Courtesy of Mark Feinsand comes a few tidbits from Brian Cashman:
Despite the published reports linking the Yankees to Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, the bullpen isn’t the primary focus for Cashman. With plenty of young arms to go along with Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte and Brian Bruney, the Yankees are well-stocked, so they don’t have to go out and spend big on another setup man like they did earlier this decade with Steve Karsay, Tom Gordon and Kyle Farnsworth.
“We have guys knocking on the door from the minor leagues, and it’s always easy to take a starter and make him into a reliever – I think we’re good at that,” Cashman joked. “Is it an area of obvious need? No. You’ve got to look more at the rotation and left field.”
This was discussed at length in Steve’s post yesterday, and I think Cash is taking the right approach to building a bullpen. Relievers are incredibly volatile, and sinking money into them seems like a silly move when your minor league system contains plenty of bullpen options. Cashman did not rule it out, but he was more forthcoming than he typically is about his plans, suggesting that he may not be incredibly interested in bringing in a reliever unless the cost is incredibly low.
It sounds like CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are the only starters with a firm grasp on spots in the rotation right now. Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and a host of other internal candidates exist to fill the No. 4 and 5 spots (I’m assuming that Pettitte or a big free agent such as John Lackey would be the No. 3), but unlike two years ago, the Yankees seem intent on having an open competition for those slots next spring. “Right now, if you look at our starters, you’d probably say we have two starters for sure and then a mix of some other guys,” Girardi said. “That’s probably the first thing we need to figure out.”
I think the Yankees plan on having Hughes and Chamberlain start the year in the rotation, but are trying to keep both pitchers motivated to work on their craft over the offseason. Some have suggested that Joba in particular had too much success too fast, and that the Yankees should make him earn his spot. It seems that they are at least paying lip service to that idea.
Cashman knows how lucky the Yankees were to remain relatively healthy with their aging team this season, but unless he feels that he can improve the team with younger players he isn’t going to bring in young players for the sole reason of reducing the average age.
“You always want to be younger, but only if it’s with the idea of getting better,” Cashman said. “Getting younger just for younger sake doesn’t mean you’ll get better. You have to pick the right guys to get younger with.”
Pundits talk about getting younger all the time, but sometimes it is easier said than done. Furthermore, sometimes getting younger does not mean going out and signing a 30 year free agent to replace a 37 year old player. Often, the smart move in a youth movement is signing veteran players like Johnny Damon and Mike Cameron to short term deals to hold spots while you search for the right young guys. Cashman clearly understands this concept, and I would not be surprised to see the Yankees bring in a number of older players on short term deals this offseason.
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