Thursday, December 3, 2009

The 2010 Yankees

Now is the time of year when, undoubtedly, Yankee fans see thousands of articles on what to do in free agency, who to sign, etc. etc. Every nitpicky sports writer with an opinion tells the Yankee what to do. And to that I humbly add, my version.

1. Proceed with caution with Doc Halladay.
Let me just say this: Doc Halladay is worth a lot of the risks we would face in getting him. Sure, he's 32, threw a ton of innings, and would command a meaty and long paycheck. But if the Blue Jays demands are at least, somewhat reasonable, the Yanks should do it.

That said, don't give up the farm. A package involving 2 or 3 of Austin Jackson, Phil Hughes, Jesus Montero and Joba But trade 1 of them, and other prospects, then yes. (More on this later.)

As Mark Feinsand of the Daily News reports and Mike Silva echoed, its not just that Halladay would be a safe bet for 200 quality innings a season with a ton of Ks, Its also that he would take so much pressure off the younger pitchers. He would eat up a lot of the innings they might otherwise be forced to face, and would serve as a mentor for them. AJ Burnett credits Halladay as a huge influence in his maturation while the both of them were in Toronto. So again, proceed with caution in getting Halladay, but definitely go after him hard.

2. Move Posada to DH on a semi-regular basis
We already know that Jorge will be DH-ing whenever Burnett is on the mound. But even so, he should probably do it more often.

There were signs, especially later in the season, that Posada was wearing down behind the plate. Despite only catching 100 games all season, Posada had 7 errors and tied a career low for fielding percentage. He also tied his career low in base runners caught stealing percentage. And lastly, in his entire career, 2009 was the worst year for pitchers pitching to Posada: Yankee pitchers had a 5.02 ERA when pitching to Posada—the overall team ERA was 4.28

It's time to phase Posada to DH, even more so than last year. The Yankees should resign Jose Molina, an outstanding defensive catcher, though a liability at the plate, and see what Francisco Cervelli can do with more regular playing time. Posada can still bring it with the stick, hitting 22 HRs and batting .285 with a .522 slugging percentage, so he should definitely be manning his middle-of-the-lineup spot, just not so much with the catching everyday. While it is too early for the Yankees blue-chip catching prospects, Austin Romaine and Jesus Montero to get true consideration as 2010 options, it isn't too early to begin the phase-out of Posada from behind the plate.

3. Get the outfield in order.
I, for one, am not a big proponent for going after Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. Not that wouldn't look nice in pinstripes, but the money the Yankees would spend might be used better elsewhere. In short, they aren't really big needs for the Yankees. And they have perfectly good parts right here.

Damon might get the big, 4-year contract he is looking for, but it probably wont be with the Yankees. It isn't a strong free agent class for outfielders, once you get past Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, so somebody might take a chance on Damon (And as reports indicate, that someone might be the cross-town Mets). But if not, resigning Damon to a two-year deal and letting him ease Jackson, Garnder, and some of the youngsters into everyday outfield spots would not be the worst idea.

In Damon's 4-year Yankee career, he has put up solid numbers and has averaged about 145 games a year. Not bad at all. If he could be resigned to match those numbers for two more year, great. If not, look into other options.

As for Swisher, I'm not as aggressive on trading him as some other are. He's signed to a reasonable contract through 2011, and while he will never hit for a high batting average, he does draw walks, is a switch-hitter and has power. His ideal position, it would seem to me, is as an off the bench, 4th outfield/1st baseman/pinch hitter. To me, Swisher doesn't have the chops to be an everyday player. As 2009 showed, he gets into some serious funks throughout the year—he batted .150 for the month of May, and .158 over the 28 days of the season. With Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera (maybe Jesus Montero in 2011 being slid into RF) and possibly Johnny Damon vying for spots in the Yankee 2010 outfield, a big-ticket free agent isn't required.

4. Find out what's going on with the young pitchers
Once and for all, find out if Hughes and Chamberlain are starters or relievers. While I'm a proponent of trying to shape Chamberlain into a Beckett-Clemens type starter, if he is more comfortable in the pen, then having a successor to Rivera would not be the worst thing in the world. But make sure you figure this out in February, not June.

As for Hughes, I truly believe, in the long term, he will be a plus starter. In 2010, he will probably have a Joba-type pitch count, much to the consternation of the Yankee fans and beat writers. All that is fine by me, but if he does have a pitch count, don't switch him from the pen to a starter and back again. Train him to be a starter and let him work through any problems he may have.

Also, find out what you have with Ian Kennedy, Zach McAllister, Mark Melancon and Mike Dunn. Can they be viable parts of the puzzle in 2010, as Phil Coke and David Robertson were in 2009? Or would they maybe be more helpful as pieces in a Halladay trade.

5. The Big One—middle infield
OK, first Cano.

By all accounts, Cano had an exceptional bounce back year. He batted .320 and played a much-improved 2nd base. That said, in the postseason, Cano laid a Brontosaurus-sized egg, going 11 for 57 with no home runs. Once upon a time, the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano for performing similarly in the postseason. And there are some grumblings about trading Cano for a quality arm or prospects in return.

Cano should not be traded lightly. He is 26 and still has room to grow, so any trade would have to be a bonanza type trade foe the Yankees. On the other hand, perhaps quietly, Cashman could look around and see what could be had for him. Kevin Russo has been playing very well at 2B in AAA—perhaps a Cano, McAllister, plus others package could get you Halladay?

Now Jeter. Here's the gargantuan elephant in the room. How long do you realistically go with an aging Jeter at shortstop? Yes, he played an improved shortstop this year, but he turns 36 next year, and with first base locked up for the long-term future, what do we do with Jeter when we resign him? Can he be a quality outfield? What would his range be out there? A thought: if Cano gets traded, could Jeter be placed at 2B and be somewhat protected by Texiera? Then who plays shortstop in 2011? No prospect on the farm is ready to take over at short. The Yankees need to address this issue and soon.

The Yankees are in a good position. Yes, there are concerns to address, but nothing is huge and untenable. If the Yankees are smart and judicious, they can enter 2010 with a better foundation, better pitching, younger and more cost-effective. Here's looking forward that the do just that.

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