One Last Chance

Brian Cashman and the entire Yankees organization are still hiding under the covers. It’s been a rough offseason for New York; not necessarily because they missed out on talent, but because the organization was continually embarrassed.

It started, of course, with Cliff Lee. After we were led to believe that Lee would be a Yankee without any kind of disturbance, the Phillies walked in and lit the Yankees desires on fire. No big deal, everyone said, the Yankees just didn’t want to spend that kind of money. That’s fine, but maybe we should have heard that earlier.

Derek Jeter also earned a spot on this list as well. As if it wasn’t ridiculous enough for Jeter ask for five or six years, his agent decided to take it to the next level and call the Yankees actions “baffling.” The Yankees won that battle without ever shedding a drop of sweat, but an embarrassing result for Jeter is an embarrassing result for the Yankees

Then, to add insult to injury, Kerry Wood decided to sign with the Cubs for a fourth of the money he could have made with the Yankees. I want to be a Cub for life, he said. Don’t ask me what’s going through his mind

The Red Sox also did a small number on the Evil Empire. In an attempt to swarm the tabloids of the baseball world, Theo Epstein decided to take a shot at signing Mariano Rivera. Although Rivera swept it off with virtually no thought, the last thing the Yankees needed was to be on the wrong side of a joke.

To top it off, another small Yankee dream was diminished. The Yankees missed out on Zack Greinke, mostly because they didn’t want to give up their entire minor league system, but also because they were never too excited about bringing him to New York.

Here are the two ways to look at the Yankees’ 2010-2011 offseason: (A), the cynical view, would be to say the Yankees two best additions are Russell Martin and Pedro Feliciano; not too inspiring. (B), the optimistic and realistic view, would be to say the Yankees will enter the 2011 season with the same team that won the 2009 World Series.

Ultimately, this offseason was hyped up beyond belief for the Yankees. But the problem was that the actual Yankees organization had different plans. Cashman would have loved to add Lee or Crawford, but evidently he wasn’t too eager to sign either of them; at least for the prices the market demanded.

However, that is not a reason to let this offseason slip away. A couple weeks ago, the Yankees were hit with their lowest luxury tax since 2003. Clearly something is missing. Not to say the Yankees should spend for the sake of spending, but there is still room to improve.

By now it is quite obvious that the Yankees are not going to improve their starting pitching. If, by some miracle, Prior can help this team, the Yankees will have a great pitching staff; but don’t count on it.

As it stands, the Yankees starting rotation is projected to have a higher WAR in 2011 than it did in 2010, so the Yankees can feel comfortable entering the season with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and a fifth starter of their choice. (The Yankees still await a verdict from Andy Pettitte.)

But with the remaining money the Yankees have left on the table, they can still make significant improvements to their bullpen.

If the Yankees want to take a risk, they can go with a young Chad Cordero or a much older Brian Fuentes. Both can be labeled as “very high risk, very high reward.”

If the Yankees want to make a big splash, they can strike a deal with the Royals for Joakim Soria. But after the Yankees listened to ridiculous offers for Greinke, it is unlikely that these two teams can work anything out this offseason.

Then, there is Rafael Soriano. The Yankees have been clear throughout that they do not want to spend the money he will demand. But if things get too close to the finish line, it wouldn’t hurt the Yankees to spend some of their extra cash on a guy who had 45 saves last season.

When I heard that the Yankees were having “internal conversations” about Manny Ramirez, it became evident that the Yankees just weren’t taking this offseason seriously. There are plenty of places to improve, and it’s time for Cashman to wipe away the tears and get something done.

Listen to Jess on What’s on Second: The Seamheads.com Radio Hour Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter   @jesskcoleman or send him an e-mail at [email protected].

