Yankee offseason Top 10 to-do list

Saw this article linked yesterday by Mike Axisa over at MLBTR. I’m usually not a big Wally Matthews fan, but I think he put together a pretty solid list. The first 5 are obvious, the next 5 are a bit more speculative since they involve other moving parts. Here goes:

1. Resolve the Derek Jeter contract situation

The issue is not so much the money, but the years: How much longer can Jeter remain as the Yankees’ starting shortstop? And how much longer can the Yankees survive with him there? He is already the oldest starting shortstop in baseball, and obviously has lost a giant step in both directions in the field and on the basepaths. Do the Yankees really want to commit for four years, at big bucks, to a player who really is not suited to play his position anymore, or to be their leadoff hitter, or to eventually move to DH?

Perhaps an eventual move to a corner outfield position, or to third base when Alex Rodriguez is ready to become a full-time DH, is the solution. But how do you get the stubborn, prideful Jeter to go along with it?

He nailed it, it’s not so much about the money but more so the years and the implications of going past a few seasons. Despite having the worst season of his career, he’s still 3rd in the AL at his position (10th overall) in what was a down year for offense across Baseball. But he’s also a below average defender at a premium defensive position. Even in his prime, the problem with moving him off SS was that his bat looks much better in the infield than it does the outfield. Coming off his 2010 campaign, it looks even worse to the point where I’m not sure it makes any sense anymore. I think Derek’s best days are behind him, so I’m hoping this deal is a very short one. Like 2 years/40 mil. As much as he means to the Yanks, that’s still about double what he’d get anywhere else or what he was worth.

2. Come to terms with Joe Girardi

..there’s no question his is a top-notch baseball mind, and his skills at managing the men in his clubhouse might even be superior to those of his predecessor, Joe Torre. All the evidence you need is the reaction of A.J. Burnett after being told he was out of the rotation for the ALDS.

“Joe’s the best manager I ever played for,” Burnett said. “I know he cares about me as a person. Whatever he needs me to do, I’ll do.”

No doubt Girardi will be brought back, but perhaps on a provisional contract of the type Torre rejected, maybe two years with a club option for a third based on performance. But there’s no way you jettison a manager who in three seasons won one World Series and missed going to second by two games.

Ditto.

3. Re-sign Mariano Rivera

This one doesn’t even need to be argued. But at his age this contract should be viewed as a bridge deal to get them to their next Closer, and with Joba’s 2010 season there is no one in line to take that job.

4. Whatever it takes, sign Cliff Lee

..just imagine a Yankees rotation with Sabathia and Lee as 1 and 1A. Whatever the cost, Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have got to make that happen.

Again, pretty obvious. Like Jeter, the only question is years.

5. Straighten out A.J.

..with a contract that makes him an untradable commodity — three more years at $16.5 million per — the Yankees have no choice but to give it one last, major try.

I wish you luck, Dave.

6. Find Joba a new home

The Joba Chamberlain era is clearly over in the Bronx. Once the heir apparent to Mariano, he barely got up from his perch in the bullpen in the ALDS and performed mostly mop-up duty in the ALCS.

He’s fallen beneath Kerry Wood and David Robertson on the depth chart and appears to have lost the trust of his manager, his pitching coach and his GM. He’s still young and talented enough to have value, however, and the Yankees should put it to use now before his stock falls any further.

Yeah, after failing in 2009 to lock down a job as a starter and losing his setup role in 2010, the next step down for Joba would being sent to the minors, but unfortunately he has too much service time and would have to pass through waivers. That means the remaining options are trade or DFA. We can talk about his upside or peripherals all day long, but the fact remains that his 2010 performance was unacceptable even from a low leverage reliever, which is what he is right now. The organization is clearly down on him, so if there’s a deal to be made this off season I can’t imagine him standing in the way of acquiring a needed piece. Call it selling low, but Brian Cashman has a habit of selling low on young players. He sold low on Ian Kennedy and Jose Tabata, and offered Jesus Montero for Lee when his value was at a low point as well. The Yanks need to get elite performance or to find someone else who can deliver it. The reality is, Joba’s a rounding error to the Yanks.

