Even with the floor of the Yankee clubhouse still sticky from copious amounts of sprayed champagne, the overall big picture has to be examined. Yes, the Yankees start their playoff life on Sunday, but it’s never too early to take a gander at the makeup of the team in 2013.
With well-publicized attempts at lowering payroll by 2014 and aging core superstars, one has to wonder what exactly this team will look like next year. Even before the last pitch is thrown in 2012, there are concerns that the Bombers need to address if they want to be a playoff team in twelve months.
After the playoffs end, outfielder Nick Swisher is out on the market for all teams. The streaky spark plug has been rumored to be asking for a “Jayson Werth-like deal”, which is borderline lunacy. In his four years with the Yankees, Swisher has never hit less than 23 HR and 82 RBIs and vastly improved his defense at first base or the outfield, but come on.
With the exception of Josh Hamilton (who is unlikely to entertain the bright lights of New York due to a substance abuse past), the market for free agents in the outfielder department is a little lacking.
If the Swisher demands come to fruition, the team needs to let him walk. Assuming Gardner is healthy and the Yanks take another flier on Ichiro, letting Swisher go is the smartest move they can make.
Re-signing a starter who batted .211 for an entire season is grounds for long-term institutionalization, but in Russell Martin’s case the idea is more complex.
Martin reaps the benefit of playing for the New York Yankees. You know, the team that basically has an All-Star at every position. So, while the Yankees probably expect a better average than one that hovers around the Mendoza line, they can live with it.
His ability to catch, control a pitching staff, plus his fiery passion for the game are never a question. However, earlier this season Martin thought very highly of those skills. Last spring, the Yanks offered him the 29-year-old catcher a contract in the range of three years, $20 million. He shook his head and said, “Show me the money!”
Farmhand Gary Sanchez isn’t ready for the big lights yet, and it’s doubtful the Yanks will go after any catcher requesting big money, but with Martin, a line has to be drawn. He’s a great supplemental player that acts as an essential glue for the team, but he has to realize his market value. In the end, I think he will.
I’ve always been a fan of Ichiro, so when the Yankees acquired him in a trade out of left field (get it?), I was ecstatic. However due to his age and declining numbers, I honestly didn’t expect all that much and I certainly wasn’t alone.
But we were all wrong.
In 67 games, the 38-year-old outfielder batted .340 with 73 hits, five home runs, and 14 stolen bases. His presence in the lineup has revitalized a sometimes ungodly anemic offense into a moving wheel churning out runs. Let us also not forget about his sparkling defense that has saved many pitchers in tight games in the past few months.
Re-signing Ichiro is an enormous priority for the Yankees, and as long as the future-Hall-of-Famer wants back in the Bronx, it should be a done deal.
As a perennial playoff team, the Yankees are always trying to get better, but maybe not so much older. Both 40-year-old Andy Pettitte and 37-year-old Hiroki Kuroda will be free agents at the conclusion of the Yankees' season. Will either of them be in the rotation on Opening Day in 2013?
Personally, I feel Pettitte will retire and stay that way after the conclusion of the season. Having gone through a significant injury and the strenuous recovery that comes with it, it’s likely he’ll realize that baseball might no longer be on the cards.
As for Kuroda, it’s difficult to peg. Unexpectedly, he has become the most consistent starter on the team this year. But will Brian Cashman dole out another $10 million for a then-38-year-old pitcher who by his own admission doesn’t even like playing baseball?
When all is said and done, Cashman will most likely meet with him at the bargaining table and try to hammer out another one-year deal. He’s earned a conversation at the close of the season.
When he spit out the words, “If you ask me, who is the best pitcher in the world, I say me”, in late April, you just knew Ivan Nova was setting himself up for disaster.
No, the train wreck didn’t come immediately, but it ultimately showed up right around playoff time. In his last eight starts, he has given up four or more runs in five of the outings. The nail in the coffin was manger Joe Girardi skipping over the 25-year-old in the rotation in the all-important second-to-last game of the year.
Girardi has not released the playoff roster yet, but there’s a very legit chance Nova’s name is not there. From the “best pitcher in the world” to scrapped from the postseason.
Baseball Suzyn, how do you figure it?
Next year, the wiry righty will be another year wiser, more mature and hungrier. Whether he’s playing baseball in the playoffs or not, this second half of the season has certainly humbled him and brought him down off his soapbox.