Punt to Win?

As we all collectively awake from our holiday-induced food stupors (or our Airings of Grievances or Feats of Strength), the baseball world marches (painfully) slowly towards Opening Day. And as baseball marches, so do the Yankees and their sometimes confusing construction of the 2013 roster. While the Yankees brought back Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, they also let Nick Swisher and Russell Martin go and appear willing to do the same with Rafael Soriano (though I don’t really have a problem with this). The team also brought in Kevin Youkilis in light of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip injury and upcoming surgery. While the four they brought back are unmistakably important, we could argue that because of the alternatives–or the distinct lack thereof–bringing back the likes of Swisher and Martin was just as important.

Right now, some combination of Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and Austin Romine will be the catcher(s) for the Yankees this year. Russell Martin may not have been Yogi Berra or Jorge Posada with the bat, he could still take a walk and hit for power. He also played solid defense behind the plate. Color me unimpressed by Chris Stewart’s defense and Austin Romine is unproven, though people do seem to rate his defense positively. Signing Martin would have definitely been better. Ichiro Suzuki was also retained and he’ll keep playing right field. Brett Gardner is returning from injury and if he plays left field, the Yankees are looking at a light hitting corner-outfield. Nick Swisher’s contract with the Indians certainly isn’t small, but it’s most definitely reasonable, but the Yankees made no attempt to keep him. As it stands, the Yankees are likely to get little offense out of their corner outfield spots and will probably get zero offense out of catcher. Considering their apparent lack of interest in Martin and Swisher–as well as Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez (though those aren’t so bad)–it’s possible to wonder if the Yankees are punting the 2013 season.

Part of that thought seems at least semi-reasonable. The Yankees don’t appear to be doing, as they used to, literally everything they could to improve the team. In fact, we could argue that they haven’t improved the team at all. That doesn’t mean, however, that they got worse.

Practically, the Yankees are still a good team. Their rotation, though not terribly deep, is still good. CC Sabathia is, well CC Sabathia, and Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are reliable pitchers who are also highly talented. Phil Hughes is fine as a number four starter. The fifth spot is a little dicey, but you could do a lot worse there than David Phelps or Ivan Nova (who likely isn’t as awful as he was last year). The bullpen, even sans-Soriano, is great. Mariano Rivera is, ya know, God and David Robertson, David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan are all solid fill-ins behind him. And the lineup, while a bit flawed, is still good. Derek Jeter is still a solid hitter for his position and Robinson Cano is Robinson Cano. Flawed though they may be, Brett Gardner and Ichiro bring legit skills to the plate:on-base ability and speed for Gardner and contact skills and speed for Ichiro. Mark Teixeira is still powerful. Kevin Youkilis is probably due for a bounce-back.

It’s true that there haven’t been many drastic improvements to the team. But there also haven’t been any subtractions that are completely and totally damning. This may not be the Yankee approach we’re used to, but it’s one that should yield a good team.

About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

10 thoughts on “Punt to Win?

  1. Since when is a 7.0 WAR and a 3.7 WAR (Gardner’s last two full seasons per baseball-reference) “little offense”?

    As to catcher, at some point the Yankees have to see if their young players can handle it. Combine that with a salary drive, and Romine seems as good an option as any.

  2. Martin could draw a walk? Really? His career OBP is a nice .352 but his 2011 OBP was .324 and his 2012 OBP was .311, those are the worst OBPs of his career, and his OBP has went down every year since 2008 (his BA has went down every year since 2007.)

    The way I look at is the Yanks will lose some defense at catcher but not much if we are to trust Mark Newman saying Romine is a plus defender. Let’s say Romine and whoever else catches combined for just 10 HR, a dozen HR less than what Martin and Stewart hit in 2012. If Teixiera could hit 30 HR (a 6 HR improvement from 2012, Cano 35 (2 HR) – modest increases – the Yanks would lose only 4 HR from The Catcher/Teixiera/Cano. I think 2013 Romine could post better BA and OBP than 2012 Martin.

    The Yanks are not “punting 2013”. Their rotation is solid and intact and has depth (Phelps and possibly Pineda as insurance.) If they signed Shawn Marcum for a year it’d be even stronger. I wish they had signed Scott Baker (3.14 ERA and under 1.2 WHIP in for the 2012 Twins.) Their bullpen is still solid. Mo is Mo, automatically as good as or better than 2012 Soriano until he proves otherwise. They still have the best pitching staff top to bottom in the league.

  3. Sure but what’s his walk rate? You can’t exactly bring up OBP when talking about walks and ignore batting average. His OBP was 100 points higher than his BA, right around career levels.

    • Martin’s BA last season was largely driven by a historically low BABIP (.211). He will likely hit .250 to .265 with a OBP of around .330 to .340 this season. That would put him around the top of the catcher crop.

      The current crop of Yankee catchers is unlikely to exceed a .300 OBP and a .360 SLG.

  4. It might be appropriate to call it punting. It just seems that my beloved Yankees are doing what they said they would do all along…get under 189…simple as that. Obviously you want to field the best team you can, super stars at every spot. But if you combine 2 ideas that you do not need a superstar at every position to win, and spending record amounts guarantees nothing, you can say that the Yanks have just decided to be smart. Of course being smart is really at the fans expense as we either get overcharged for dogs and beer at the game, (if we can afford a ticket) and get superstars at every spot or…we get over charged for tickets, dogs and beer, parking etc and get a team that is not all stars at every position.

    So basically, my beloved Yankees have created a clusterfuck. In other words, there is no way to really solve problems. Bad contracts, desire to excel, keeping smart, keeping under the cap, and improving the team, cannot all happen simultaneously. Someone needs to choose one course and stick with it. That has been done. The course has been set with a good rotation and some good defense. And they will get under 189.

    But the 1st time since I moved to Hawaii, 1992, I will not be flying in for a Red Sox series…I still can afford it, I just choose not to. I’ll wait for a better product, maybe after a spending spree in 2014.

    • Consider 2014 is when they have to be under 189 million I wouldn’t expect a spending spree. Add in that they have to stay under 189 million for 2015, to reap the full rewards from the CBA and actually get luxury tax money paid back. Plus the next few free agent classes are pretty poor, so I wouldn’t expect a spending spree for a while

  5. “Since when is a 7.0 WAR and a 3.7 WAR (Gardner’s last two full seasons per baseball-reference) “little offense”?”

    Because that WAR is largely driven by defense… also, WAR also seems to overrate speed.

  6. Considering he walked at a 10.5 and 10.9% clip those two years, or 50 and 53 walks per season respectively, yes he can draw a walk.

  7. Why are they working so hard to cut payroll though? (clearly I know to save money, but what is the ultimate reason?). It is hard for me to imagine the Steinbrenner’s trying to milk every last penny out of the team considering the legacy of their father. It seems clear to me that they are selling and getting the team under the luxury threshold makes them more attractive.

    Can you say $3 Billion…