7. Find a way to bring back Kerry Wood

..If he can be convinced to perform the same role again next season — and at the same time, provide insurance at closer in the event that Mo goes down or needs a day or two — the Yankees should make every effort to make that happen.

Sure, but the marketplace will determine this one. Given his health history and disastrous stint with the Indians, he may get offers to close but I doubt anyone will go past 1 year. I wouldn’t mind giving him 2 years/10 mil and see if that does the trick.

8. Make a decision on Carl Crawford

…The Yankees will have to decide whether, at a probable $15 million per, Crawford is really that much of an upgrade to their outfield over Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.

This depends on whether they want to deal Granderson or sell high on Nick Swisher. I really don’t see either of those happening. Another scenario is they may like Brett Gardner as an everyday LF, but love him as a force off the bench. With the contracts they’ll have to give to Derek (20+) Mo (15+) and Lee (20+) and Andy (15+) and given the fact they already have 144.6 mil committed for 2011, that means the payroll is an estimated 215 mil before filling out the bench. I don’t see this one happening unless one of those guys don’t sign. The Yanks aren’t going to explode their budget to 240 mil heading into year where MLB has to negotiate a new deal with the MLBPA.

9. Convince Jorge Posada to become a full-time DH

He can’t throw out baserunners anymore, doesn’t block the plate that well, and way too many pitches get past him these days. Plus, his chronic knee condition makes every-day catching a painful chore.

Yet his bat is still potent, as evidenced by Game 5 of the ALCS, and less catching could only help him at the plate. The Yankees can’t afford to lose his bat. They also can’t afford to allow opponents to run wild on a catcher who can’t make them stay put anymore.

Anyone who watched the ALCS (or the Yanks play the Rays in recent years or the Angels in years past) knows this is a gaping hole in the Yanks’ game, one that tends to get exploited even more in the playoffs. I don’t think this will be much of an issue, it’s already happening. Jorge had his playing time behind the plate cut significantly in 2010. At 39 he’s well past his expiration date as a Catcher, and despite reduced workload behind the dish he still had a subpar 2nd half. If Montero has a monster spring training, we may even question whether Jorge is the best option at DH, but since Jesus is so young I’ll bet he starts the year at AAA to continue working on his defense and gets a midseason/injury call up.

10. Upgrade the bench

Obviously, you can’t make Posada a DH without having an adequate replacement behind the plate, and Francisco Cervelli is not it. His energy and work ethic are to be admired, but really, he doesn’t hit very much and is essentially just as bad at stopping opponents from running wild as Posada is. The more you saw him play this year, the more obvious it became that he is no more than a backup. The Yankees need more than that at this vital position.

Jesus Montero and Austin Romine deserve a good long look in spring training, but at the same time Cashman should be scouring both leagues for a solid, Molina-type backstop to plug this gaping hole in the Yankees’ defense.

I think Cervelli gets a bit of an unfair rap on throwing out baserunners. As AJ Burnett’s personal Catcher, he’s paired with a starter who doesn’t give him much of a chance to throw runners out, pulling down his overall numbers. Everything I’ve heard is that Cervelli’s pop times (time it takes to catch and throw to 2nd) and accuracy are good, and that’s all a Catcher can control. I’ve heard some advocate for a John Buck 1 year deal, but my money’s on the Yanks sticking with Cervelli next year as a bridge for the Montero and/or Romine.  The rest of the bench will be patched up in the winter and during next year, as always. But I would like to see Marcus Thames come back.

0 thoughts on “Yankee offseason Top 10 to-do list

  1. You’re right, Matthews put together a very good list, most of which I agree with. I’ll start with Wood, #7, and add that, while you’re right, Steve S., in saying that the market will dictate his contract, I also cannot help but wonder what Wood will consider himself worth, since he just came off a big contract with the Indians in which he was paid over $20 million for ’09 and ’10. While he OK and not great with Cleveland, he was stellar in set-up with the Yanks. Will he somehow feel that he deserves or can get nearly that amount? It seems unlikely, but who knows, especially after JD’s contract mess and his failure to assess both the free-agent market glut of OF/DH types, and what seems to me to be some collusion-type tamping down on mid-level player contracts among teams. In sum on Wood, will he be willing to set-up for the Yanks for a decent sum that is less than what he just made, or will he want to, and receive, closer-like money elsewhere? Tough call. I really want him to stay.

