Yes, Brian, I want to believe…
“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”
I wish that I could say that was my quote, but unfortunately, I am not feeling as optimistic as GM Brian Cashman who spoke those words.
With the imminent departure of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda, combined with another year of age on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the future is not looking so rosy at the moment. For a team that needs to upgrade its rotation, losing Kuroda would clearly be a setback. I remain hopeful that the team will re-sign him to a one year deal since he appears willing to accept a short-term contract and all signs indicated he enjoyed his time in New York. I really do not expect the Yankees to re-sign either Swisher or Soriano. It’s unfortunate as I’ve appreciated the positive impact that Swisher’s personality had on the Yankees’ “corporate” clubhouse culture. As Soriano, the excessively fat contract for a set up guy paid dividends when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and he superbly stepped in to give the Yankees a top closer as a brief trial with David Robertson.
If the Yankees could sign Joaquim Soria to a set up role, I do think it would help neutralize the loss of Soriano. There is also the possibility that reliever David Aardsma could move into the role, along with Robertson, if he successfully makes it back from his injury.
Replacing Swisher’s bat will be the tougher challenge. No offense against Torii Hunter, but signing him to be the new right fielder does not make me excited. I do like the talk of moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left. Hopefully, the Yankees can bring Ichiro Suzuki back for another year. I am not sure what the best answer is for right. The best options are only available through trade.
I read this morning that the Boston Red Sox had signed Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher David Ross, whom the Yankees liked. I am surprised Atlanta let him get away given the health of starter Brian McCann, but it’s disappointing to see the Red Sox snatch away a player that could have helped the Yankees.
With a team that is trying so hard to reduce payroll by 2014 and one that devotes so much salary space to decreasingly productive guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, I just don’t see Brian Cashman being successful playing “Moneyball”. When you consider how many dollars the Yanks have committed to A-Rod and his drain on the roster, it would appear to me that the team has less dollars to play with than any of their big city rivals if the end game is to avoid luxury tax and penalties in 2014.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been so appreciative of players like Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte. But the fact remains that they will be another year older in 2013 and at some point, they will begin to break down. There doesn’t seem to be any high level prospects ready to step into their shoes. I wish there was a way the team could move A-Rod and his albatross contract but that’s unlikely to happen.
I remain hopeful that Brian Cashman is able to make a move this winter to improve the team. If the team stays status quo or struggles to replace those they will lose, I do not see the Yankees finishing any higher than third in the AL East next season. But, of course, if Hal Steinbrenner lets Cash make the moves necessary to position the team for 2013, then they’ll be in the thick of the pack at the top of the division.
Tino, Tino, Tino!…
I am happy to see Tino Martinez become hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. It is bittersweet to see him leave the Yankees organization, but much easier to see him go to his home state as opposed to being the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. The latter was a real possibility as the Sox had gotten permission to talk to Martinez, but fortunately, he opted to go help Mike Redmond turn around the Marlins. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite NL team in recent years due to manager Don Mattingly. I enjoy seeing my favorites do well, even if they can’t do it in the Yankees organization. Another example would be San Francisco Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, fresh off his second World Series championship in three years. Tino is certainly in the same class with those guys, and will always be someone that I will root for. That’s why watching him go to Boston would have been so difficult.
Speaking of hitting coaches, I am hopeful that manager “wannabe” Jason Giambi decides to take the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies. Maybe he is not ready to hang up his bat just yet, but I think he would be a very positive addition to Walt Weiss’s staff and it would put him on the path of eventually reaching his goal to be a manager. While I was surprised to see the Rockies go with Weiss as manager over Matt Williams, I recognize that Weiss knows the Rockies organization and they know him. If he surrounds himself with the right coaching staff, I think Weiss can be highly successful in Colorado.
The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…
Regressing back to the Dodgers but staying on the theme of hitting coaches, I was mildly surprised by Mark McGwire’s decision to move from the Cardinals to the Dodgers. I know that McGwire is a Southern CA guy, but still, the Cardinals were his organization. Maybe that’s why it is best to move to another organization so that your legacy as a player is the primary association. Granted, McGwire does not have the untarnished reputation like Mattingly had in New York, but hopefully it works out for Big Mac. Performance-enhancing drugs or not, the guy knows how to hit.
It’s funny, particularly given my long history of being a Yankees fan, but I am a little put off by the free spending ways of the new Dodgers ownership group. While I believe that you have to spend to put a quality team on the field, spending frivolously seems excessive. For the Yankees, I only need to use A-Rod as the example. Over $30 million in one season devoted to a player whose skills are rapidly eroding. $30 million would go a long way toward bringing in multiple quality…and productive…players. The Dodgers should no qualms about picking up the contracts of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford when it remains to be seen if they can rise to the current level of their contracts. It looks like high stakes poker to me with much potential for disaster.
In a couple of weeks, the Hot Stove League should start heating up and it will be interesting to see what form this off-season takes. I am cautiously optimistic, but understand that it’s very possible the Yanks go into next season hoping some young guys from the farm system are ready to take it to the next level. I guess I now know what it’s like to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals…
Quick, put together the 2013 World Champions…
So, thanks to the San Francisco Giants’ quick disposition of the Detroit Tigers, the infamous Hot Stove League has begun. For the blueprint, the Yankees should take notice of the Giants’ pitching-first philosophy. You can deal with a lot of spare parts on defense when you can put a stud on the mound. Score enough runs to win in the regular season, and then shut down the opposition in the post-season.
It doesn’t matter the Giants had to dig out of some incredible holes to win. They did want the Yankees couldn’t do…win with your backs to the wall.
Today, the reality of the off-season began when closer Rafael Soriano opted out of his contract and backup third base Casey McGehee chose free agency. Granted, Soriano is the only vital piece of the equation but it is no sure thing the Yankees can re-sign Soriano. With Mariano Rivera teetering on the brink of retirement, it would leave David Robertson as the closer. Nothing against Roberson but he didn’t hold up too well in the role when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season this past year. Robertson is probably better suited for his set up role. Going long term (i.e., four years) for Soriano is insanity, so if the Yankees cannot re-sign Soriano on a two-year deal, they do need to look elsewhere for a replacement. Maybe Joakim Soria is the right answer on a short term deal.
As for third base, the Yankees need to upgrade the back up position. I like Eric Chavez, but I’d really prefer someone who could take the position for extended periods if necessary. At this point, Chavez is no more than a spot starter. Exposed to more play, he is an excessive health risk.
While the Yankees accepted their options for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, the reality is that Nick Swisher has played his last game in pinstripes. On one hand, that’s disappointing given how great Swish’s personality has been for the clubhouse, but on the other hand, the Yankees need more dependable production from right field. Most of the early predictions place Los Angeles Angels free agent outfielder Torii Hunter with the Yankees, but an aged, formerly great player is not the answer. The Yankees need to acquire another promising, but to-date underachieving player, who can thrive in New York. Okay, easier said than done, but it’s possible.
The Yankees have to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, but I do not expect both Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes back next year. One of the two will be dispatched to a destination unknown. I am not ready to give up on Hughes, so I suppose that it would be best for the Yanks to move Nova. But as for a replacement, who do the Yanks bring in? I don’t really see them spending the dollars it would take to lock up Zack Greinke, but perhaps there is a deal for a promising pitcher that makes sense. After the Michael Pineda trade, the Yankees might be gun-shy but they need to maintain aggressiveness in acquiring a top line pitcher.
Destined to lose in Detroit?…
The Yankees never felt like a team of destiny this year. They need to acquire the right players to create team unity and a team that is destined to return the Yankees to the main stage.
The next few weeks and months should be interesting…