In a statement following the Yankees’ World Series clinching victory, in classic Steinbrenner fashion, The Boss said simply, “The quest for Number 28 begins.”
Part fantasy sports, part spending spree, and part defense against guilt-trips, welcome to the Yankees Offseason.
There are two themes in particular the Bronx Bombers should highlight as they look to improve their championship squad: youth, and stretching their dollar (even if they still immensely outspend the rest of the league).
Here are “East Coast Bias’” Top Ten Tips for the Yanks to win again in 2010 and beyond:
1. Let Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon walk. I know- this one hurts. Although Hideki was the hero of the postseason, his production throughout the year was inconsistent, and has been marred by knee problems for years. As Girardi’s managing decisions in the postseason reveal, Hideki is unable to play even one out in the outfield. The last thing this team needs is a logjam at DH when several of its veterans could use periodic half days off throughout the year. Damon had a solid offensive season, but is probably the worst defensive outfielder in all of baseball. Letting these two big contract guys walk will take $26 million off the books. That money could be used better elsewhere.
2. Sign Matt Holliday. Just like Teixiera and CC last year, this is a big money contract decision that makes a lot of sense. After seeing how A-Rod was treated by opposing pitchers in the postseason, it’s obvious that the Yankees lack legit protection behind Tex and Rodriguez. If Holliday can back up Pujols, he can back up anyone. His play in and against the AL is concerning, but so is every Cano at-bat and Posada’s age. Plus, Holliday is a stellar defender, something the Yankees need. You don’t hire Scott Boras as an agent if you don’t want the most money possible; unless the Yankees make another big-time outfield acquisition, I bet my spring semester tuition Holliday is roaming leftfield in the Bronx in 2010.
3. Get Andy to resign. He’s still got the stuff to be a solid mid to back-end of the rotation pitcher, and is always a fan-favorite.
4. Install Posada as the starting DH. The time has come- Jorge Posada simply can’t catch anymore. His arm strength has been declining precipitously and he provides more than enough offensive firepower out of the designated hitter spot on a team that has no shortage of bats.
5. Resign Molina to start at catcher. Molina has handled the Yankees pitching staff brilliantly and is superb defensively. With Cervelli backing-up and Posada playing a game behind the plate every now and again, Molina will be more than sufficient as the starting catcher.
6. Keep Joba as a starter. Although I’m sure many New York fans will disagree with this move, it’s inevitable. The Yankees front-office firmly believes that Chamberlain is a future front-of-the-rotation pitcher, and has committed themselves to his progress. Although Joba struggled towards the end of the season that was only after Girardi started fidgeting with his innings total and days off. Keep in mind that Chamberlain was rushed through the minors and didn’t have as much time to grow and improve as most young pitchers do. Just shy of 160 innings this past season, Joba will be ready to become a full-fledged starter in 2010 with no such innings limitation.
7. Keep Hughes in the bullpen. This is perhaps even more controversial than the Joba Rules, but I believe has even clearer reasoning. While Joba has proven that he has four, legitimate, major league pitches (which suggests his potential as a starter), Hughes has only ever thrown two pitches with consistent success in the majors- his fastball and curveball. While both pitchers have proven themselves to have some serious upside as relief pitchers, it’s not as clear that Hughes has as much potential as a starter. I would like to see what he can do in the bullpen for a full season; in my humble opinion, he has closer written all over him.
8. Sign a closer. Do not fret loyal Yankee fans; this doesn’t mean someone’s coming in to take Mariano, or even Hughes’ spot in the bullpen. In today’s modern game however, having a deep bullpen that can shut down a game in the 7th inning is a crucial advantage. In addition, relative to how much they can help a team produce wins, relief pitchers can come at a pretty good value. The Yankees should look to either Rafael Soriano or Jose Valverde, both free agents.
9. Allow Alfredo Aceves and Ian Kennedy to contend for the starting rotation. Ace was too important in the bullpen to indulge in this experiment mid-season, but has shown Joe Girardi some serious potential. Ian Kennedy had all the potential in the world two years ago, but after a poor first visit to the majors and some injury problems, he’s all but disappeared. Now that he’s healthy, Kennedy has impressed in his rehab assignments and reinstallation in the Yankees minor league system. Both of these guys could provide some great upside as a fifth starter.
10. Give Wang a chance. It’s easy to allow frustration and a gluttony of potential back-end of the rotation starters to cloud Brian Cashman’s mind and convince him to just let Wang become someone else’s training room problem. Don’t. Please. It’s only a matter of time before a pitcher as fundamentally-sound as Wang returns to his 19-win form, and it’s going to be no fun when the Yankees themselves are going to have to face that sinker. It’s worth the wait.