So, I tend to get upset when everywhere you turn every blogger and journalist is trying to be GM. And they always propose things that make you wonder how they can be such baseball fans and know so little. I saw this plan by Jay Jaffe at BP (thanks RAB/MLBTR) and I laughed. He had Swisher and Nady being platooned, which doesn't sound terrible, but do you think either of them would be happy with such limited playing time? Then he proposed sending Hideki Matsui to SF for Randy Winn. There is no way the Giants accept that deal. Hideki's knees are too weak to be a full time OFer, and he is a real injury risk, so they should send away their best offensive player for him? No, this is just another case of us Yankees fans never looking at the other team's perspective. So, as much as I get aggravated when writers write these columns and their ideas seem ridiculous, this kind of stuff is really fun to write, so I'm going to write one. Not because I think I'm smarter than Cashman, but because I just want to see your reactions.
So, when planning the off season we have to remember that just proposing a contract or a trade doesn't mean it will get done, so we have to have back-up plans.
1. We need to see what is going on with CC. If he signs, awesome, but if not we have to move on. And not to this supposed all offense plan, because that might get us to the playoffs, but it won't let us win in the playoffs. The playoffs are all about pitching. Hitters' stats are really inflated by all the times they face #4 and 5 starters, especially the ones on weak teams. In the playoffs teams only pitch their top 3 or 4 starters....so you face Kazmir, Shields, Garza or Lackey, Saunders, E. Santana or Lester, Beckett, and Dice-K, or Zambrano, Dempster, Harden. Basically if yor are going to put out Wang, Joba, and Pettitte, no matter what your offense looks like you can't win a series against one of those teams. So plan B after CC should be Ben Sheets, who when healthy is great, and won't command as much money or as many years as Burnett, who's overrated, and Lowe, who's old. Now, if we do sign Sabathia, we should still go after Sheets, you can't have too much starting pitching. Then the other pitcher we should look at is Jake Peavy. Do you really think that some combination of JB Cox, Alan Horne, Alfredo Aceves, Ian Kennedy, Chase Wright, Jeremy Bleich, Phil Coke, George Kontos, Melky Cabrera, Justin Christian, Frankie Cervelli, Humberto Sanchez, Brian Bruney, and Edwar Ramirez wouldn't get a deal done? I'm sure if the Pads could get 4 or five of those guys that would be a better return than anything the Cubs could offer. So this next part isn't a reality, but just imagine a rotation of Sabathia, Peavy, Sheets, Wang, and Joba. C'mon you know that would be awesome. Anyways, we should try to get two of those guys, I'd like all three, but we need to be realistic, and we also have to have a spot open for Pettitte to return. If they can only get one of the aforementioned three, then they should look into Oliver Perez, Randy Wolf, and Brad Penny while making offers to Mark Prior, Victor Zambrano, Eric Milton, and Bartolo Colon. Hopefully, there's a diamond in the rough in that group. You're probably thinking...what about Franchise Phil? Well do you really think the Yankees can go a whole month without and injury to one of their starters? He'll make it to the bigs by proving himself in AAA and then when there's an injury, or someone starts underperforming. he can prove himself at the big league level.
2. Now, I'm a fan of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera, but I don't know how safe I feel having them fighting it out for center. On the free agent market we should consider Mark Kotsay, but he isn't really a huge upgrade. We'll probably end up exploring the trade route. I could see a deal for Brian Giles(if he waives his no trade) , but I don't think he is athletic enough anymore to man center. The Yanks could explore trades for Coco Crisp, Randy Winn, Rick Ankiel, or Ryan Spilborghs. My favorite option here is Spilborghs. I watch this guy play and I can tell you he is way underrated. He can hit. His power is underrated, if he gets regular playing time I think he could be a 20 HR guy. He sees a lot of pitches, posting a .407 OBP this year, and he slugged .468. He isn't shabby defensively either. He isn't Carlos Beltran or anything, but he could be a great option in center. The Yanks should send a young pitcher to Denver for him. Someone like Humberto Sanchez, Alan Horne, or Chase Wright. The Rockies always love to have young pitching, and dealing Spilly won't hurt them too badly. They still have Wily Taveras, Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan, and the up and coming Dexter Fowler to man the outfield. The Royals have a logjam of outfielders, which is why I think they might flip Crisp. He'll be less expensive than Dejesus, and he would give us some speed. The Royals could ask for some catching help as John Buck isn't as great as he was thought to be, thus maybe they could ask for Frankie Cervelli, in which case I think we should try to get Ryan Shealy too. They mostly want middle infield help I would think, but we aren't giving up Robby Cano for Crisp. I like Winn because of his speed, and since he's in the last year of his contract he isn't a huge risk. The Giants need offense depserately, so maybe we can sign Adam Dunn and send them Nady, who's got more power than Winn. Or maybe they'd want Swisher, but for him we'd have to get more than just Winn back. Ankiel is a free agent after the season, and Scott Boras is his agent, so I'm sure the Cards could stand to get rid of him if it could help them in the long term. There are a lot of options out there, the Yanks just have to find the best investment to hold them over until AJax is ready.
