New York Yankees: Maybe the Offseason Wasn't Such a Bust After All

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IApril 28, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  General manager Brian Cashman (L) and manager Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees listen as Rafael Soriano (not pictured) speaks during his introduction press conference on January 19, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees signed Soriano to a three-year contract.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

So this past winter, the Yankees off-season plan was built mainly around the signing of Cliff Lee.

When he turned down a guaranteed seven-year deal for somewhere around $158 million from the Yankees to return to the Philadelphia Phillies for a five-year deal for about $125 million, many fans didn't know what the Yankees next move would be.

In fact, after I had found out around 12:30 in the morning the night of December 14 that Lee was going back to the Phillies, I too had wondered what the Yankees next move was going to be.

So slowly, the Yankees started to make moves for their 2011 roster.

They signed Russell Martin to be the catcher.

Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were signed to minor league deals to compete for a rotation spot along with Ivan Nova. (Kevin Millwood was also signed, but he has yet to be called up from the minors.)

Andruw Jones was signed as the fourth outfielder.

Eric Chavez was signed to a minor league deal to compete for a spot off the bench.

The biggest signing was Rafael Soriano to a three-year deal to be Mariano Rivera's setup man in the bullpen.

Oh, they also did re-sign Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera too, can't forget them.

So, how's it worked out so far for the Yankees?

Lets start with Soriano, who right now has a 1-1 record with a 7.84 ERA so far in April. Last year, Soriano had a 1.73 ERA with the Rays and so far, has surrendered nine runs 10.1 innings pitched.

It's a little early to be calling Soriano a bust, but right now, Soriano has not looked impressive for the Yankees. He needs to be though, because he is an important part of that bullpen.

Remember when the Yankees signed Martin to be the catcher and everyone wasn't thrilled about it?

I do. I remember a lot of people's reactions, most of them thinking he was a shell of what he used to be and we might as well let Jesus Montero start.

Martin is only hitting .292 with six home runs and 16 RBI so far for the Yankees and has caught the majority of the games with Gustavo Molina getting a rare start here and there.

Nobody expected this from Martin and he's done a great job for the Yankees. He wasn't just given the starting catcher job. He's earned it.

Did anyone think in February that Eric Chavez would even be on the Yankees in 2011, much less contributing?

I'll admit, I thought Chavez would probably get hurt in Spring Training and would have to retire. Chavez hadn't played anywhere near close to a full season since 2006. (90, 23, 8, 33- number of games Chavez played in 2007-2010 in Oakland.)

Look at Chavez now.

First off, he's healthy, which is extremely important.

He's hitting well and he's still playing very good defense at third base. He's even been needed to fill in at times for Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod was out of the lineup with injuries or had a day off.

Chavez is hitting .348 with no homers and three RBI. He's come up with clutch hits, like he did against the Rangers on Sunday Night Baseball this month.

One of the Yankees needs in the off-season was bench help and a fourth outfielder spot.

There was rumors about bringing Johnny Damon back, but the Yankees went in a different direction with former Braves outfielder Andruw Jones.

The same Andruw Jones who hit .154 for the Dodgers, .214 for the Rangers and .230 for the White Sox these past three years.

I remember a lot of the reactions for signing Jones, the term "washed-up" and "has-been" were tossed around for the 34-year old.

Right now, Jones is hitting .316 and is starting in left-field on days where left-handed pitchers are facing the Yankees.

Jones' defense isn't what it once was, but he's a serviceable outfielder for the Yankees.

In fact, right now he's looking better than the current starting left-fielder Brett Gardner. Gardner is just marred in a bad month, hitting .145. He's only got three steals, struck out 20 times and an on-base percentage of .197.

Gardner's not getting steals because he's not on base, mostly because he strikes out more than he hits or walks (20 strike outs, 9 hits, 4 walks.)

With Gardner struggling, getting Jones wasn't such a bad signing after all.

Now, the last two, which so far have been the most crucial, because they addressed the Yankees biggest off-season need—starting pitching.

Like I said in the beginning, the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee. Andy Pettitte retired and Javier Vazquez went to the Marlins.

The rotation was looking rather thin. It got even worse when Phil Hughes and his 13.94 ERA were put on the disabled list with a dead arm. It's only April and Hughes is already not on the roster.

Freddy Garcia, who nobody wanted and even the Yankees only wanted to give a minor league deal to, so far is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings pitched and nine strikeouts.

In his first start against the Rangers, he had the Texas hitters off-balanced and off their game. In his last start against the Orioles, it was the same.

The only run he's given up was pitching in mop-up relief against the Red Sox in Fenway Park earlier in the month. As a starter, Garcia has yet to give up a run (six shutout innings against Texas, six shutout innings against Baltimore).

Garcia is not a power pitcher anymore, so now, like Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte have done for the Yankees in the past, Garcia is becoming a pitcher, using location, movement and changing speeds to fool hitters.

Can Garcia hold up for a full season for the Yankees? Last year with the White Sox, he did make 28 starts and went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA. So my guess is, he could.

When Bartolo Colon was the first starting pitcher following Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies, I was just in dis-belief.

At the time, I thought to myself, "This is what we're going after now? Really?"

A lot of you didn't even think Colon would even make the team and would have gotten cut before the season started.

After an impressive spring training, Colon made the team as the long-reliever, taking the job from Sergio Mitre.

When Hughes went on the DL, Colon wasn't just handed the job, he had earned it from pitching so well in relief appearances for the Yankees.

Every time Hughes pitched and bombed a start, Colon came in to clean up the mess. Colon did take a loss against the Red Sox for allowing one earned run (Hughes allowed six in two innings)

In two starts made, Colon is 2-0, pitching 14.2 innings, allowing three runs and striking out 13 batters. Colon has also gotten his ERA down to 2.77.

In Wednesday night's start against his former team, the White Sox, Colon pitched eight dominant innings, allowing one run on seven hits and struck out six to pick up his second win.

Many said last night that Colon looked as good as he did in 2005 when he won 21 games and the American League Cy Young Award with the Angels.

If Colon can hold up as well, just like Garcia, what a rotation the Yankees have formed with CC Sabathia (1-1, 2.73 ERA), A.J. Burnett (3-1, 3.52 ERA) and Ivan Nova (1-2, 5.82 ERA).

I know it's only April, but so far, all of these guys, minus Soriano, have been extremely productive and have played well for the Yankees so far.

Oh, and the Yankees are also 13-8 and in first place of the American League East right now.

Now, it's too soon to tell whether Martin, Chavez, Jones, Garcia and Colon will all hold up over the next five months and help the Yankees go on another playoff run, or if they get hurt and force Yankees GM Brian Cashman to make a trade in the middle of the season.

But for right now, Cashman's off-season, which some referred to as a disaster or even "shopping at the dollar-store" looks to be paying off.

Instead of spending $158 million and around $24 million per season on Lee, those five combined cost the Yankees around $10 million. Of the five, Martin had the highest contract with $4 million.

Who knew the Yankees could be so economical with their money and yet, still profit from it by winning.

Only time will tell if these additions continue to be successful for the Yankees.

For now, they've been better than expected.


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