How To Fix The Yankees

Just for the record, I’m rooting for the Dodgers. I just can’t root against Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. That, and I love Manny Ramirez. You can hate the way he plays the game all you want, but you can’t argue that he’s one of the best right-handed hitters ever to play the game. And he wins.

So how to fix the Yankees? Well, for starters, we have to know what went wrong.

1) Outside Joba and Moose, they had unreliable starting pitching.
2) Too much offensive falloff from 2007.
3) Defense sucked.

Those are pretty much the three reasons why the Yankees failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

UNRELIABLE STARTING PITCHING
There are two types of unreliable pitching and the Yankees had both of them in 2008.

1. Ineffective: Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes
2. Injured: Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Carl Pavano

Starting pitching definitely needs to be addressed this offseason. Only two pitchers have spots in the 5-man rotation right now. So the Yankees need to fill three spots, whether internally or through free agency.

1. CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia is a proven horse who eats innings and pitches well. It’ll probably be tough to woo him away from the weaker National League where he gets to take his hacks to the toughest division in baseball. He’s laid out the notion that he may want to stay closer to his California home, but money talks louder than most other factors and the Yankees need this guy to pair with a healthy Chien-Ming Wang.

2. Chien-Ming Wang
Wang suffered a freak foot injury in Houston and was done for the year. He’s expected to be fully healed and ready to take his place atop the Yankees rotation for 2009.

3. Mike Mussina
I think Moose had a lot of fun this year and would like to pitch again. And bluntly, the Yankees need him. He gave them 200+ innings of fantastic baseball this season and has obviously learned how to pitch with his diminished stuff. He needs to be one of the Yankees top priorities.

4. Andy Pettitte
Pettitte pitched much better than his 4.54 ERA indicated. A 3.74 FIP proves Pettitte was a victim of some bad luck and poor defense. But as the fourth starter, if he gives them another 200 decent innings on a slightly reduced contract, it’ll be perfect.

5. Joba Chamberlain
He needs to be a starter, and anyone that tells you differently is a liar. And none of this in-season transitioning. Chamberlain has been a starter at every level in his career except for about 40 innings as a Yankee. His innings still need to be somewhat limited, but you can do that without sticking him in the pen. Have him make 25 starts or so, skipping him every once and a while and don’t have him go over 6 innings. That’s 150 innings this year, which is right about where he should be. Bump him to about 175-180 in 2010 then turn him loose in 2011.

OFFENSIVE SHORTCOMINGS
The Yankees scored 178 less runs this year than they did last. I think that difference might have had something to do with the fact that they won 5 less games than a year ago. Let’s look at what happened and what they should do.

CATCHER
Obviously the big sting here was Jorge Posada basically being out or playing hurt the entire season. The Yankees don’t need his 2007 production (.338/.426/.543) but they do need a return to his career average production (.277/.380/.477). Jose Molina is a fine backup catcher and he may have hit the last home run at Yankee Stadium, but what he’s best at is making outs. Getting nearly nothing from the catcher production was a big reason why the Yankees offense dropped significntly.

FIRST BASE
Jason Giambi enjoyed a resurgent season of sorts, but remains one of the streakiest hitters in baseball. But he will be 38, is a defensive liability and has declining walk to strikeout ratio. With better options available, Giambi’s Yankee career is over and he’ll get a nice $5MM buyout of his contract. Mark Teixeira is a perfect fit for New York. He’s a talented switch hitter (career SLG% of .541 left-handed and right-handed) and is a two-time gold glove winner at first. He’s only 28 and will be a signability case based on his agent (Boras) but is exactly what the Yankees need.

SECOND BASE
No injury here, but significant production dropoff definitely hurt the Yankees. Cano has shown flashes of being an elite hitter and defender, but seemed to lose concentration throughout the season. Cano’s biggest kick-in-the-pants, Larry Bowa, followed Joe Torre to Atlanta and Cano tailed off. He must be a Democrat because once he got his brand new contract, he felt that he was entitled to the Yankees money, without really giving an effort. The Yankees need to find someone to get on his ass, early in the season, or preferably before, to make sure he stays on the top of his game.

SHORTSTOP
By all measures, Derek Jeter had a pretty good season. He hit .300 again and played above league average defense, even after reports of his premature defensive demise. He played a chunk of the season with a badly injured hand which hurt his offense output. A fully healthy Derek Jeter is still an offensive force and can be a premiere player in this league. Another return to career averages (.316/.387/.458) is needed.

THIRD BASE
It’s hard to say anything bad about having the best player in baseball at third base. He’s alternated MVP seasons with really good seasons since 2002. It was time for a really good season in 2008, so 2009 should be an MVP season. We’ll see. Having A-Rod is one of the easiest managing jobs in baseball. You stick him at third every night and pencil him into the four spot in the lineup. That will be the same in 2009.

LEFT FIELD
The Yankees started the season with Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui sharing time in left field. Matsui played the whole season hurt or on the disabled list and I doubt he sees much time there in 2009. That makes Johnny Damon the leftfielder, and I’m fine with that. Having him fully healthy and in shape in 2008, Damon had his best season as a Yankee. He’s really the only true leadoff hitter they have and his arm is adequate for a left fielder.