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20 Responses to One Last Chance

  1. Bronx Knight says:

    Thanks for the post, Jess. We in BBD Land have been hungry …

    The problem with the optimistic viewpoint (that we have essentially the same team for 2011 as we did for 2009) is it's two years down the road, we didn't reach the WS this year, and all the guys we still have are two years more beat up. An exception would be Phil Hughes' emergence as a solid starter. Plus, we don't have Pettite, we don't have a fifth starter, Ivan Nova is largely untested, and AJ Burnett at this point is a rehab project. So, apart from CC and Phil, our starting rotation is full of question marks.

    On the plus side, we still have the same offense which led the majors in runs scored in 2010. I think Jeter and also A-Rod will bounce back from a sub-par year. But, oh that pitching!

    I am not a Cashman basher — I met the guy and shook his hand once — but given the current state of our rotation, I think he has failed this offseason. Hopefully he can still turn things around.

  2. Mike S. says:

    If Prior helps the team, it will be as a reliever. That is how he is attempting his comeback, not as a starter.

  3. Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

    I endorse Cashman's moves for the most part. I'm just not sure what he could have done this offseason to have made it any better apart from getting Cliff Lee for a 7/175 kind of deal which I personally would have done but in retrospect seems likely Lee would not have taken it anyway. I know many Yankee fans feel differently, but I NEVER wanted Crawford at a 6/90 type of contract and I think it would have been ridiculous to give him what Boston did, especially in light of the fact that they already have a good trio that combined will make less that Crawford. As for Greinke, I definitely would not have wanted to give up THAT much of the system for him.

    I like Cashman's patient approach as there is nothing that can be done in the near term of any significance, at least based on the players on the market or up for trade. I know the team can be improved marginally but without an extra starter, Pettite or not, I'm not sure it makes much difference.

    Even anticipating the Cliff Lee decision, I was hoping that we could get Felix (yes Felix) in stealth mode. I for one wouldn't mind giving up the following all for Felix:

    -Joba

    -Ivan

    -Jesus

    -One of the Bs of M's choice

    -Adams

    Not to mention the large amount of his contract that the Yanks would be taking on. I really think this deal could get done.

  4. Ken says:

    There is no way on God's green earth a package of Joba, Nova, Montero, Adams and either Banuelos or Betances lands Felix. Not a chance at all.

    • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

      Ken,

      I don't necessarily disagree with your conclusion. But, Felix is due $70M over the course of the next 4 years, which is a huge bargain. But probably 15 MLB teams would automatically not take him even if you gave him to them for free, if they could not trade him.

      Seattle is going nowhere in the next couple of years and probably more, IMO. They are probably trying to get younger and fill out for a run a few years from now. If I'm their owner, or GM, I'm not sure that it would be wise to pay him all that money to have losing seasons overall anyway.

      Of course, that's not remotely to say that the Ms would not try for a larger haul with someone else. But this is where the Yankees front office has to get creative and get it done. Quite frankly, I'm not sure what the incentive (except for some near term backlash from fans). The Ms would be getting a cheap pool of potential talent. Conversely, I personally would not mind putting in Hughes (already a proven 2nd or 3rd MLB starter at this point with a potentially high ceiling) in lieu of Nova and Montero.

      Let's not say "not a chance". When you look at the trades that have been done for Cliff Lee 3 times, CC, Santana, Halladay, it doesn't seem remotely unfathomable to me.

  5. Rafael says:

    Montero need two catcher gloves in order to keep the ball, very poor defensive. He is good a bat in Triple A, no experience yet

    in the major.

  6. Mindkind says:

    7/175 for Lee? Damn those numbers are out of this world! I say NO to that, not for a 32 year old pitcher with back problems. NO to Crawford at the numbers he asked for. NO to Greinke because the questions mark is too big to give up top prospects for. YES to Rafael Soriano as he is an elite reliever who can take over after Rivera retires. NO to adding Phil Hughes to that package to get Felix Hernandez. That's insane to give up around five top prospects plus an 18 game winner for one guy no matter how great. If the trades get's done I would consider it a great deal if the Yankees lose only prospects NOT players on the big club. The Mariners should trade Hernadez and get the best package avaible. The Yankees will be fine, they have veterans that can still play, a really good farm system, money and young players that are already contributing on the big club; not to mention the Steinbrenners. And Montero is not that bad defensively. He will probably never be consider "great" with the glove, but he will be acceptable. Also, with Tony Peña around he will get better.

    • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

      You have to put the salary of a 7/175 in context. Right now it's unsure whether the Yanks will even make the playoffs. Even if they get there, I would give them a very low chance of winning. What might be a 5-10% chance of winning it all could have easily become 30-40% chance with the addition of Lee. If you going to have a $200M payroll anyway, you may as well have a $215-220 and significantly improve your chances.

      Phil Hughes was only going to be in if Nova AND Montero were taken out of the package.

    • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

      BTW, aside from the Lee thing, I agree with much of what you say but Soriano is not a good target IMO. While he may only cost a draft pick, which is a big enough deal, just to get a reliever, he will also cost probably ~$10M per season for multi-years. That is a lot to pay for an 8th inning guy whose walk ratio isn't all that comforting. It's a LOT to pay period. And having a Soriano only gives you a sliver of a chance more than you have any how. I'd rather keep the bullets (payroll and draft pick) for something more substantial.

      They'll be plenty enough time to figure out what to do in the post-Mo era and enough decent relivers in the low to mid 7 figures (non multi year) to fill the gaps.

  7. Rafael says:

    Mindkind: Please review Jesus Montero defensive record at Year 2010 at Scranton/Wilkes: In 105 games, 15 PB, in 99 SB he only Caught 30 = 23% very poor for a young player with no arm problems.

    Regardless NYY have Tony Peña, Montero have to run the game. Now let see the 2009 Record: Tampa Yankees; In Tampa Yankees 26 games

    PB 3, SB 56, Caught Stealing 8= 13%. Four seasons GP 258 Defensive chances 2013, PO 1827, A 173 E 13 PB 41 Stolen Base CS 264, SB 23%.

    • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

      Those numbers are much better than the Yanks have had at the MLB level for the past few years. And I expect better offense from Montero once he gains his stride. No, he's not a great defensive catcher, but he isn't THAT bad either unless you think Posada had no business playing the position the pas few years.

  8. Mindkind says:

    How old is Montero? He will improve. Anyway, he is rated as the Yankees #1 prospect and that's what concerns the M's. If anything they can move him to 1B. What do you think about the rest of my post?

  9. Rafael says:

    Hardcore:

    What it's important t be a good catcher it's handling the calls for difference kind of pitcher, and Posada have done his job in addition to his offense. You will see Posada after June 2011 behind the home many.. many times, more than many Yankees fans think.

    • Mindkind says:

      With Russell Martin, Montero, Cervelli possibly even Romine, I don't think Posada will catch many games in 2011.

  10. smurfy says:

    Cash shoulda bid $150 for 5 years for Lee, plus some Cy and WS MVP incentives. I would have loved to watch him carve up the strike zone. I may consider plunging for a packge so I can watch the Phillies pitch.

    He also shoulda secured that Wood from floating downstream. I sorta heard $5.5 for one year: would $12mm for 2 have been too much? Soriano wants that for one.

    I agree with the patience theme, though, especially to see the the three B's and Phil ripen. Betcha AJ comes back hard; Phil will likely be dull, rebuilding stamina; and I gotta wonder about our big horse: what happened to his changeup, and has the workload worn him down? In this post-steroid era, young, good pitching and strong defense are Big.

    On Montero catching: a great pitching staff needs excellent pitch calls, blocking and throwing. My hopes are pinned on Romine. I'd like to see the Yanks hold onto Montero ("patience"), so he can be backup catcher, DH when Jorge needs a spell, and big bat off the bench.

