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My Thoughts on Yankees Offseason Direction

By Mike Silva ~ October 23rd, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees.

The hot stove officially begins in New York today. What kind of changes do the Yankees need to make to stay a playoff team in the competitive American League? Here are some of my thoughts on what the Yankees offseason focus should entail.

The Great Mariano and Jeter Debate:

There is no doubt that both Jeter and Rivera will be back, but at what cost? Rivera continues to defy his age so it’s not out of the question he receives a 2 year deal in the vicinity of $30 million dollars. I would try to keep the contract less than three years since Rivera’s age could lead to an expiration date at any time.

Jeter is more complicated. If it was any other player than the Captain I would suggest parting ways. His range has declined (again), and offensively he is a below league average hitter (90 OPS+). Just 74 hits away from 3,000 the smart business decision would be to go year to year with Jeter, have him get his 3,000th hit as a Yankee, ,and move on at that point. Eduardo Nunez is waiting in the wings. Do you want him to wait till he is 27 to get a full time job? That is what happens if Jeter gets what many believe is a desired 4 year/$100 million dollar deal. Realistically year to year won’t get it done, so maybe they settle on a 2 year $50 million dollar deal. Let Nunez mentor under Jeter and make a full transition in 2013. I just don’t see any team in the league giving him a better deal, even though he is Derek Jeter.

One Note: Is it crazy to think the Yankees would make a run at Jose Reyes when he becomes a free agent after the season?

The Pitching Staff

As I feared this summer, Cliff Lee is starting to fall in love with Texas. It’s right next door to Arkansas, and he gets to play with a young team on the verge of a championship, plus he could be the big fish in a small pond. Why deal with the championship or die mentality of New York? We all know Brian Cashman will make a huge run at Lee, but would the Yankees be willing to give significantly more to offset New York State taxes? They may have no choice because the drop off in free agency is severe (Hiroki Kuroda could arguably be the next best option), and the rotation looks even more dubious if Andy Pettitte retires.

There is an alternative to big money free agents. As Joe Delgrippo pointed out on last night’s show, the Yankees could go the youth route. Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and maybe Manuel Banuelos all may be able to contribute in 2011. See if you could convince Pettitte to give one more year, and go with Nova and a veteran like Kuroda in the five hole. Zack Greinke is available, and who knows what other pitcher will hit the trading block. Remember, no one thought Javier Vazquez would be traded last offseason.

Personally, I go all out for Cliff Lee, but keep it to a five year deal. Any years above that I let Texas have him. There are enough young arms in the system to land a top notch pitcher, or survive with some of the young arms. The Yankees won a title in 2009 so there is no need to get desperate as they can compete and ride out this transition with young players.

The Outfield

Curtis Granderson came on late, and with a reasonable contract ($18.25 million the next two years with $2 million buyout), might be worth keeping in the fold. I was down on Granderson for much of the year, but his final numbers weren’t’ bad, especially when he hit in the two hole. Defensively he may be a tad overrated, but you could do a lot worse than Granderson.

The big questions are Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. Offensively Gardner tailed off towards the end of the season, but is a stud defensive player (UZR/150 of 39.7). With Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Adam Dunn available could they look to upgrade the outfield? Werth and Crawford seem more likely because they will want to leave the DH spot open for the veterans (A-Rod, Jeter, Posada).

As for Swisher, why not dangle him on the market to see what you could get in return? Everyone loves him, but there has been two postseasons in a row that he was persona non grata offensively. With the declining offensive numbers of the veterans they may need a more consistent run producer.

Personally they could use Werth, but I am leery of giving him Jason Bay money with his age and injury history. Crawford is younger and in his prime. Replacing Gardner with Crawford gives the Yankees someone who will provide similar defense, and far better offensive production. If they want a right handed bat to complement the lineup they could always sign a second tier player (Xavier Nady?) to spell Granderson and Swisher.

Signing Crawford would allow the Yankees to deal Brett Gardner and perhaps bring something of value (pitching?) in return.

Don’t forget some of the young positional players that could contribute in 2011. Jesus Montero and Brandon Laird might become great options at DH, corner infield, and outfield. Instead of relying on over the hill veterans like Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, or Randy Winn, the Yankees could turn to young players with upside.

Signing Crawford or Werth will help, but I don’t think it’s a total necessity.

Should Joe Girardi return?

Now that Chicago and St. Louis are not options I think it’s almost inevitable that Girardi returns. He wasn’t great this series, but his Game 4 decisions aren’t the sole reason the Yankees are home today.

I think Bobby Valentine is an interesting option for the Yankees, but could he work in the “command and control” environment of the Yankees? A great question indeed.