3. There is also the slight possibility of a trade based around a Robinson Cano-Matt Kemp swap. If they could make a trade like that, they should. And then they could pursue Orlando Hudson who would more than make up for Jeter's poor offense on the other side of second. The Yanks could also try to convince Rafael Furcal to play 2nd base. His main suitors, the A's weren't willing to give him the money he wants. The Giants filled their SS gap with Edgar Renteria. The Braves aren't going to move Yunel Escobar anymore. The Tigers aren't going to pursue him, they'd rather trade for Jack Wilson. And the Dodgers might not be able to afford him. Like I said when talking about CC, the Dodgers have too many holes to fill to give out huge contracts. So, perhaps the Yanks, if they're in the market for a second baseman, could look at him as the alternate option to Hudson.
4. So at this point, we've addressed the starting pitching and the CF situation. We didn't make any specific commitments, and we kept lots of options open, but we still have some issues. With Giambi and Abreu leaving the team OBP is sure to plummet, even with Moneyball god Nick Swisher at first. This is where the Yanks should get creative. Here are a few different options..
Sign Adam Dunn to play left. Then we have both Damon and Nady fighting for a starting spot, so explore the trade market for them. Both Chicago teams could us Damon. And Atlanta and Oaklan both need another outfielder. The Reds, who I am convinced are going to be contenders next year, could use Damon or Nady too. They have been looking at trading for Jermaine Dye, but both of our guys are great alternate solutions. The Mets and Phillies could use an outfielder too. Maybe we could get Ryan Madson back from the Phillies . Or perhaps the Mets would send Joe Smith and/or Brian Stokes across town. Or, maybe we end up sacrificing some defense and playing Damon in center. Or, if we've already acquired a CF then we just play him in left, Nady in right, and make Dunn the DH.
5. If Dunn is DHing then we should try to get rid of Hideki Matsui. Hideki has very little trade value right now, and a no trade clause. He has been a great contributor to the club, but with his injuries stopping him from being a full time outfielder, and us having better options at DH, not to mention his $13mm salary in 09, it is in the best interest of everyone for us to move him. The Jay Jaffe article said Hideki would only waive his no trade clause to play in San Francisco. I believe he wants to live in SF, but I also don't think the Giants want him. However, I think he could fit into Oakland's plans. And he'll probably be a Type A or B free agent after next year, and we know hom much Billy Beane loves draft picks. He's a career .370 OBP guy which Billy will value. If the Yanks could just get back a pitcher on a low salary for him it would be a win-win deal. They could ask for Casilla, Brown, Devine, or Blevins.
Basically the Yankees have a lot of options open to them, if we can play smart we can contend in 09 and beyond. So here's my ideal off-season. If everything works out, this is what would happen.
Sign CC Sabathia $140mm/6 years
Sign Ben Sheets $45mm/3 years
Re-sign Andy Pettitte $12mm/1 year
Sign Adam Dunn $51mm/3 years
Trade 2B Robinson Cano, LHP Chase Wright, and RHP Alan Horne to LAD for CF Matt Kemp
Sign 2B Orlando Hudson $48mm/4 years
Trade RHP Humberto Sanchez and RHP Jonathan Albadejo to COL for CF Ryan Spilborghs
Trade RF Xavier Nady to CIN for RHP Homer Bailey
Trade LF Hideki Matsui to OAK for RHP Joey Devine.
The Yankees payroll next year would add about $23.3mm for CC, $15mm for Sheets, $12mm for Pettitte, $17mm for Dunn, and $12mm for Hudson. So via free agency we add $79.3mm to our payroll for next year. But we unload $13mm for Matsui, a possible $6mm+ after arbitration for Nady, and $6mm for Cano. That's a total of at least $25mm dollars. The outgoing Wright, Horne, Sanchez, and Albadejo are all at around the league minimum, as are the incoming Devine, Bailey, Spilborghs, and Kemp. So there's no significant salary change there. Basically, in this fantasy off-season we would end up adding $54.3mm to our current payroll for 09. According to MLBTR, the Yanks are at about $150 mm for next year's payroll, but with the Swisher-Betemit trade and siging Marte for less than his option, we are probably just below that. Then add the $54.3 mm and we end up with an opening day payroll of $204mm. Obviously, this isn't what our offseason is going to look like, but if it was I'd certainly be happy. The best part is that all of free agent contracts are relatively short, other than Sabathia's. But even with CC's, he'd play his last season of the contract at age 33. Hudson's last would be at age 34, Dunn's at 31, and Sheets' at 32. So we aren't going deep into the declining phases of these players' careers. The bad news is that Sheets, Sabathia, and Hudson are all type A's who were offered arbitration. So we'd have to give up the draft picks required as compensation, but it would be worth it, and we bring in young talent in Devine, Bailey, and Kemp. If only it was this easy...