With the starting rotation for 2009 complete let's look at the rest of team starting with the bullpen. For part 1 use this link http://bleacherreport.com/articles/57778-wait-til-next-year-looking-ahead-at-the-new-york-yankees-part-1.
The bullpen will still be lead by Mo Rivera after moving across 161st street. Leading up to Mo has been a weak spot for the Yankees recently. Ever since the days of Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson, they have had to hold their breath when seeing guys like Kyle Farnsworth try hold the lead for the Yanks (apologies to Tom "Flash" Gordon who was excellent in his two years in pinstripes).
This year, even though they will not make the playoffs, they Girardi may have found that late inning answer Joe Torre was searching for his last few years in the Bronx.
The Dominican Duo, Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez, have shown this season that they may be the two that can bridge the gap between the starters and Rivera. Both of these relievers have been excellent this season, enabling the Yankees to unload inconsistent fire-baller Farnsworth to bring in Pudge Rodriguez.
Veras and that skinny guy Ramirez have put up great minor league numbers the past few years; Ramirez even won the minor league relief pitcher of the year last season. This year they were finally able to translate that into major league success.
Veras is striking out 9.6 guys per 9 innings with a 2.27 K/BB ratio. To become as dominant as the Yankees need, Veras has to stop walking so many guys. He has done a great job by allowing only a .239 batting average but his walks are the only thing keeping him from being great. Ramirez held opponent to 43 hits in 54.1 innings to go along with a 1.23 WHIP.
Unfortunately, both of these guys have ONE major problem. Way too many air outs over ground balls. According to various sabermetric research, pitchers do not have the ability to control where the ball is hit. They can affect ground ball numbers though and both of these two guys give up too many fly balls. Of course, ground balls have a lower batting average on balls in play (BABIP) than fly balls do.
Anyway, back to the Yankees off-season. Since those three guys look to have the back end of the bullpen, what about the rest. Who can step up next year and provide another impact reliever. They need to resign lefty Damaso Marte. Even though he pitched horrible in the beginning for the Yanks, he has pitched well lately and should be a strong option out of the bullpen next year. Brian Bruney, who has been extraordinary when healthy this season, and Chris Britton should also both make the roster for the 2009 season. Our bullpen for next year will likely be built from within and I doubt the Yankees make a splash by signing a big-name reliever this off-season.
Now to our biggest disappointment of 2008, the offense. Catcher Jorge Posada will be healthy and even though he doesn't have that much longer behind the dish, he will be our starter next season. Pudge Rodriguez will be let go and I am expecting Jose Molina to return as the back-up next season.
The left side of the infield will of course be the same with Alex Rodriguez covering the hot corner and the Captain Derek Jeter at short. Robinson Cano will work with hitting coach Kevin Long to revamp his swing which will hopefully return him back to his 2006-07 form. He will man second base again next year.
The big question mark will be first base. Current Yankee Jason Giambi will become a free agent at season's end and Cashman has to make a big decision with these guys. Unfortunately for Giambi, All-Star first-baseman Mark Teixeira will be a free agent also. The Yankees need to make a string case to reel in Big Tex. He provides gold-glove caliber defense and his bat will easily replace Giambi in the line-up. Tex will turn 29 in April so he still has quality years left. Giambi, as we all know, is a question mark every year due to health concerns and age.
Since the Yankees will likely only be able to sign at most one big-name star this off-season, Teixeira will be either #2 or #3 on Cashman's radar behind Milwaukee pitchers CC Sabathia and possibly Ben Sheets. Tex and Sabathia have both proved they will not flop in a pennant race this season while Sheets' injury concerns will cause hesitation on Cashman's part. But with so many big-money contract coming off the books this season, one of these guys needs to be signed.
If the Yanks miss out on Teixeira, it may be time to give Juan Miranda a shot to win the job or bring in Xavier Nady from the outfield and give him a chance to play first, he has before when in Pittsburgh. No matter what, it should be Giambi's last week in pinstripes.
The outfield will require significant upgrades after the disapearence of Melky Cabrera's talent this season. Hideki Matsui will be healthy and will most likely start the year as the DH but may be used as trade bait to bring in a quality starting pitcher if they do not sign either of the Brewers. Bobby Abreu will become a free agent but should be retained. A two year deal for Bobby will give Melky, Justin Christian, and Brett Gardner more time to develop into starters.
The X-Man will return as the left-fielder unless Abreu leaves. He can also give spot starts at first and may be able to platoon with Miranda if needed. Johnny Damon will be the centerfielder again and one of the three outfielders above (MC, JC, BG) will take up the fifth outfielder role.
PROJECTED 2009 STARTING ROTATION:
1. Chien-Ming Wang
2. Joba Chamberlain
3. Mike Mussina
4. Jon Garland
5. Phil Hughes
PROJECTED 2009 LINE-UP
1. Johnny Damon CF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Mark Teixeira 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
5. Bobby Abreu RF
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Hideki Matsui DH
8. Xavier Nady LF
9. Robinson Cano 2B
Jose Molina C
Wilson Betemit 1B
Cody Ransom INF
Brett Gardner OF