    To land King Felix, the Yanks would have to give up Cano and Montero, or Phil and Montero, plus one of the B's. So, no thanks.

    • Mindkind says:

      I agree on waiting for Hughes and Killer B's fruits. Nothing like building from within. No matter what CC says there is no way that pitching on a hurt knee didn't affect him. So to me that explains what ever troubles he had with velocity and pitch movement. The Change-up is a feel pitch and a hurt knee would hamper that. I think he will be fine as he has dealt with this injury before and has come back strong. I heard also that he lost about 15 pounds already and plans to lose 15 more so that's great. On Montero being the backup catcher I assume you're speaking just for 2011. I don't think the Yankees want to waste a bat with Montero's potential on the bench. And NO WAY should the Yankees ever include Cano ( young, MVP candidate ) Montero ( #1 prospect ) one of the Killer B's ( top pitching prospects ) for Hernandez. If the M's want to do the deal it will have to be top prospects, but NO ML players. The M's would replenish the farm system and get financial relief.

      • smurfy says:

        I like your explanations for CC. Didn't know he had prior knee trouble, glad to hear the prognosis.

        Re Montero, yeah, I think such use this season would let him transition with less stress. In future, a role of DH/backup catcher sounds good, but I want to see how Jorge does: his bat was lively last year, till interupted by the foot injury.

        I agree on not giving up our best talent to land Felix, just pointing out what M's would demand. They need hitting, as of the year before last.

        • Mindkind says:

          Yeah I think Posada's bat is taken for granted. I believe he will have a really good year as a DH. He should be fresh the whole year and that will help his bat. And I'm glad not everybody is willing to give up the farm for Hernadez. I would love to get him but not if it means giving up EVERYBODY lol. If we don't trade for him then wait 'till he is available at age 28 and throw the money bags at him.

  11. Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

    Guys, I just want to reiterate that the potential packages that I outlined aren't THAT many prospects for arguably the best pitcher in the game today. In fact, considering that Felix is pitching easily at a $25-30M a year level, his contract alone would payback the Yankees $30-50M (even much more when consider minimized luxury tax) over the next 4 years, not to mention putting them in the best spot to resign him while he's still ONLY 28 four years from now.

    As for the prospects, the Yankees are stacked enough at the MLB level that even if the they continue to play well, there is little or no place to put many of them, which is why I don't object to moving them. I'm a bit worried about the catcher spot, but they have many young prospects so that should be okay. I'm a bit worried about the OF spots in a couple of years, but that's why I didn't mention Laird (much talk of moving him) or Heathcott. And, I didn't mention Nunez because he will need to support and take over for Jeter.

    As for pitching, if you get Felix, you have a rotation that looks like this (even without Pettite):

    CC (will have to give him an extension but he will be here)

    Felix (nuff said)

    Hughes (assuming package #1)

    Burnett (unfortunately no choice)

    TBD

    You can always find number 4-5 caliber starters for 1-3 year contracts at <$10 AAV, so I don't worry that much about the back end of the rotation. If Hughes is in the package, then one has to hope that one of the 3 Bs or Nova will take at least one spot.

    Either way, I consider this to be the best chance of the Yanks winning now and for the future. And if you get Felix, it buys you plenty of time to develop future prospects. Also, you can always find plenty of things in the free agent market with Yankee money. A guy like Felix is rarely available free agency. The FA list coming in the 2011-12 is incredibly unimpressive.

  12. smurfy says:

    Hardcore, if I could wave a wand over the M’s GM so he would take the first package you described for Felix, the reigning Cy, I surely would. But, lacking Harry’s skill, it won’t do.

    To give up a good ML pitcher, much less one of the best, a team would need proven (ML proven) talent back, and in this case, some of the very best. Cano, shivver me timbers, Phil, smash us, ‘twould be unwise since he could maybe approach King-like pitching one day.

    If the M’s see the wisdom of shopping Felix, it would be for proven great players and a wealth of prospects.