex Rodriguez is far too heavy and immobile to make a successful transition back to shortstop, so any team that courts him would need to do so as a third baseman.
I’ve also heard Florida and San Francisco as possible landing places for A-Rod. Personally, I’d think it’d be a perfect ending to have him end up on one of those last place teams. He’d probably love it in Florida where there’s 375 fans at his home games and the most prolific journalist there is the idiot Dan LeBetard. He’d probably pass 74 homers, especially facing the NL East teams five or six series each year.
I’ve also heard Chicago. That one would be sweet. The Cubs could celebrate 100 years of utter failure with the most prolific active player not to play in a World Series. Let’s face it. A huge spending spree last off-season (and an in-season resigning of one of the more overrated pitchers) won them a division, but no playoff games. They were swept by a better team that was swept by a better team that was swept by a better team.
My prediction? A-Rod will end up with a 12-year, $360 million deal with a National League team. A-Rod knows he has become public enemy number one in New York City. And if his response last year (as a Yankee) to New York fans was bad, imagine an A-Rod return to New York. He’ll go to a National League team and hope to avoid a trip to the Bronx.
Short-term, this kills the Yankees. A-Rod will collect his third MVP award and a Silver Slugger in the coming weeks. He was the one consistent bat that the Yankees counted on (April-September) this season. Possible replacements aren’t very attractive.
Wilson Betemit: Hit .224 with four homers after being traded from the Dodgers. Decent fielder and switch-hitter but hasn’t really ever been a full time player. Highly-touted prospect that hasn’t amounted to much.
Robinson Cano: Always easier to find a second baseman than a third baseman. Cano’s got the arm and hands to make the switch, but I like this only as a last resort.
Mike Lowell: I think Boston would be stupid to let this guy go, but if they do I’m all for bringing him back to the Yankees. People mock me for welcoming Boston players, but I don’t view Lowell as a typical Red Sox player. He’s too clean-cut and professional.
Joe Crede: The White Sox may not offer him a contract after his 2007 debacle, and the Yankees could probably get his relatively cheaply. He did hit 30 home runs just a year ago and averages .260/25/85 with a good glove. Not bad, but certainly not A-Rod numbers.
Garrett Atkins: Has matured nicely in Colorado. But that’s about it. His home/away splits are insane. Coors Field helps this guy exponentially, and his asking price is about as high as it’ll get now. I’d shy away from this guy.
Miguel Cabrera: The Fish could be enticed to trade their stud hitting machine. But he’s refused to stay in shape and the Yankees would end up with yet another DH before 2009 was done.
Adrian Beltre: No, he won’t put up his 2004 numbers anymore, but he’s steadily improved since a shaky AL debut season with Seattle. The Mariners could be looking to clear payroll and at $12 million, Beltre’s actually a bargain on this market.
Of those, I’d probably inquire how much Beltre would cost the Yankees farm system and if the Yankees could get Beltre for a B-level prospect plus the financial relieve, I’d go with him. I’d also watch the Mike Lowell developments out of Boston and the Joe Crede negotiations in Chicago. I’d stay away from Cabrera (too costly, lazy) Betemit (inconsistant) Cano (rather not make a switch) and Atkins (below average offensively away from Coors). Beltre and Lowell are probably my 1a and 1b, but I’d settle for Crede.
THE FREE-AGENT YANKEES
Andy Pettitte holds a $16 million player option for 2008. He was the Yankees most reliable pitcher in the second half and pitched a gem in the playoffs (damn bugs!). He’s already considered retirement once, and probably isn’t too thrilled with the recent Yankee turmoil.
Nate’s prediction: Pettitte exercises the option
Mariano Rivera is a free agent. He’s just off a big deal and looking for another one. He had 30 saves again this season and was dynamite in the playoffs. A couple of big innings led to a bloated ERA, but he had a decent season nonetheless. The Yankees need him more than just about anyone. They have an unsettled bullpen and Joba Chamberlain is moving to the starting rotation.
Nate’s Prediction: The Yankees make the most lucrative offer and Rivera returns on a 3-year/$40 million deal.
Jorge Posada finished his option year with his best year every. He hit .338, 50 points higher than his previous career best and over 60 points better than his career average. He hit 20 homers and drove in 90 runs behind a guy who drove in 154. He’s still a capable handler and game-caller and has a calming influence of young pitchers. He’s more likely to leave than Rivera, but I also doubt that.
Nate’s Prediction: The Yankees lock Posada up with a 3-year/$45 million deal with a mutual fourth year option.
Bobby Abreu: The Yankees hold a $16 million option on Abreu for 2007. They should definitely pick it up and keep him around. He’s a solid all around player, and there aren’t too many other options for the Yankees. Melky Cabrera will patrol centerfield and Matsui and Damon will keep leftfield warm while Giambi DHs. Unless one of the three is traded (which probably would be a good idea).
Nate’s Prediction: The Yankees exercise the option and bat him third.
Here’s a list of possible starting pitchers for the Yankees going into Spring Training.
Three of those guys haven’t thrown 75 innings in the Majors and one isn’t even assured to be back. So there’s a lot of questions within the rotation. All three young guys have the potential to be top of the rotation starters. But they’re young and shouldn’t have to be relied on. Mussina needs to be an effective starter and Wang needs to calm down and bury his sinker.
The fact that Rodriguez left $30 million on the Yankees table bodes well for the future of the Yankees pitching situation. That’s money the Yankees can spend on Johan Santana after the 2008 season and stick him on the mound for Opening Day 2009 (assuming he isn’t dealt and signed long-term somewhere). The Yankees aren’t going to cut payroll. That’s just not in the Steinbrenner plans. They have money and they will spend it, but here’s to hoping they spend it wisely this time around. Invest in up-and-coming pitchers and use the two first rounders you’ll get from A-Rod on absurd talent