Brian Cashman said yesterday that last winter’s moves weren’t his best off-season moves.
“I didn’t have a great winter last year,” the general manager said. “A lot of the things I wound up doing didn’t benefit us as much as I wish they would. Some didn’t benefit at all.” Readers of my writings know that to that I would have to say this: No duh.
Well, that was then and this is now. So what do the Yankees do this off-season. Pitching, Cashman said, is the most important area to address. Again: Duh.
To get Cliff Lee—the Yankees’ (and half the league’s) priority—the Yankees would have to ask the Treasury Department to print more money just so they can give it to Lee. Now, of course, Lee would look very nice in the Yankees rotation—a rotation that looked cracked in the playoffs and plainly needs shoring up. The Yankees would jump for joy if Lee agreed to come to the Bronx, even if they had to pay Lee, who turns 33 next season 20+ million until the age of 39 or 40? A bit of a scary thought.
But even scarier than that is this: what if the Yankees don’t sign him? What if Lee decides to stay in Texas, or heads to the Cardinals or someplace else? Then what do the Yankees do? After Lee the free agent pickings are “slim” and “none.” And “slim” left town. The trade market awaits.
Zach Grienke is a name that gets bounced around a lot. However Grienke comes with some concerns. First off, after his Cy Young year in 2009, his ERA jumped 2 full points last season to an unremarkable 4.17 and his K/9 dropped 2 Ks per game. Maybe he bounces back tucked into the Yankee rotation, but what if they weren’t an aberration, but the start of a decline? As if that wasn’t enough to consider, figure this: As Jon Heyman rightly brings up: Grienke has in the past had anxiety problems and depression. The Bronx spotlight may not be the right place for a guy who might be ill equipped to handle it.
Of course, trading both Swisher and Gardner would leave the Yankee outfield thin—which would immediately put them at the head of the table for going after Carl Crawford, using the money they were going to spend on Lee. Then does Montero spend time in right field, or maybe Brandon Laird makes the jump? Or maybe the Yankees resign Melky Cabrera for the outfield (making Cano very happy). Or maybe the Yankees could get by with a Thames/Hinske/Golson platoon—Ugggh.
Oakland’s Billy Beane loves 2 things: inexpensive young players and on-base percentage. And with an embarrassment of young pitching, perhaps a trade of Brett Gardner (8th in the AL in on-base percentage) Zach McAllister and Eduardo Nunez could get Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez? The A’s had 85 wins last season—and improvement to their team 109 HRs and .358 slugging percentage could help them move into AL West contention. And after giving up, say, Gonzalez, they would still have, Braden, Cahill, Anderson, Mazzaro and AAA prospect, Clayton Mortenson.
Or perhaps the Yankees could get a guy on the cusp—a AAA blue-chipper they could plug in behind Sabathia and Pettitte. The Mariners have one rock-solid ace in King Felix and 3 quality pitchers behind him. And considering all-universe minor-leaguer Michael Pineda is slotted to be a part of the Mariner rotation next year—and that the Mariner lineup was beyond deplorable—Seattle might be open to a trade with the Yankees for Luke French—their not-quite as talented quality AAA pitcher? French projects to be a 3-4 starter in a big league rotation, so heck no, he’s not Cliff Lee, but French did have a 1.165 WHIP and 2.98 in AAA this past season. So would Nick Swisher, Kevin Russo and highly regarded prospect low-A prospect Ramon Flores be enough for French and another prospect? Or how about Austin Romaine and Joba Chamberlain for French and a quality prospect? Then Ivan Nova and French can battle for the 5th spot in the rotation. Again, not as good as Cliff Lee, but a not-so-bad option. And remember: the Mariner with the most home runs had 15. Swisher, at 29, had almost double that. Ichiro had the highest OPS+ on the Mariners with a 113. Swisher had a 130+. And Chamberlain would love Safeco’s large confines and smaller spotlight. Some form of this trade might make sense.
And of course, this isn’t even the biggest Yankee off-season problem. No, that problem belongs to whomever the Yankees hire as pitching coach: fixing A.J. Burnett. Good luck to whomever gets that problem handed on his plate.