What if the Yanks do nothing?

We were discussing this yesterday in EJs post on Cliff Lee and I thought it was an interesting starting point for a debate, so I wanted to pick it up again in a formal post. What if the Cliff Lee bidding gets out of hand and the Yanks decide to pass? What if the Yanks decide to do nothing but fill out the bench and bring back the same group for 2011? Would the 2011 Yanks be better than the 2010 Yanks if they keep the roster largely the same?

I say yes, they would be better for the following reasons.

-Aceves coming back healthy would stabilize the bullpen tremendously. I think he was a key (yet still underrated) factor on the 2009 team and a big part of what was missing on the 2010 team. He kept the team in many games, giving the lineup an opportunity for late-inning heroics and vultured a bunch of wins along the way.

-As down as we all are on Joba Chamberlain, his peripherals suggest a much better pitcher than the one we saw in 2010. A little bit of good luck will improve his numbers drastically, and another year of MLB experience should benefit him in learning what it takes to consistently produce at the MLB level.

-The 2010 bullpen was bad in the first half and good in the second half, but a main reason the bullpen settled down was the acquisition of Kerry Wood. Wood gave them a (luck aside) reliable 8th inning option and kept some of their lesser options from being in spots that could have cost them games. Wood most likely won’t be back, so I’d have to think the bullpen would be worse in his absence. But again, with a healthy Aceves I feel confident the bullpen roles will settle in nicely for the full season, unlike what happened in 2010.

-Montero should represent an offensive upgrade at Catcher. Even a rookie Jesus Montero who is struggling to find his way in the bigs should give you more with the bat than Francisco Cervelli did in 2010. If his projections hold, than he could equal offensively what you got out of 2010 Jorge Posada. The Yanks will need to be judicious with how he’s used defensively, but year over year it should be the equivalent of getting more ABs out of Posada, who hasn’t been able to stay on the field much in recent years and only started 83 games at Catcher in 2010.

-One or more of the Killer Bs could contribute either as starters or in the bullpen late in the year. All three spent time in AA last year, so a promotion to AAA at some point in the season is likely. At that point, they’re just a phone call away. If we were putting all our eggs in one pitching prospect’s basket, I would find this too speculative. But since there’s three of them, plus other solid AAA options like Hector Noesi and David Phelps, it’s reasonable to assume we get some MLB production out of this group. The Yanks have too much quality pitching depth in the minors not to take this into account for 2011.

-AJ Burnett was horrendous last year, and it’s hard to imagine him being any worse. A bounce back to careers norms would be in order. If he regresses any further, its hard to imagine him keeping his spot in the rotation. If that happens, one of the kids will have to produce (unlike 2010 AJ) and give the team a chance to win every fifth day in order to keep their MLB gig. So net+ for 2011 squad either way.

-It won’t be too hard to upgrade your #5 starter considering what Vazquez gave you in 2010. Ivan Nova could probably do a better job once he learns how to make better in-game adjustments, and again options like Noesi or the Killer Bs couldn’t be much worse than Vazquez was in 2010. If nothing else, the young guys could benefit from the first time through the league effect until the scouting reports catch up to them. If any of these guys give the team a chance to win more often than not, net+ for the 2011 Yanks.

That’s my case, and it’s based mostly on a healthy Alfredo Aceves and some horrendous 2010 pitching performances that won’t be allowed to be repeated. But my scenario is admittedly optimistic and focused on upside. It doesn’t assume any injuries, but those are hard to predict as to where or when they’ll happen. It’s also an open question whether Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez decline further with age, whether Phil Hughes can build on his strong 2010 campaign, and if Ivan Nova or the other kids can cut it as a MLB starters or relievers.

What do you think? Do you think the 2011 Yanks will be better or worse than the 2010 group if they don’t make an major changes?

0 thoughts on “What if the Yanks do nothing?

  1. Ben Vinutti

    Agree with all and add that as good as CC was, he just might be better with his knee problem addressed; if Pettite re-signs and can stay healthy that will help, too.

    • The likelyhood that a year older Andy Pettitte is going to be as good as he was last year (on his way to another career year before DL) and it’s even less likely that he will stay healthy being a year old and I think he knows that and it’s one reason he is thinking about not coming back.

  2. Theboogiedown

    I think this whole conversation could further hinge on pitching if we can’t get Lee and then Andy decides to stay home. With lousy options on the market this year once you get past Lee (don’t even say Pavano!), we won’t even need Aceves- it could be that bleak. I prefer your optimistic angle more admittedly.

  3. I have to disagree. The 2011 Yankees will not be as good as they were in 2010 if they do nothing. The offense should be fine with – especially if A-Rod, Teixeira, Jeter and Granderson bounce back (not that big of an ‘if’). However, there just wouldn’t be enough pitching. The Yanks would have a No. 1 in CC, but the staff would be relatively weak without a No. 2 starter.

    Andy Pettitte – He’s solid, but old. You have to bet against him having a 2011 like his 2010 season…and that’s if he even comes back.

    Phil Hughes – He’s developing, but not a guy the Yanks want to have to rely on for No. 2 production. I know that the Yanks won’t ask him to slide into that role, but the extra pressure would fall on him anyway. Besides, we don’t even know what Hughes will provide this season.

    A.J. Burnett – Burnett can’t be trusted for anything more than a fifth starter. He shouldn’t be any worse than he was last season, but he’s gotta earn our trust back.

    Ivan Nova – Do you really want Nova AND Burnett in the same rotation in 2011?

    Doing nothing is not an option.

  4. mister d

    Lineup:

    Should improve: Tex, ARod, Granderson, Catcher (Montero/Jorge over Jorge/Cervelli), DH (Jorge over Johnson)
    Should regress: Cano, Swisher, Gardner
    Wild Card: Jeter

    Unless Jeter gets much worse AND remains in the leadoff spot, I think the lineup, overall, is heading towards an improvement, especially since I don’t see a big step back from Cano and Swish.

    Rotation:
    Should Improve: AJ, 5th starter (Nova, Noesi, Brackman, Beer Vendor)
    Should Regress: Pettite
    Should be about the same: CC, Hughes

    Actually I see Hughes getting better, but an argument can be made either way. Again, I see the rotation as an improvement unless the kids end up horrid and AJ somehow duplicates his worst season. And while I expect Pettite to pitch less well in the games he does start, it is entirely possible that he will pitch more games, and thus we won’t be subjected to as many Mosely/Gaudin/Mitre starts, which would be a net plus.

    Bullpen: Short of Mo turning his age, I expect it to do what its done the past 3 years – start terrible, and improve as Cash and Joe try different parts until it all clicks in June or July. Push.

    Bench: Last year’s bench was pretty “meh” outside Thames, and it is always a work in progress. If the Yanks need someone, they’ll get him, especially if they haven’t dropped $25m on Lee.

    Defense: What was bad will remain bad, what was good will remain good. Push.

    So overall I expect a slightly better season, largely because I don’t forsee many of the players repeating career worst seasons (AJ, Tex, ARod, whoever replaces Javy), while the money saved on not signing Lee will better allow the team to make deals to fix the holes that pop up midseason.

    • Everyone keeps saying “no one could be worse than Javy” but for a month and a half to two months he was the best pitcher on staff and I don’t see Nova being able to ever do that for us if the iother guys start slumping, yes Javier was bad but at the same time asking someone who has never even finished a 7th inning to be a starter for a full year in the AL East and be better than a guy coming off a sub 3 ERA in the NL is a little silly Javier was bad but the unknown of a Noesi or Nova could be worse than Mitre/Javy/Moseley.

  5. oldpep

    I agree. I keep remembering all of the guys that have been signed by various teams over the years who were a lot like Lee, and how their contract were albatrosses in pretty short order.

    We have enough pieces already on hand to do at least as well. Your article points out the flaw in the ‘we need him to have a chance’ logic: just how bad Vazquez and Burnett were.

    I think Hughes could be much better since he finished the year throwing so many changes. It was too late for it to be the pitch he needed it to be, but if he starts the season throwing it as often as he finished, it should be a solid pitch for him.

    I agree about Joba, and I think he can still turn it around and become a solid pitcher.

    I think what I’ve heard so far for what Jeter wants and what Lee’s being offered are both too many years and too much per.

    • Who are all these pitchers like Cliff Lee who became Albotroses? Give examples, I really don’t recall many pitchers like Lee becoming free agents over the last few years.

      Everyone needs to remember back to watching Joba and stop looking at peripherals for a minute… yes he struck out guys and he’s his FIP was low but Chamberlain blew a lot of leads and some big leads at that all in important spots, once he got moved out of the setup role his ERA dropped some but even then in big spots he gave up the runs.

      Joba is a guy we can’t trust in the pen, if he happens to step up big then great but he was so awful in important game changing spots last year that he has to come into this season as no more than a middle relief arm.

      • If people want to say Hughes is going to be somewhat better next year than this I can live with that because it’s just as likely as him being a little worse (my predicition) but I can’t fathom a scenario under which he will be miles better like you keep saying pep.

        Even at the end of the year he wasn’t throwing that many changes, he went from throwing none to one a game to three to five a game at times, however he still had games he didn’t throw mixed in between those starts.

        I think a starting pitcher in a lot of ways has a much harder job than a starting QB in the NFL (albeit without the damage to the body itself) and in football coaches know a saying “if you get a QB to perform as well in his sophomore year as he did in his rookie year you did a great job coaching”. The reason for this IMO is two fold 1. Very easily and obviously is the league adjusts, your finally on tape and teams (batters) can study you, know your habits, traits and mannerisms on the mound the edge if surprise is gone. 2. Arrogance plays a huge part in it any young kid who has a good season against much older vets feels comfortable like they belong in the bigs but in reality that was just test number 1 (ask Angel Berroa) you make a career off of years not a year.

        So IMO the deck is stacked against Hughes having a better season I imagine that he will have a tougher first half of the year than he did this season because of that, on the flip side of that coin I don’t see Hughes as a bust so I believe he will make the adjustments he needs in order to have a better and more productive second of the season and in the end his season will be very similar (a little better or a little worse than this year) but mostly the same and nowhere near ready to step up and be a number 2.

  6. Without Lee, the Yankees are no better than the mid-2000 teams that would slug their way through the regular season and then get bounced in the Division Series. I’ve seen Joba and Aceves mentioned as reasons for why the Yanks don’t need to sign Cliff Lee. Aside from the fact that those two are irrelevant to the Lee argument (the Yankees need to address their starting rotation regardless of how good the bullpen is), the Yanks can’t even be confident that those two will produce in 2011. Ace is coming off of a serious back injury and Joba, thanks to the Yankees, is just a mess. I know his advanced stats were good, but you still have to produce real numbers and he hasn’t proved capable of that yet.

    I like Phil Hughes a lot, but I’ve also seen a lot of people assuming that he’s going to improve in 2011. At his age and experience, he’s just as likely to take a slight step back as he is a slight step forward. Cliff Lee gives the Yankees the second front line starter that every team needs and also allows them to properly slot everyone else in the rotation.

    With all due respect, if you think the Yankees are fine in 2011 without Cliff Lee, you’re just not seeing the picture clearly.

  7. EJ Fagan

    Not a whole lot went right for the Yankees last year, and they did just fine. Reinforcements are on the way, and players will regress to their expected mean production. Its just like 2004-2007 all over again: we lost, but the team is still good. Playoff teams lose, it happens.

    Had we made the World Series (read: win 2 more games), would anyone be going crazy about Cliff Lee? The playoffs are a crapshoot.

    Standing pat also doesn’t have to be completely standing pat. The Yankees could use some of their extra budget to add to their bench and bullpen in little bits. Resign Marcus Thames and bring in a Jerry Hairston type to upgrade Ramiro Pena’s production.

    It’ll be mildly more risky in 2011, but the picture looks pretty rosy once you get to 2012. We’re 1 year away from a true MLB rookie renaissance. Weather that year, and the Yankees will have a half dozen really great options to choose from on the pitching front (3 Bs, Noesi, Warren, possibly Stoneburner or Phelps).

    Remember that the 2009 championship was set up by restraint following the 2007 season. The Yankees will be a stronger team in the long run.

    • First of all, if things go the way the Yankees want them to, there is a good chance that Phelps, Warren and Noesi make their debuts with different teams or end up in the bullpen. Furthermore the Yankees aren’t making decisions with the intentions of freeing up spots for rookie pitchers – nor should they. The chances of each of the Killer B’s developing into MLB-ready starters is slim. If they defy the odds it will just be a nice problem for the Yanks to have, but not one they need to bank on.

      Secondly, just because the Yankees have more money to spend on bench or bullpen spots doesn’t mean they’ll be able to fill them. The caliber of bench player or bullpen arm that would make Cliff Lee worth passing on is not going to come to New York to come off the pine when he can start (or close) somewhere else. More importantly, how can spending extra money on bench or bullpen pieces be smarter than giving Cliff Lee a contract?

      Finally, you can say that the Yankees were just fine despite their misfortunes, but you have to consider the rest of the division. The Rays will be talented but will (probably) regress, the Red Sox will be better prepared for a playoff run in 2011 and the Blue Jays, whether ready to compete for a playoff berth or not, will still be a pain in the ass so the Yanks can’t afford not to improve.

      The Yanks can still have this “rookie renaissance” without sacrificing the next one or two seasons. I understand the hesitancy to see the Yankees offer a 32 year old a long and lucrative deal. However, I’m surprised by the number of people who are so willing to see the Yankees take a risk and go into the 2011 and perhaps 2012 seasons without upgrading the squad.

  8. misterd

    Without Lee, the Yankees are no better than the mid-2000 teams that would slug their way through the regular season and then get bounced in the Division Series. I’ve seen Joba and Aceves mentioned as reasons for why the Yanks don’t need to sign Cliff Lee. Aside from the fact that those two are irrelevant to the Lee argument (the Yankees need to address their starting rotation regardless of how good the bullpen is), the Yanks can’t even be confident that those two will produce in 2011. Ace is coming off of a serious back injury and Joba, thanks to the Yankees, is just a mess. I know his advanced stats were good, but you still have to produce real numbers and he hasn’t proved capable of that yet.I like Phil Hughes a lot, but I’ve also seen a lot of people assuming that he’s going to improve in 2011. At his age and experience, he’s just as likely to take a slight step back as he is a slight step forward. Cliff Lee gives the Yankees the second front line starter that every team needs and also allows them to properly slot everyone else in the rotation.With all due respect, if you think the Yankees are fine in 2011 without Cliff Lee, you’re just not seeing the picture clearly.  (Quote)

    The question is how much of tomorrow do we give up for today? Yes, Lee makes better next year. But willl he be worth $25m in 5, 6 years? How many positions do we want locked up in older players with gargantuan salaries? That, too, was a problem of the 00s teams.

    • The Yankees are already locked into some ugly contracts that they’re going to struggle with down the road with or without Cliff Lee. As a fan, I’d rather see the Yankees add one more to the pile and have 2-3 more legit shots at a World Series title than stand pat, have a poor 2011 and maybe 2012 and then pay a boat load of money to aging vets in 4-5 years anyway.

      Besides, the fact that the Yankees are going to have a gradual infusion of cheap young talent over the next few seasons is even more of a reason to grab Lee.

  9. MRYANKEE

    Have to do something, team as constituted was not good enough last year and no reason to think they would be better standing pat. The Yankees are not a stand pat organization this is a better discussed post for say the Royals. BTW Cashman should have drafted Daniel Brad instead of Iak kennedy.

  10. jayburd2020

    I’m concerned if the Yankees stand pat. Not so much in the regular season as at least a wild card should again be an option with the Rays probably taking a step backward, but in the playoffs certainly. As the team ages, it really shows in the playoffs and we need at least two quality arms. What do people think of considering trading Brett Gardner to the Cubs for their very solid No. 2 pitcher Ryan Dempster to be our 3 or 4? We can certainly fill left field through free agency, or build a bigger trade package by getting their veteran All-Star Marlon Byrd in the deal. He would certainly be an upgrade on the bench for Thames. (Cubs need to dump salary and also have a log jam of outfielders at the major league and minor levels.) Any thoughts?

    • I’d rather not mess with Ryan Dempster. He might work as a No. 2 for the Cubs in the NL Central, but he’s not the type of guy I want the Yankees to go after. They need a true front line starter to team with CC.

      • jayburd2020

        I hear you. Definitely not a No.2 for the Yankee rotation. I’d think of Dempster as a 3 or 4 behind CC and Lee. He’s won 43 the last three years for some average to awful Cubs teams and pitched more than 200 innings each year since converting back from relief. This was more innings than Burnett, Hughes and Vasquez, and would limit how often you call on middle relief. He also has the right professional veteran temperment to handle NY.

        • Why trade Gardner for Dempster and sign Lee? You either sign Lee or trade for Dempster (and I would never trade for Dempster let alone Brett Gardner for him).

          Sabathia
          Lee
          Dempster
          Hughes
          Burnett
          Pettitte?

          I’m pretty positive if the Yankees sign Lee Pettitte will all of a sudden feel much more ready to pitch in 2011.

          • jayburd2020

            Point taken. I guess I’m not counting Pettitte being available for anything more than 17-19 starts, a la Roger Clemens in 2006 and 2007. Concern is also well placed that either Burnett or Hughes don’t rebound in 2011. Assuming the Yankees sign Lee and Pettite re-ups as a 2nd half pitcher, then you’d have Dempster and Pettite as your interchangable 3-4, and Burnett and Hughes essentially fight in the first two months to see which stays in the rotation once Pettite joins the team.

          • No to Dempster! We have no idea how he would do in the AL and even if he would do OK it’s not worth trading Brett Gardner plus pitching prospects for a mid 30’s middle of the rotation starter when we would have both Lee and Sabathia.

          • jayburd2020

            Plus pitching prospects? Who suggested that? I wouldn’t support that. The suggestion was Gardner for Dempster straight up. (If you wanted to also get the Cubs’ Marlon Byrd as an upgrade over Thames offensively and defensively, then you’d have to add something to the package, but I wouldn’t suggest giving up anything more than Gardner for a strong veteran starting pitcher who is good for a quality two years.) Keep in mind that Dempster doesn’t have the mileage of a typical 33-year-old starter since he averaged just 80 innings per season as a closer from 2005 to 2007 before returning to the rotation. Quality contributions though.

          • jayburd2020

            Not to beat a dead horse, but in inter-league starts, Demspter has a 2.91 ERA.

  11. I don’t understand if we have all these great players in the minors leagues who will be ready in 2012 (probably much more likely 2013) then why is signing Lee sacraficing that? Wouldn’t not signing Lee just make us dependant on that? If we do sign Lee according to everyone here we have replacements for both Pettitte and Burnett the instant they leave and we have a rotation of Sabthia, Lee, Hughes, Banuelos, Betances.

    So if we have all this young “rookie rennisance” on the way there is almost no risk in signing Lee because if he isn’t as productive or gets hurt we have plan B which would have been plan A to start with, it’s not like anyone is saying save the money for another pitcher later they are simply saying we have too much young pitching to sign an older Lee.

  12. Plus pitching prospects? Who suggested that? I wouldn’t support that. The suggestion was Gardner for Dempster straight up. (If you wanted to also get the Cubs’ Marlon Byrd as an upgrade over Thames offensively and defensively, then you’d have to add something to the package, but I wouldn’t suggest giving up anything more than Gardner for a strong veteran starting pitcher who is good for a quality two years.) Keep in mind that Dempster doesn’t have the mileage of a typical 33-year-old starter since he averaged just 80 innings per season as a closer from 2005 to 2007 before returning to the rotation. Quality contributions though.  

    You really expect the Cubs to trade the only reliable starting pitcher they have for just Brett Gardner? Yes Gardner has a lot of value right now but no where near that much, the Cubs would be able to find a much better deal for Dempster involving pitching prospects to help their future.

    This isn’t the Cubs trying to salary dump this is you proposing a trade to them, you have to be at least somewhat reasonable in what you are willing to give up, pitching is at a premium and some NL team would gladly give up some pitching prospects to beat that offer for Dempster.

    In the NL he would carry way more value and receiving young cost controled arms is what the Cubs need not 1 LFer who may be a leadoff man, their problems are deeper than that.

    I bet those interleague numbers are a small sample size though.

    • jayburd2020

      All good points. You are right that Cubs problems are far deeper than one player. They are actually so deep that they Cubs are in unofficial rebuilding mode. Their biggest issue is payroll, with the owner having already announced the need to cut the 2011 payroll by about $10 million. But they have some unmovable huge contracts in Soriano (4 years remaining for $72 million), Zambrano (2 years at $36 million) and oft-injured Miguel Silva owed $13.5 million including 2012 buy-out. Players with one year contracts like Fukudome at $11 million this year and 3B Aramis Ramirez at $16 million are only movable if the Cubs pick up more than half of those contracts, and they won’t get much value back. The Cubs have a lot of prospects in the pipeline, but no immediate quality leadoff hitters. Could they get more than Gardner? Perhaps. Fun discussion. Thanks for the back-and-forth.

      • Dempster made 13.5 million last year I really doubt the Yankees would pay even half of that if they sign Cliff Lee and if they had to give up Gardner to get him then they not even pay that, the Yankees would have no incentive to give up a good trade chip for a 2 year rental of a 33 year old pitcher when they would already have the best 1-2 in baseball.

        With Lee and Sabathia you are talking about a 20 game winner and a guy who could be a 20 game winner with this offense in Lee if Pettitte, Hughes and Burnett are just average we have one of the best rotations in the league.

  13. M-Three

    I am not really high on Phelps, Mitchell or Pendleton. I think each of those guys are guy that we will included in trades evenually.

    Also, I think that we should take Mitre and Moseley off the 40 man roster and just sign them to minor league deals. Neither one of them has any options left so if they are still here then both will be on the team and in the bullpen. Although Mitre and Moseley were solid last year, I would rather over some our young pitcher who throw harder a chance out of the pen. I like to see youngs kids like Nova (if Pettitte comes back and we sign Lee he could be a good option there), Hector Noesi(a guy who I can see being either a good #3/4 starter or another Alfredo Aceves) or Ryan Pope (I hear since moving from starting to relief that he now throws in the mid-90’s) be given a chance over 2 guys who to me are overachievers.

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