November 2, 2010

Ten Tips for the Yankees’ Offseason

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For Yankee fans, the culmination of each unsuccessful season (that is, not winning a championship) initiates an unfortunately familiar process of grief. Once denying that they could have possibly lost a playoff series, unleashing anger on a roster of highly-paid superstars, pleading with the Steinbrenners to invest in time-travel technology and falling into deep a depression of disappointment, does emerge the final stage: acceptance. Not all moves made in the previous offseason were wise, players underperformed, and the team was ill-prepared for the playoffs.With that said, East Coast Bias presents its second annual “Top Ten Tips for the Yanks Offseason.”1. Re-sign Jeter and Rivera for whatever it takes. An absolute, and largely undisputed, must. At this point, the Yankee management and fan base alike have accepted the inevitable inflated 2011 salaries of their two veteran leaders, yet allowing either to finish their careers anywhere else is inexcusable.2. Install Gardner as the leadoff hitter. Brett has a high on-base percentage, excellent plate discipline, and is one of the league’s best base stealers. Along with Jeter receiving a new contract, he should also be given a new understanding of his role on the team. After so many years of consistent excellence, Jeter is simply not the hitter he used to be, and certainly not a suitable leadoff man for a team aiming to win a championship. Now that Joe Girardi has won a championship as a manager and has a new contract of his own, he should have the requisite authority and backing to make a call like this.3. Don’t sign Cliff Lee. Does Cliff Lee make this Yankee team better? Of course. Is he worth the ludicrous contract his agent will demand and the market will ultimately produce? No. At 32, Cliff Lee is about to enter the slow decline of a power pitcher’s career, and one must wonder how long he can maintain his 210-plus innings-pitched pace. Although it has been slightly deflated by the Giants, the aura of playoff invincibility that surrounds Lee will artificially inflate his price. Let someone else give him CC-like money and be disappointed after two years.4. and 5. Give Rafael Soriano or Scott Downs closer-like money to pitch the eighth inning; let Kerry Wood walk and become a closer elsewhere. Wood’s performance towards the end of the season will likely be sufficient for a team to roll the dice and give him a multi-year contract as a closer. While the Yankees were fortunate to have picked him up, one must wonder when the house of cards is going to come down. With his history of injury and inconsistency, does Wood really inspire the trust necessary to receive big money? Probably not. Soriano and Downs on the other hand have both been consistent for years, had excellent seasons in 2010 and could be closers on most any other team. It might be worth overpaying to have a lock-down eighth inning in front of Mo.6. Hold on to Joba. Although Joba is something between a work in progress and sinking ship, the truth is that he likely will have very little value on the trade market. At this point, his ceiling is far higher than what the Yankees might hope to get for him in a trade, and their best hope might simply to be to hold on to him and just hope at some point he and the coaching staff figure it out. Joba certainly shouldn’t be guaranteed any specific role on the team, but trading him away just may not make much sense.7. Recruit an excellent new pitching coach. Firing Dave Eiland may have been the first big mistake of the offseason, but what’s done is done and perhaps no one will ever really know the whole story about the dispute between him and Girardi. In a sport where managers are undoubtedly highly overpaid, intelligent and respected coaches such as Eiland and current Yankees hitting instructor Kevin Long can bring some real value to a club. It’ll be crucial that the team brings in a new pitching coach that will be able to handle the high expectations and plethora of problems with the staff. Former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone is one name that has already been floated around.8. Don’t sign Carl Crawford. Unlike Cliff Lee, it’s unclear how much value this big ticket free agent would even bring to the Yankees, serving basically as just a luxury. With Curtis Granderson unlikely to be moved, Crawford in pinstripes would primarily be competing with Gardner for playing time. This past season, the two years-younger Gardner had a higher on-base percentage and the same number of steals as Crawford. Gardner also drew more walks and struck out less. Is Brett Gardner plus 15 more homeruns worth all that money for all those years? Nope.9. and 10. Sign Jayson Werth; make Swisher the starting DH. While Werth has long been on the Yankees radar, the DH issue is contentious, as there is a distinct contingency of the Yankee’s front office (as well as the fan base) who believe the DH role is best utilized as a rotational half-day off for the veteran players. Since Nick Johnson went down, this has been primarily what the spot has been used for, and in all likelihood such will be the case next season. That said, Werth brings excellent value as an RBI guy. The right fielder hits for both average and power, and could do some serious mashing in Yankee Stadium. This season, he was in the top ten in the NL in runs, on-base plus slugging and walks. Additionally, it’s unclear why a permanent spot in the lineup for “resting” is truly needed. Swisher and Teixeira are both still fairly young, Jeter is basically never injured (knock on wood) and Posada will likely be playing infrequently not because of needed rest, but simply because of a lack of defensive competency and offensive value. A roster spot just so A-Rod can DH every tenth day? They don’t pay him the big bucks for that.

Original Author: Holden Steinhauer