We all joke about Girardi’s binder, but he seems to grow and develop on the job. After doing a poor job of communicating with the media and players in 2008, he made strides in that area last year. I wonder if his learning’s this year will bring about similar change to his in game strategy in 2011.

If I were Girardi I would evaluate my bullpen strategy and start to develop clear roles for these guys and stick with it. The only time the Yankees have clearly defined roles in their bullpen was when Phil Hughes was setting up Rivera. Outside of the bullpen, there isn’t much strategy in the American League to kill Girardi about.

There are far worse problems, and managers, than Joe Girardi.

Final Thoughts

The Yankees have some decisions to make this offseason. As a matter of fact, their offseason may be more interesting than the 162 games they played this year.

The good news is the focus on youth will make it more palatable if they lose out on Cliff Lee, or decide to pass on a Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford. They have assets to trade, which could land them players of equal caliber (Zack Grienke?), or feel comfortable riding them out.

Despite the disappointing loss to Texas the Yankees are in fine shape for 2011, regardless of what direction they decide to go.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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8 Responses to My Thoughts on Yankees Offseason Direction

  1. TT

    Perks of a top 5 farm system. But u think there’s anyway lees not a Yankee? Cash offered Montero for him fir 2 months. That’s automatic

  2. Stu B

    Nothing’s automatic, TT, esp. if Lee pitches Texas to the title…their new ownership has plenty of $$…

  3. lino

    keep cliff lee, i dont want to see him in pinstripes at all.
    you gotta just close your eyes and pay Jeter and Mo for past performances, cant even start thinking of his ‘lack of range’. Jeter could stand still at SS and 80% of yankee fans will not begrudge him.

    mikey: told you granderson would come on. he will only get better.

  4. PhilD

    I would definitely sell high on Gardner. There’s no way he can sustain his walk rate (and thus his gaudy OBP) because HE SIMPLY IS NOT A BIG LEAGUE HITTER! No one is going to keep walking a guy who can’t hurt you with the bat but can with this speed on the bases. Also, Gardner struck out more than 100 times this year. That’s OK for Mickey Mantle but not for a guy whose game is built around beating out infield hits (notice how he kind of stopped doing that after teams adjusted their defensive positioning on him during the season?). I’m not in love with either Werth or Crawford but either one would be a huge upgrade over Gardner. Laird is an interesting possibility if he’s ready.

    I doubt that Cliff Lee is coming so Cashman better figure out a plan B that minimizes Burnett. Greinke has the Yankees on his no-trade list and given his mental fragility that’s a good move on his part. He’s not the answer. I’d rather take a chance on Nova then buy somebody else’s problem in a trade. Yeah, no one expected Javier Vazquez to be traded but how did that work out?

    Girardi is not the worst manager I’ve seen but he’s an idiot when it comes to in game strategy. Walking guys (even Josh Hamilton) to get to Vlad the Impaler is like playing Russian Roulette with three bullets in the gun. You man get lucky once or twice but eventually … The worst that could have happened was that Hamilton homered and the Yankees would have been down 3-1. By putting a guy on base for free Girardi increased the downside of his strategy and then compounded his bungling by bringing in Robertson who had been torched already in the series on the basis of an insignificant number of appearances against Cruz. If he was going to pull Hughes he should have pulled him to let Wood or CC face Hamilton. If not – let him try to get Hamilton out.

    The other points on Girardi 1) this team was not prepared for the playoffs because Girardi put them in a sleeper hold during the last month of the season instead of continuing to compete for the division title and 2) roster composition – the bench sucks; it’s full of scrubs like Pena, Cervelli, Golson and Kearns none of whom were going to play in the post-season. And I’m wondering if Sergio Mitre has some real dirt on Girardi because I can’t explain his presence on the team otherwise. Joe isn’t entirely at fault with respect to the roster but I didn’t hear him complaining either. Remember the bench of the 1996 team? Strawberry, Raines, Boggs? Seen anything like that recently?