    I am absolutely in agreement over the years/value of the Jeter contract; 2/$40 mil. It would allow both sides to save face with the Yanks in essence extending his contract for two years at a higher average than his now-expired 10-year, $189 million deal, while minimizing the lengthy obligation. Jeter is just not in the same negotiating position that Jorge or Mariano were after ’07, when both got big contracts at their age. Jeter’s ’10 (10 hr, 67 RBI, .270/.340, 18/23 SB, 22 GIDP and 85 in the last 4 years) was much more of a down year than Mo’s “down year” of ’07 (3-4, 3.15 ERA, 1.121 WHIP [his second-HIGHEST as a reliever] and, to me, reflective of this point in his career. I love the guy, and believe he ought to be paid handsomely, but a third year should only appear as a club option.

    Agreed on Girardi. I live in the Midwest, and Chicago was just agog at the “possibility” of Girardi managing the Cubs; just hilarious. Talk radio was always abuzz about that when the Cubs arose as a topic until they hired Quade full-time. Girardi needs to stay. Some of his in-game decisions rankle me, but the guy is a good, very prepared manager who is far better than Torre was at managing relievers’ work loads.

    Right about Crawford and the financial obligation it will take. I like Gardner, but am sick to death of his plate approach getting him behind so often 0-2 and 1-2 without even swinging the bat. Frankly, his numbers are not very good after getting down in those counts to justify all that early-count watching. He needs to stop watching hittable fastballs.

    I wonder if Lee will move from Texas–if he will want to, and what money Texas, which I believe had the 27th lowest payroll, will pony up for him; C.C.-like? Maybe, but yeah, getting Lee is crucial.

    Couldn’t agree more on Jorge. Love the guy, but 2011 should be his last as a Yankee.

    How far Joba has fallen. His confidence has waned but, to me just as important, he looks like he beefed up again. When slim Joba went, so did his performance. That’s inexcusable for him, especially on a team with ass-busters. He doesn’t lack exemplars of hard work and physical preparation on the Yanks.

    Mariano is a given. What he wants, on a one or two-year basis, Mariano gets.
    Sorry for the lengthy comment.

  2. oldpep

    I don’t think Crawford should even be part of the discussion. The only way I want to change the OF is if we bring in a big power bat for L/R.

    Agree about Jorge, and Jeter really does need to be moved from the top of the order.

  3. Phil

    This off season is very complcated because the decisions will affect this team for years to come.

    For the core four Jeter is the big question. 2 years is wishful thinking. I think it should be a combo player/post player type of deal. What that is I don’t know yet…..Pettitte gets 1 year if he wants to come back….Rivera 1 year with a player/club option for 2012. When Posada contract expires after 2011 (Thanks for everything but it is time to say goodbye)

    Arod’s contract is going to kill this team down the road. I think Arod has about 4 good years left and most of it will be at DH.

    Decisions on all three starting outfielders….Keep 2 and trade one to add some power to mix.

    I want lefties in the pen so begin the search….Wood and Mo are the only givens at this point.

    Get younger…Did the Yankees get tired at the end of the season? It seemed like Geritol became a priority.

    Promote the kids…that is one way to get younger but will it mean more wins? Not in the beginning!

    As I said alot of tough decisions….it wouldn’t surprise me if a big name doesn’t come back or a big name gets traded.

  4. smurfy

    Kerry Wood represents solidity in the bullpen, a big factor for sustained winning. I would offer him market-clearing rate for a couple or three years, say $7 mm per. Set up man, controlled use should keep him healthy all the way to the other side of Mo’s bridge.

