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.
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.
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