No team can ever look exactly the same as it did the year before. As frustrating as this is, especially for a 103 win team coming off of its 27th World Series title, it is a fact that the players, executives, and fans of each team must learn each and every day.
According to the Baseball-Reference batting order page, the Yankees’ most frequent lineup in 2009 was:
Of those nine players, two are officially gone and it doesn’t look like another one is coming back, either. If we were to draw up the 2010 Yankee lineup as it looks today, it would appear as such:
1. Derek Jeter SS
2. Nick Johnson* DH
3. Mark Teixeira 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
5. Jorge Posada C
6. Curtis Granderson* CF
7. Robinson Cano 2B
8. Nick Swisher RF
9. Brett Gardner LF
* Denotes new acquisition
Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson essentially replace Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui on the offensive side of things, and Granderson definitely makes the outfield defense stronger, no matter where he plays, and is an obvious upgrade over the recently traded Melky Cabrera.
As for the starting rotation, it doesn’t appear much differently than last year’s did, with a notable exception. Javier Vazquez will once again be suiting up for the Pinstripers. He joins CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, (presumably) Joba Chamberlain, and the again-re-signed Andy Pettitte.
The full list of Yankee transactions, via MLBTR, is as follows:
* Acquired/Re-signed: Andy Pettitte, Jamie Hoffmann, Curtis Granderson, Mike Rivera, Boone Logan, Javier Vazquez, Nick Johnson, Javier Herrera, Jon Weber, Trent Lockwood
* Lost: Josh Towers, Hideki Matsui, Brian Bruney, Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, Arodys Vizcaino, Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn, Kanekoa Texeira, Cody Ransom
The moves represented by each of these players can be broken down (roughly) into two categories: big moves or depth moves. There are modifiers for just about every player in every category, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them. First, let’s look at the depth moves, since they can be run through rather quickly.
Though he’s on the 25 man roster, Jamie Hoffmann was more or less acquired for depth. He doesn’t seem ready to get a starting job, but should make for a decent bench option. If he can’t stick with the Yankees, he’ll be sent back to the Dodgers, but as a bench OF, he’s not exactly hard to replace.
Since Brian Bruney was used, essentially, to acquire Hoffmann, I’m going to put him in the depth category as well. Despite Bruney’s great stuff, the results just weren’t coming. He’s probably got a small bit of upside left, but his role in the Yankee bullpen would be unclear in 2010 and there’s only so many “one more chances” a guy can have. I wish Brian good luck in Washington.
I don’t know a thing about Trent Lockwood, except that he apparently played college ball at UT-San Antonio and played in an independent league in 2008. Something tells me this guy isn’t in the Yankees’ big-time plans.
Javier Herrera has a career .826 OPS in 1,441 minor league plate appearances in the Oakland system. He’s never played above AA ball, though, and has played in just 62 games in the past two seasons. His numbers, particularly the .468 SLG, are good, however, and he may be worth keeping an eye on in 2010. He plays the outfield.
As for the depth losses, Josh Towers and Cody Ransom are the very definition of the term “replacement level.” There are a ton of guys who can take their spots without us even noticing. These same things could be said of players to be included in the next category, but since they were involved in big moves, I’ll include them.
Let’s get the big ball rolling with Andy Pettitte. Though losing Andy Pettitte this offseason wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world–especially now considering the Vazquez trade–but bringing him back was pretty important. The Yankees know what they’re getting out of Andy–180-200 innings of average, or slightly above average–pitching.
Next, we come to Curtis Granderson. He came to the Yankees in a three-way trade with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. Clearly, this is big. On the field, it gives the Yankees a starting center fielder for the next three years. In the clubhouse and off the field, it gives them a good guy who’s committed to his teammates and to the community; welcome to the Bronx, Curtis.
With the “re-acquiring” of Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez for the 2010 (and possibly 2011 in the former’s case) season, we’re going to party like it’s 2004. Johnson brings his incredible on-base skills back to the Bronx and Vazquez returns with his trademarked durability and strikeout acumen. Johnson will slot nicely into the lineup’s two hole (that’s what she said?) and Vazquez looks to be the fourth starter, though he’s probably better than that. Left hander Boone Logan was also included in the trade that brought Javy to New York. He could end up as the second lefty out of the bullpen, behind Damaso Marte.
There are also “big” pieces that the Yankees lost (or will lose) in the 2010 off-season. In terms of both sentimentality and production, the biggest loss is DH and reigning World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. He signed as a free agent with the Angels and will DH for them, though he’s said he wants to try the outfield again. I hate to see Godzilla go, but I can’t blame the Yankees for letting him go. They clearly don’t think his body will hold up for another season and, as it’s been said a thousand times before, it’s better to let a player go a year early than a year late. Something tells me I’ll be saying the same thing about Johnny Damon in a little over a month’s time when Spring Training starts.
The Yankees have also lost some younger guys thus far, including fan favorite prospect Austin Jackson. He was shipped to Detroit along with fellow youngster Phil Coke in the Curtis Granderson deal. Ian Kennedy also left in that trade, landing in Arizona. Of the three, I think Kennedy will have the biggest impact on his new team, as he’ll likely have a shot at joining the Diamondbacks’ rotation. Losing him hurts because he represented a better level of depth than people realized, but he likely had no room on the 2010 team. I feel that IPK always got a bad rap from Yankee fans and wish him all the best in Arizona.
Losing Coke to Detroit does not hurt the Yankees all that much. He would be the second lefty out of the bullpen and is easily replaceable. We thought he’d be replaced by Mike Dunn, but he was shipped to Atlanta in the Vazquez deal. Dunn is a nice lefty with a decent amount of upside. Also moved to Atlanta were Arodys Vizcaino and Melky Cabrera. I’ll discuss the former–along with Austin Jackson–in a second, but first, let’s focus on the Melk man.
While Melky is still young and may still have some upside left in him, the time to trade him came and Cashman made the right move in dealing him. Chances are, Melky doesn’t get much better than he is now, through over 2,000 plate appearances. Melky will give Atlanta what he gave to the Yankees: decent defense and about league average offense from the bottom of the order. That’s not a worthless skill-set, but it’s not irreplaceable either. Good luck, Melky; may you feast on NL East pitching.
Wrapping this up are Jackson and Vizcaino. Jackson was the only position player in the system close to coming up and contributing and Vizcaino shined in two stints in short-season ball. The loss of both players hurts the farm system, but it does not completely devastate the system. While Vizcaino looked promising, he still hasn’t pitched in a full season league, and there are other young, high-upside arms ahead of him in the minors. Jackson’s loss hurts more, as the Yankees don’t seem to have any high-upside position players (non-catcher division), aside from Slade Heathcott, who is obviously years away. Jackson’s been a popular player in the minors among Yankee fans and we’ve long anticipated his arrival in the Majors. It will be bittersweet when he makes his debut for the Tigers, but like all things baseball, trading him was only business, and not personal.
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