CENTER FIELD
Oy. I’ve never thought that Melky Cabrera would amount to even an adequate major league starter. But when he hit 291/.359/.505 in April with 6HR and 17RBI I was excited, but still cautious. And then he went on to hit .235/.280/.286 with 2HR and 20RBI the rest of the season. That’s awful. He should not be considered for anything more than a fourth outfielder role on the team next year. I’d like the Yankees to explore trade options, as the free agent CF pool is weak .. Mark Kotsay and Jim Edmonds are probably the best ones available. And they both suck. Brett Gardner showed a little late in the year and is a very intriguing stopgap until (if) Austin Jackson is ready (2010 at the earliest), but just like Melky, it’s not known if he’ll hit enough to hold onto the job.

RIGHT FIELD
Bobby Abreu had another nice season, hitting .297 with 20 homers and 100 RBI. But he was far and away the worst defensive right fielder in baseball, his walk rate continued to drop and the last two seasons have easily been the worst of his career. The Yankees acquired Xavier Nady not only for 2008, but for 2009 as well. He’s still a useful bat in the lineup and improves the defense, if only slightly.

DEFENSE SUCKED
Giambi was horrid in the field this year and Bobby Abreu was the worst right-fielder in the AL. Nady isn’t a huge improvement in right, but he is better than Abreu, and probably will set foot on the warning track at some point next season. Damon is probably also a slight upgrade over Nady in left and the centerfield defense will probably be above league-average whether it’s Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner or someone else they bring in. Mark Teixeira improves not only the first base defense, but also improves the rest of the infield.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Right now, without taking into account free agency signings and arbitration raises due to Wilson Betemit, Chien-Ming Wang, Xavier Nady and Brian Bruney:

C – Jorge Posada – $13.1MM
C – Jose Molina – $2MM
1B –
2B – Robinson Cano – $6MM
SS – Derek Jeter – $20MM
3B – Alex Rodriguez – $32MM
IF – Wilson Betemit – $1.165MM+
IF – Cody Ransom – $400K
LF – Johnny Damon – $13MM
CF – Brett Gardner – $400K
RF – Xavier Nady – $3.35MM+
OF – Melky Cabrera – $462K
DH – Hideki Matsui – $13MM

SP – Chien-Ming Wang – $4MM+
SP – Joba Chamberlain – $400K
SP – Phil Hughes – $407K
SP – Ian Kennedy – $400K
SP – Alfredo Aceves – $400K

RP – Mariano Rivera – $15MM
RP – Damaso Marte – $6MM club option ($250K buyout)
RP – Brian Bruney – $725K+
RP – Jose Veras – $400K
RP – Edwar Ramirez – $400K
RP – Phil Coke – $400K
RP – Mark Melancon – $400K

They’ll pay Jason Giambia ($5MM) and Carl Pavano ($1.95MM) to leave and are paying just over $1.5MM to Andrew Brackman and Juan Miranda to be on the 40-man roster. After taking those into consideration, the Yankees are looking at about $150MM. The Yankees say that they want to drop their payroll to the $180MM range, but they’ve said that for quite a few years now, so I expect the payroll to stay in the $200MM range.

Other than Wang and Chamberlain, nothing is set in the Yankees 2009 rotation. I advocate the signing of CC Sabathia, no matter the cost. Sabathia is a horse and will indirectly improve the bullpen by lessening their load. I’m skeptical of Burnett’s injury history regardless of what his agent says. He’s only averaged 148 innings a season since 2000, is 32 and his ERA+ was only 106. Which is just above average, but not by much. Derek Lowe will be looking for a multi-year deal and is 36. I wouldn’t mind him, but to round out the rotation I’d go hard after two mainstays .. Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. Moose was 7th in the American League in ERA+ and Andy Pettitte was victimized by bad defense and bad luck. If Moose and Andy would sign for one-year (maybe with a vesting option) how do the Yankees NOT do that? It gives them two pretty good pitchers and future payroll flexibility.

C – Jorge Posada – $13.1MM
C – Jose Molina – $2MM
1B – Mark Teixeira – $21MM
2B – Robinson Cano – $6MM
SS – Derek Jeter – $20MM
3B – Alex Rodriguez – $32MM
IF – Wilson Betemit – $1.165MM+
IF – Cody Ransom – $400K
LF – Johnny Damon – $13MM
CF – Brett Gardner – $400K
RF – Xavier Nady – $3.35MM+
OF – Melky Cabrera – $462K
DH – Hideki Matsui – $13MM

SP – CC Sabathia – $23MM
SP – Chien-Ming Wang – $4MM
SP – Mike Mussina- $12MM
SP – Andy Pettitte – $9MM
SP – Joba Chamberlain – $400K

RP – Mariano Rivera – $15MM
RP – Damaso Marte – $6MM
RP – Brian Bruney – $800K
RP – Jose Veras – $400K
RP – Edwar Ramirez – $400K
RP – Phil Coke – $400K
RP – Mark Melancon – $400K

Those three signings put the payroll at a cool $206MM. Most of the Yankees available money will be spent on pitching, but I’d rather see 2 pitchers and Teixeira than three pitchers. The Yankees will have their hands full wooing free agents to New York, but money speaks louder than most anything else, and the Yankees certainly have plenty of that.

Filling out the rotation with four 200-inning guys will allow Joba Chamberlain to slot into the fifth spot, occasionally skipping a start to limit his innings

Advertisements

Posted on October 14, 2008, in Sports and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: