AROD IS GONE
A-Rod was told all along, as was Boras, if he opts out he's gone. Stick to your guns and let him walk. Even if he is brought back, it will seem half hearted and inconsequential to sway the minds of New Yorkers. As a Yankee fan, I am 100% disappointed with A-Rod that he decided to opt out. The signs were there that if he stayed he would continue to be embraced, and he should have known better.
No, you cannot replace his production. However, you can move to fill the lineup differently. Betemit should become the everyday 3B, assuming he does as he is told and loses 15 pounds to improve his flexibility, endurance, and quickness.
Robinson Cano has the ability to become one of the top defensive 2B's in all of baseball. Leave him at second. The greater crime would be if Cano is forced to shift positions because of A-Rod's departure.We still have a lot of great young players coming up, and A-Rod has chosen to not be a part of it. I have no doubt had he remained, he would have proven himself with big moments in both the regular season and playoffs. Now, to me, he's just another ballplayer. I am not so classless as to boo him, but I will not cheer him or otherwise show any appreciation for what he's done while he was here because of the way he (mis)handled his contract situation. Players like Tino Martinez, Joe Girardi, etc. who came back deserved their cheers. A-Rod, because of this, just deserves indifference.
A-Rod is probably going to San Francisco. Boston is a perfect fit for Mike Lowell because of his swing, and even A-Rod isn't THAT stupid. The Angels will not overpay for A-Rod, and the Cubs (in the process of changing ownership) would have a tough time convincing A-Rod both to move back to SS and take less money. In any case, A-Rod will find himself with a very familiar sinking feeling in his stomach around August in San Fran, if that's what ultimately happens, because he will be looking up at the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres in the standings. It doesn't matter how much money he gets. When he retires without a ring, then he'll realize the mistake he's made. And if he doesn't get the money Boras so desperately seeks, it will be interesting to see if he comes begging back to be a Yankee again.
GIRARDI IS LIKELY IN
Joe Girardi has handled a young pitching staff before, so I am comfortable with that aspect. However, it remains to be seen how he handles the egos and personalities on the team. Without A-Rod, that may have gotten easier. Of course, all this assumes he accepts the offer, of 4.5 million over 3 years. Judging from the fact he came back to YES to be around the Yankees and declined the Orioles' offer, I'd say it's pretty much a lock he'll be managing the Yankees next season. However, the disparate impact, and more pressing concern, is what this does for Don Mattingly, Tony Pena, and Ron Guidry. All three could be gone. Girardi may need to bring in his own staffers. At least it appears Kevin Long will be here. The Yankees will need a good hitting coach to preach consistency in a lineup that will lack the firepower of recent memory, but still be quite capable. And you could do a lot worse than Dave Eiland as pitching coach. There are those who feel he's an upgrade over Guidry.
THE RED SOX WIN
Big deal, couldn't give a shit. The fans in Boston are already rioting and getting arrested, and if nothing else, this series called attention to the fact that they are ignorant, pompous blowhard prick douchebags. To the Rockies and their fans, congratulations on an outstanding season. I like your team and I really hope you can keep it up. Stay classy.
OFFSEASON PREVIEW - OUR BIG FA'S
A-Rod is gone. We know that. But so too could be free agents Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. Pettitte needs to exercise a player option, and the Yankees have given him 16 million reasons to do just that. But for AP, it's never been about the money. His kids will be going off to college in a few years, and I bet he wants to spend as much time with them as he can while they're in high school. With all the changes, and the fact the Yankees' serious WS contender timetable sits at 2009, it's unclear if Pettitte would want to exercise the option for the purposes of what necessarily must be a transition year.
Posada wants respect. The Yankees cannot afford to lose him. Make him a serious offer and get him signed. He is one of the best catchers in baseball and a career Yankee. Furthermore, there is no one suitable to replace him. This should be a done deal. 3 years, 40-42 million.
Rivera wants to feel love. The front office to him is too cold and calculating. Another Yankee lifer, there is no one with a better closer mindset in the history of the game. When Rivera gets beat, it's never mental. However, at his age, most teams are not looking to break in a new 38 year old closer, so it's likely he returns for 2 years for between 26 and 30 million.
Bobby Abreu has a 16 million dollar team option, and despite the high cost, it's likely the team will bring him back because it is effectively a one year deal. With the team in transition, the goal is to avoid signing older players to long deals.Jose Molina is also a free agent, and proved a steady, reliable, and defensively superior, backup. Bring him back as well. 2 years, 5 million, should do the trick.
At first glance, it appears "I'm bringing them all back," but I'm not. Pettitte's decision is his choice, and there's always the option of letting Abreu walk. Posada, Rivera, and Molina, however, are pretty much necessary. Of those, Molina is most expendable, but only if you liked watching Wil Nieves hit...er, not hit...four times a week last year.
With A-Rod gone, Wilson Betemit is now a starting player. That means FA Miguel Cairo is an option for utility. Cairo has been extremely reliable in his various stints with the Yankees, and deserves the chance to come back.
Betemit needs to lose some weight, however. The bulk made him slower in the field, at the plate, and on the bases. He has a very quick powerful stroke when fit, however, he needs to lay off those low breaking balls. If he comes back in shape, a full season's work with Kevin Long should pay off to the tune of .265 20-25 HR, and 70-80 RBI. It's not A-Rod, but it will do.
Robinson Cano needs to stay at second.
Damon and Hideki Matsui need to split time between LF and DH. This will keep both of them fresh year round. Melky Cabrera is now the full time, every day centerfielder.
Jason Giambi needs to stay on the bench. Really, I just wish this guy wasn't on the roster anymore. He's nothing more than a waste of space, and aside from 2002 and 2005, was never really that serviceable. He came to this team as Jim Thome, and will go out as John Jaha. However, they're going to make every effort to get something from him, so he will likely be in there at first base. Cross your fingers and hope he can stay healthy. If Jaha can hit 35 homers and knock in 111 in 1999, maybe Giambi can do the same this year.
Bringing Abreu back would most certainly not be the wrong move. However, given the team's age, I believe it may be a better option to sign Japanese free agent Kosuke Fukudome. Aside from Norihiro Nakamura (who never really got a shot) and the awful Tsuyoshi Shinjo, no Japanese hitter has disappointed. Fukudome is billed as - get this - not Japanese Abreu, but Abreu. Furthermore, he has more range defensively, is young, and is known for conducting himself with class, humility, loyalty to the team, and simplicity. That means no orange armbands or dyed blonde hair. If you combined Abreu's skills with Hideki Matsui's personality, you'd have Fukudome. And you can sign him for a few years. He's only 29. There will be an adjustment period (particularly those darn two seam fastballs!) but 2-3 years down the road, the Yankees will be a better team as a result.
Also going with the Japanese flavor, sign Hitoki Iwase. He's 32, but he throws a good fastball and splitter. Furthermore, while Japanese starters have struggled to adapt to MLB, Japanese relievers have done a great job. Guys like Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Kaz Sasaki, Akinori Otsuka, Takashi Saito, and regrettably Hideki Okajima, have all come over and produced strong results. And the best part about Iwase? He's left handed.
For some American flavor, sign Kerry Wood as a reliever for 2 years and 8 million. Offer him incentives based on appearances that could make the deal worth up to 12 million. He instantly becomes an option as setup man.
Invite Ron Villone back to spring training. It's always good to have a guy who can eat innings, and it's helpful to have two lefties in the pen. Villone's a good guy and a hard worker, and he'd help with the new guys in the pen.
Let Luis Vizcaino walk. I know Viz had that great stretch last year, but his stuff just isn't that great, and neither is his control. He got overused this year, and that's a concern for his durability and effectiveness going forward. He'd command too much anyway.
If Andy Pettitte doesn't exercise his option, leave Mike Mussina in the rotation. If Pettitte exercises the option, trade Mussina. The rotation should therefore be Wang, Pettitte/Mussina, Hughes, Kennedy, Chamberlain. Mussina would likely draw interest from the Cardinals, Brewers, Rangers, and Braves. Any trade consummated would have to net us at least one legitimate hitting prospect, but it's also got to be a reasonable offer, because I don't think the Brewers are aching to part with Ryan Braun, who coincidentally plays third base.
Do NOT trade for Johan Santana. In 1999, Pedro Martinez was the best pitcher in baseball. We won without him. You do not need the best pitcher in baseball to win. In the case of Santana, it's a matter of what we'd be giving up to land him, which is a lot.
Here's a preview of the usual lineup and roster:
LF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Kosuke Fukudome
1B Jason Giambi
C Jorge Posada
DH Hideki Matsui
2B Robinson Cano
3B Wilson Betemit
CF Melky Cabrera
Not bad, huh? Not 1,000 runs good, but 900 is still possible.
C Jose Molina
1B Andy Phillips
1B/OF Shelley Duncan (will start vs. tough lefties in place of Giambi)
IF/OF Miguel Cairo
Strong bench, but too many first basemen. Cairo is great because he can play OF as well as IF. Two birds, one stone. If the team decides Phillips isn't needed (unlikely because Giambi is listed as the everyday 1B - can you spell "defensive replacement?"), then another option would be to pursue a FA utility outfielder (such as Brady Clark, who would be perfect in this role), and hope that Cairo learned enough from playing first base this June that he could replace Giambi in the late innings. Either way, you have options.
SP Chien Ming Wang
SP Andy Pettitte OR Mike Mussina
SP Phil Hughes
SP Ian Kennedy
SP Joba Chamberlain
That's pretty good right there. However, don't assume Joba will be lights out as a starter. I fully expect him to have difficulty adapting, but think that he remains an incredible prospect who will be lights out by 2010.
CL Mariano Rivera
SU Kerry Wood
SU/MR Hitoki Iwase
MR Kyle Farnsworth
MR Chris Britton
LR Ron Villone
LR Ross Ohlendorf
A very solid bullpen as the young arms mature in the minors. JB Cox and Humberto Sanchez return from injury this year, so it will be interesting to see how they continue to develop.
If anyone goes down on the pitching staff, there are plenty of alternatives.
Starters: Kei Igawa (YIKES!!!), Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, Matt DeSalvo, Tyler Clippard
Relievers: Sean Henn (YIKES!!!), Sanchez, JB Cox, Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney.
In total, I see this club building for the future. As I mentioned, 2008 would be a transition year, largely because of the pitching. It would have been a transition year had A-Rod stayed. However, there is enough offense to get us through next year, with a few additions and subtractions. Ultimately it will be our pitching that gets us back to the upper echelon of the league, and that will take time, but I do think next year's team (this team) can make the playoffs if it stays healthy. The more important issues are that we don't trade promising young players for veterans (we can trade unpromising ones for veterans), and that we don't panic if we miss the playoffs. Keep an eye toward the future, and we can recover from this dark and ambiguous day to a future as bright as the 90's dynasty we left in the brilliance of the Yankee Stadium lights in 2001 to the chant of "Paulie, Paulie, Paulie."