Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ten Questions

I know that you all expect me to talk a little more about Joe Torre right now. Problem is, we only have one sketchy source about his likely firing, and that source is the New York Daily News. For all we know, it could be journalistic speculation.

For now I'd like to take a look at ten important questions that the Yankees will face this offseason. I wil do my best to answer them.

1. Who will manage the team?

We don't know if it will be Joe Torre or not right now. Possible replacements would include Mazzili, Bowa, Pinella, or Giradi. I am hoping for Giradi, but Pinella or Bowa would not be bad choices. Both would resemble what the New Jersey Devils did in 2003 when they brought Pat Burns in to kick the team's ass.

2. Will Mike Mussina come back?

I think it all depends on the asking price. Mussina was damn good this season. He was one of the top 10 best pitchers in baseball. I think that Moose could be a real bargain at 1-2 years for 8 million a year. Any more than two years or 8 million per however would be too much. Could we really find a better pitcher for cheaper?

3. Will Gary Sheffield come back?

I don't think that he will. He performed poorly in the past two postseasons. He never showed much skill at 1st base or at the plate following his injury. He might be worth it soley for the sake of only needing to commit for one year until Eric Duncan or someone is ready. Still, I think that the Yankees take their draft picks on this one.

4. Will Alex Rodriguez come back?

I am going to tentatively say he will. If Piniella returns, Alex will have an ally in the clubhouse who will probably fight for him. Still, I am not sure if the long term interests of the club really should include Arod. He's a great player, but has played lousy defense at third base and has been a .285/.380/.520 hitter for two of his three years here. That is an excellent player, but overrated. I think that the Yankees could get significant value for Arod.

5. All right... then who would take Alexander the Great?

The two obvious teams that come to mind are the Chicago Cubs and the Angels. Both have the money to spend and could use a SS/3b. Arod has the advantage of not being as expensive as his contract. Right now, the Yankees are paying him 18 million of his 25. If the Yankees throw in 3m/year, he could be a relative bargain to a team, opening up more possibilities. The Dodgers, the Diamonbacks, the Mariners, the Phillies, the Giants, and the Astros immediately come to mind.

But who would play third base? I would suggest some sort of 3 way trade involving Kansas City. The Royals have both Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon. Teahen played excellent defense while hitting .290/.357/.517 this season (.318/.392/.582 since the All Star Break) in his age 24 season. Alex Gordon however could be even better. He is the consensus #1 prospect in baseball right now (Hughes is #3). The Royals are likely to either move Gordon to the outfield or trade Teahen. I would suggest some sort of trade involving Ervin Santana, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teahen, and some of the Angel's other prospects. I will likely be writing one or more large posts on Alex Rodriguez later this weekend.

6. Will the Yankees target a big name free agent starting pitcher?

I think they will, and I think that is a mistake. On the market are Mark Buerhle, Barry Zito, and Jason Schmidt. All three would require some big contracts. I think that if the Yankees decide to forego Mussina (which would probably be a mistake), they will surely target Zito. Depending upon the next two postseason series, Zito could command a 60+ million dollar contract over five years. He would improve the Yankee staff, but I'd be surprised if his ERA ends up under 3.80 in any of those years. Zito is a middle of the rotation innings eater. Buerhle had a terrible year. Jason had his strikeout rates and velocity dip following injury.

An interesting option would be Daisuke Matsuzaka. He'll cost a ton, but his "gyroball" is supposed to make him an ace. I don't trust pitchers coming from a 6 man rotation with a trick pitch. He could be very good, but will he be worh the 15 million dollars required via the posting system?

Great rotations are developed from within. The Braves did it. The dynasty Yankees did it. The 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, and now the 2006 Athletics and Tigers are doing it. Pitchers are at their best before they reach the free agent market.

7. Will the Yankees try to include Carl Pavano in the equation?

I think they have to. Pavano is owed 20 million for the next two years. The Yankees have sufficient pitching depth to absorb a Pavano injury. I think that Pavano is capable of 200 innings of 4.00 ERA ball if healthy. But thats a big if.

8. Will Phil Hughes be in the rotation next year, or even in the organization?

I can't see the Yankees trading Hughes now. They may be tempted, but I just can't see it. Tyler Clippard may go somewhere, but Hughes will probably stay. Much of what Brian Cashman has said pointed toward Hughes starting in AAA for a short period of time in 2007, although Hughes himself has said that he will try to make the team out of Spring Training. Word is that Phil's changeup could use some work.

Personally, I'd start him in AAA. When someone gets injured or is ineffective, Hughes can be called up quickly. Hughes has two plus-plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, but he has been having some trouble throwing his change for strikes. If it becomes a third plus pitch, look for Hughes to blossom quickly.

9. What will the bullpen look like?

I'd say that Scott Proctor, Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth, and Brian Bruney are pretty definate. You could probably add one of Darrell Rasner or Jeff Karstens to the mix. That is a solid bullpen. I think the Yankees will resist going to 12 pitchers again this year.

They might want to explore getting rid of Mike Myers. He wasn't that great this year, and really hurts the Yankees by taking up a roster spot which could be filled by a more flexible pitcher. Ray King is a free agent, and should be explored.

10. Will the Yankees contend next year?

I don't think that there is any question to this. The Yankees were the best team in baseball in 2006, during the regular season. The core group of Jeter, Mariano, Posada, Damon, Matsui, and Cano are better than any in baseball. The Red Sox and Blue Jays don't have a lot of hope considering the weak free agent market and lack of talented depth in the high minor league systems.

The Yankees can and should win a World Series soon. It all comes down to Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner. The Red Sox made the mistake of trading away Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and G. Mota. Guess what? Sanchez was better than Beckett and Ramirez was better than Lowell this season. Young talent wins a lot of games. Patience is a virtue.