    AJ and Joba need a guru to get them on a righteous path. What’s Greg Maddux doing? Paul Byrd?
    And trade for Fausto Carmona, too. Something must be in the water in Cleveland…

  5. Baseball Guy

    Right on.

    I agree with everything. Would love Crawford, but the days of the Yankees doing that, getting the best year in and year out, are over.

    My plan, which I haven’t seen anywhere involves the bench. The Yankees need a solid legitimate 3b/ss back-up who can field the positions and hit (with some power would be nice). Jeter and A-Rod are going to need days off – and they can’t keep running people like Ramiro Pena out there. The Yankees need a player who can fill the position and not be a HUGE step down. This will allow A-Ros and Jeter to sit occasionally and DH.

    2/$40 for Jeter is right. He better be careful because Yankes fans, why they love him, will turn on him if they see his pride getting in the way of Yankee success. If he wants more than 2 years, he’ll have to prove he deserves that after the two years.

    I see an outfielder being traded. For whom I don’t know, but I think the Yankees need a more consistent bat. I see Granderson going – which is a shame because I like him and think he’ll have an excellent 2011.

    I see AJ Burnett being taded. Every contract is moveable. Cashman does an excellent getting rid of players that have worn out their welcome (see Brown, Kevin; Johnson, Randy; Giambi, Jason; etc…)

    I think the Yankees need a consistent #4 hitter – it’s not A-rod any longer. A-Rod could bat #5 or #6. It can’t be Tex because he’s too hot and cold. Cano, I believe earned the #3 spot.

    2011 is Jorge’s last. Jesus Montero will be a Yankee in 2011.

    • T.O. Chris

      How did Cashman “get rid” of Giambi’s contract? His contract just expired.

      AJ is not tradeable unless you want to take on equally bad contract like a Zito and when you consider Burnett still possess a good fastball and curve he is the best of the “conbustibal” pitchers and bad contracts available.

      I highly doubt they trade any of the 3 outfielders because they are all productive defensively and offensively, the onlyone who might go is a sell high on Swisher and I think they value his personality to much to trade him now.

      Everyone acts like we have to have a huge overhaul.

      Tex was injured all post-season with a broken toe and injured thumb there is no reason to move him or Alex to 6th and try and get an expensive big bat, the team just needs some slight re-tooling not an overhaul.

  6. BillyBall

    “This off season is very complcated because the decisions will affect this team for years to come.”
    I agree with this assessment!

    “For the core four Jeter is the big question. 2 years is wishful thinking. I think it should be a combo player/post player type of deal. What that is I don’t know yet…..Pettitte gets 1 year if he wants to come back….Rivera 1 year with a player/club option for 2012. When Posada contract expires after 2011 (Thanks for everything but it is time to say goodbye)”
    Completely agree!

    “Arod’s contract is going to kill this team down the road. I think Arod has about 4 good years left and most of it will be at DH.”
    I agree and disagree. My feeling here is going to be called insane. But you have to some how if at all possible trade this contract NOQ! A-rod is gonna have the Yankees in a logjam at DH and younger players with better bats like a Montero eventually will hopefully develop into will be traded because of A-rod. Trade him for another crazy contract like Barry Zito and than eat Zito contract in a year or so! It’s the only way to free up money and start developing a future powerhouse again!

    Get younger…Did the Yankees get tired at the end of the season? It seemed like Geritol became a priority.

    Promote the kids…that is one way to get younger but will it mean more wins? Not in the beginning!

    • I sincerely do not think that the Yankees will trade a very productive offensive player like A-Rod, expensive though he is, for a pitcher in Zito who could not make the post-season roster of his team, and who has never lived up to that grotesque deal in Frisco. If they wanted a fairly expensive pitching disappointment, they could just re-sign Javier Vazquez.

  7. rooster

    That article by Mathews sucked!

  8. leftylarry

    It’s amazing to me that people don’t believe there is a recession going on and think Yankees will keep opening up checkbooks.If Lee is signed, I doubt Andy comes back.I think that’s an either or.
    Carl Crawford? Forget about it.No way will they spend money in the OF.