    This team needs a major rebuilding. I’d cut Girardi loose if I could get Bobby V. Gardner, the whole bench, Logan and Robertson need to go. I’d listen to offers for Joba and Swisher but would not trade either unless I got something significant back. I hope Andy comes back. DH at bats should be given to Montero as soon as he’s ready and NOT to Jeter or Posada (unless Montero is catching). I really doubt Nunez is anything more than a stop-gap solution at SS but Jeter is not leaving for 3-4 years which means his replacement may not have even been signed to his first pro contract yet.
    Other i

  5. Joel

    I have a simple plan for the Yankees. First, you have to bring back Jeter and Rivera, as well as Pettite if he wants to return. For Jeter, I’d offer him a 4 year deal between $72 and $80 million to start. He’ll get whatever he wants, but the team may want to try to convince him that it’ll b in the teams best interest for him to take a bit of a pay cut. Rivera, a 1 yr deal for $16 million, and Pettite a 1 yr deal for $12.5 million with bonuses. Next, they need to go after Cliff Lee to the tune of 4 years and $88 mil. If thats not enuff, u let him walk. Regardless of Lee or Pettite being a Yankee, I think they need to deal Burnett. He was good in his first year, but a total head case this season. Send him to the national league, maybe to Arizona for Brandon Webb or Houston for Brett Myers. I like Gardner in center because 1) he’s good defensively 2) he’s got a lot of speed, and 3) he’s still young. There’s plenty of time to turn him around and improve his batting. Having a guy like him on the basepaths will cause havok with pitchers and improve the odds for the hitters following him in the order. I like Swisher, but if there’s a viable upgrade over him at a reasonable price, I’d make the switch. I’d avoid Werth due to his injury history, and I’d pass on Crawford due to the money factor as well as his age. He’s still young, but unless you get him on a 3-4 year deal, I dont see it as a good move.

    Next up is the rotation. With CC and Hughes at the top, you’ve got a good launch point. Hughes is only gonna get better from here on out and will have no limits next season. If they have Lee and Pettite, you’re solid 1-4 leaving the 5th spot open to competition. One pitcher to avoid in the battle is Joba Chamberlien. The Yankees have bounced him back and forth so much that it’s ridiculous, and his head is messed up because of it. I see him as a 7th or 8th inning guy, but Dave Eiland needs to screw his head back on straight. That means getting him back to being ’07 Joba. Keep Kerry Wood, Logan, and Robertson. The Yankees parted with Phil Coke in the Granderson deal and he had an excellent season. Let Marte walk or deal him.

    Finally comes an injection of youth. Forget Girardi’s DH plan from the past 2 years. I’s helpful at times, but they need a regular guy in the DH spot, and I believe that man is ARod. It will decrease the stress on his hip as he’ll b putting less stress on them, and that will open up 3rd base for Brandon Laird to take over. Unless he struggles mightily, I say u give him a full year and see what he can do. Next is Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. I like Fransisco Cervelli’s take charge attitude with the pitching staff, but he’d be more valuable off the bench instead of as Posada’s back-up. Convert him to a back-up infielder and keep himas a emergency catcher. As for Montero and Romine, the Yankees should have them compete in spring training with the winner becoming Posada’s new back-up for the season. As for Posada, I’d only give him about 100 starts behind the plate. Spot him in as the DH every now and then, but not regularly. Let Montero or Romine get about 60+ games in, and increase the load the following season which will be Posada’s last as a Yankee. I like him, but he doesn’t present the same sentimentality for me as Jeter or Rivera do. Letting Posada go or bringing him back as a bench guy wouldn’t b so bad.

  6. kevin

    Sorry, no one is taking AJ Burnett off our hands. You can forget about that pipe dream right now. He will be 34 years old next season and has 3 years/$49.5 million left on his deal. No one can afford that contract and no one is dumb enough to risk it based on this season and his injury history.

  7. Lance

    A few points

    1.) Jeter 2 yrs. 50 mil?? Wayyy off. Jeter will get a multi yr deal (3-4) and will make btw 13-16mil a year with incentives around historical records. Paying 25 mil a yr for Jeter would be crazzzzzy.

    2.) Gardner and Swisher will platoon, the Yankees will sign Crawford or Werth

    3.) Berkman comes back, Kearns prob not, Wynn prob not

    4.) Jose Reyes will never be a Yankee. Nady had is shot– not coming back

    5.) Crawford is going to cost significantly more than Werth

    Let’s go Yankees in 2011

  8. Dan M

    I love the Yankees, but there’s too many disagreements among the fans. My favorite guys to watch were Gardner and Cervelli this year, even when they failed offensively (and, with Gazoo, occasionally on popups)….the Yankees need engergy. If Jeter had anything close to an average year, Gardner would definitely have seen more hittable pitches (as it was, he either walked so Jeter would come up with his problems at the plate, or he was pitched and beaten) Cervelli, when he caught strike three, would LEAP into the dugout — I loved it…got the crowd more animated. Yankees fans, we have to curb our spoiled attitude as a group – it’s ugly to outsiders and cantankerous to say the least. IMHO, I’m happy as long as they play hard. Drop the top earners – I’m sick of A-ROD and his issues, I’m sick of Burnett, I just want to like the players and want them to succeed based on the fact that they play hard – not the names they drag into the lineup.

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