The New York Yankees have arguably the best season as far as it came to the trades they were able to pull off. Now that the deadline has come to pass, you can be sure that management has already started to think about the difficult offseason decisions that loom.
Of course, a lot of the credence that goes into personnel decisions will come to light over the next few months during the stretch run and playoffs. However, the complex situations the Yankees will face forces top brass to start brainstorming.
The Yanks have some big name free agents: Andy Pettitte, Richie Sexson, Mike Mussina, Bobby Abreu, and Ivan Rodriguez. They are all free to seek employment elsewhere next year. Damaso Marte and Jason Giambi have options that the team needs to decide on.
The Giambi Dilemma
Giambi certainly has not been the Ruthian slugger Yankees fans thought they were getting coming off his MVP campaign in 2001. Giambi brought scandal to the Yankees, but showed an amazing perseverance earning Comeback Player of the Year honors and showing he could still hit the ball.
The Giambino has an option for $22 million next year and a $5 million dollar buyout if the Yankees do not pick up the option.
The solution: Let him go. When the Yankees signed him, they were expecting the .300 BA, 40 HR, and 120 RBI production. Since he's been in the Bronx, Giambi has hit 40 HR twice (his first two years), batted .300 once (his first year), and driven in 120 RBI once (his first year).
He's been injury plagued since coming off the juice and paying $5 million to be able to renegotiate is worth it. The Yanks could end up getting him to sign a two or three year deal for $12-$13 million, a significant amount of savings.
Add into the dilemma that Mark Teixeira. It's worth losing Giambi to make a run at the 28-year-old. Teixeira is averaging 36 HR, 120 RBI, and batting .280. He's only making $12.5 million this year. There will be a bidding war, but I'd gladly pay the $22 million a year for an upgrade of this proportion, even if we lose the $5 million dollar buyout.
Worst case scenario: The Yanks lose both Giambi and Teixeira to the market. They will then have options. They can either convert one of many players to first base (Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady). Of course, they could sign Rich Aurilla or Carlos Delgado for a season or two. In 2010, they can try to convince an aging Chipper Jones to split time between first base/DH.
They should resign Sexson. He's great against lefties and he's a solid backup defensively.
The Outfield Situation
Bobby Abreu wants to come back and he's lobbying hard for it. He knows that the pickup of Nady puts a lot of pressure on his back. He also knows that Justin Christian, Brett Gardner, and Austin Jackson are almost ready for the bigs.
This, of course, makes an already crowded outfield ridiculous. Mingle in the fact that Damon and Matsui usually have to DH a day or two a week, and it makes it even more complicated. Abreu is having a decent year, but he'll be 35 next year and is making $16 million. Is an insurance policy worth that much?
By all accounts, Gardner and Jackson will enter spring training competing for jobs in the outfield. If Melky Cabrera can get out of his slump, he'll also be in the mix. That would leave the Yankees with six viable outfielders (Damon, Matsui, Nady, Cabrera, Jackson, Gardner). Abreu will probably want a contract long enough to overlap the development of Jackson, leaving an odd man out.
The solution: Let Abreu go. Unless he can prove himself to be invaluable down the stretch, he can be replaced. Jackson is going to be a monster. Granted Damon, Matsui, and Nady are injury prone, so you need an insurance policy; however, $16 million is not a viable insurance policy option.
Enter Raul Ibanez. Ibanez will be 37 next year, but is only making $5.5 million this year. Let's look at the career statistical averages:
Ibanez: .285 BA, 21 HR, 92 RBI
Abreu: .300 BA, 21 HR, 97 RBI
Why pay a guy triple the amount for 15 points of batting average and five more RBI? Ibanez is more versatile in the field as well (granted, he doesn't have the Abreu cannon arm). Ibanez would be the smart ball move Cashman is trying to instill.
The Starting Rotation
Holy Cow! This would have been a lot easier if a) Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy gave us a good look at what they can do and b) if Mussina sucked again.
Let's start with what we got:
1) Chien-Ming Wang - He'll be well rested
2) Joba Chamberlin - Red Sox Killer for Life
That leaves three spots to fill. It would surprise me if Pettitte does not retire. He had to think long and hard about coming back for this season. He has, however, dropped hints that he'd like to pitch in the new stadium. He is having a decent year (12-9 4.34 ERA), plus he's money in October. He's no longer a number two, but who wouldn't take him as a four or five?
Mussina is having a year to remember. He has a shot at 20 wins and is having a decent showing in the Cy Young race. His age is becoming a major factor and there may not be enough room in next year's rotation.
The decision to keep Pettitte and/or Mussina may come down to how well Kennedy and Hughes do down the stretch. They are both pitching well in the minors and Phil "The Wild Thing" Hughes is fanning batters left and right.
Let's not forget about the huge free agents on the market. CC Sabathia, Ryan Dempster, Ben Sheets, and A.J Burnett. My guess is that Dempster will stay in Chicago, something special is happening there. I don't think Burnett is worth what the bidding wars will drive him up to.
My guess is that the Yankees will make a run at one big free agent starter, and I think it will be Sabathia. I have reservations about bringing in a guy who has only pitched in a small market. Sabathia is lights out and has pitched in October, but he won't come cheap. Fortuently, the Yankees will pay top dollar for him.
So here's what I think will happen.
I think Pettitte is a class act, and he'll realize that it's in the Yankees' best interest to move ahead with Sabathia. I'm sure he may stay game ready in case the Yankees need him at some point in the season. My best guess is that he'll take a year off and return to coach in the Yankees' system, or even be Joe Girardi’s pitching coach.
Hughes is the better pitcher over Kennedy and I don't think Kennedy will have enough stuff to overtake Mussina's season. Mussina will be within striking distance of 300 wins. Plus, Mussina is a potential 20 game winner, which is great to have in your number five slot. He should get a two year deal with a club option for a third.
Wild Card: If Hughes shows high velocity, but lack of stamina, he may become heir apparent to Mariano Rivera. In this case, a one year deal for Pettitte would make sense.
This obviously all hinges on how Jorge Posada's shoulder reacts. If the Yankees think he can catch, then Jose Molina is a fine backup. If they think he's going to spend a lot of time at first base or as a DH, then why not bring back Rodriguez? Rodriguez is a fine defensive catcher and would be quite a number nine hitter.
Rodriguez is almost school boy giddy about playing in New York and honestly, who would walk away from a rotation like that? Aside from his playing, he would be there to mentor the younger pitchers. That's right, the Yankees would then have Posada, Rodriguez, Girardi, and Mussina to work with Chamberlin, Hughes, and Kennedy.
1. Damon LF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Teixeira 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
5. Nady RF
6. Robinson Cano 2B
7. Posada DH
8. Cabrera CF
9. I. Rodriguez C/DH
On the bench/rotating players: Jackson, Ibanez, Matsui, and Sexson.
Talk about 1,001 different possibilities.
****Note: This does not mean the author is given up on this season by any means***