I cant say I’m shocked by the Yankees replicating last year’s first round failure. I am slightly upset about the bug infestation incident that may or maynot have cost them game 2 in Cleveland. (Seriously, is that stadium built on an old landfill?!?) However, ALL the Yanks critical flaws were exposed – starting pitching that ranges from slightly effective to very very shaky, a bullpen with only two reliable pitchers (Rivera and Joba), an offense that runs either extremely hot or extremely cold, a manager who is afraid to send runners early in a game, and a lineup that can struggle against any left handed pitcher. They didnt deserve to win the series, and I am slightly relieved to avoid going to ALCS-war with the Sox for the third time in five years. Also, I took some of my frustrations out by shouting such things at the TV during game 4 as, “Paul o’Neill’s not walking thru that door! Scott Brouis is not walking thru that door!” and in reference to Cleveland’s shaky closer who would have blown the series if only he had been given a chance to blow the series as demonstrated by the monster homerun he gave up to Abreu and nearly gave up to Posada, “He was what we thought he was! He was what we thought he was, and we left him off the hook!” That said, I will not stand for the Red Sox or Indians winning the World Series, and am really not a fan of the Dbacks either, so lets go Rockies. They should have no problem taking the series, especially if that Holliday guy is allowed to continue not having to touch bases to be called safe.
Moving on to the offseason, here is what I would do if I was Brian Cashman, assuming he is not fired by an old, grumpy and enraged Steinbrenner.
1) Reach a contract extension with ARod. Currently Arod’s contract has 3 years at $27M per season left, but it has an opt out clause which can be exercized within 10 days of the end of the world series AND if he were to not opt out this season, it contains another opt out clause for after next season if his annual salary is not bumped up by $5M. Texas is still paying $27M of the remaining $81M on his current contract, which disappears if ARod opts out, but remains if he instead reachs a deal on an extension. Basically, they will have to agree to bump his salary by $5M over the last three years, to avoid the opt out, and tack on a sizeable extension. I would throw out an offer to bump the current salary by the required $5M and tack another 4 years at $32M per season to the end of the deal. It makes it a 7 year $224M contract, by far the biggest in baseball, and tied for the longest with Soriano’s deal which has 7 years left after this season. Texas is still covering $27M, so the Yanks are still getting a discount. If Scott Boras, ARod’s agent, believes he can get a better deal on the open market, with the Yankees not involved in the bidding (they have said all along that if ARod opts out, they are not getting in a bidding war because they lose the Texas money and have been offering to agree on an extension most of the season, which is something they never do), then opt out and say goodbye. I believe an extension can and will be reached, even if it means throwing another year on the deal or a couple million on per season.
2) Offer arbitration to Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, before arbitration takes place reach a deal for new three year contracts for each of them. If the last year can be a club option year, then great; if not, that’s not a deal breaker on my end.
3) Pick up the option on Bobby Abreu. It’s either give him $2M and tell him to leave, or give him $16M and get him for one more season while avoiding the necessity to sign Andruw Jones/Torii Hunter/Fukodome/Mike Cameron/Aaron Rowand to an all new bad contract that will be killing the team in 2 or 3 years. Its not the dollar amount that destroys the Yanks on these contracts, its the length. Eventually you end up with an overpriced player, who is a poor defender, and is unmoveable due to his contract (see: Giambi, Jason).
4) Convince Pettitte to accept his player option for next season.
5) Shop Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Damon, if anything of value can be had for them and you dont have to pickup a large portion of their salary then make the trade, if not they remain on the team.
6) Offer arbitration to Luis Vizcaino, if he accepts then you get a solid veteran who should contribute to the bullpen assuming Torre isnt around to use him every day for three months straight. If he declines and signs elsewhere, you get a draft pick out of the deal.
7) Move Joba back to the rotation. He can either be a potential ace, who pitchs upwards of 200 innings, or you can leave him as a setup man for three seasons where he would contribute 75 innings or so. I think I’ll take the potential 200 innings of #1 starter. This assumes Rivera is back as the closer next season, if Rivera is somehow not resigned then you can make the case for Joba as the closer, but if his role in the bullpen is just setup man, then he has to be a starter.
8 ) Resign Jose Molina. He brings quality defense and there are no real catching prospects near the majors in the farm system.
9) Turn all open bullpen spots over to youngsters from the farm system. Basically, this is the bullpen headed into next season: Rivera (assuming he is resigned), Farnsworth (if he isnt traded), Vizcaino (if he is brought back), and that’s it. So, there are between 4 and 6 spots open in the pen. I propose a spring training battle between any pitcher on the roster who has pitched in the majors, is ready for the majors, or is near ready for the majors.
10) Hope for this rotation – Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Mussina, Kennedy, Joba. You need 6 planned starters because Hughes has yet to pitch a full major league season, Joba and Kennedy will probably have innings limits placed upon them, and as we saw this season Mussina cant start for a full season any more, he can be effective over a few starts but not over the course of the entire season. Also, Alan Horne is ready in AAA should another starter be needed at some point in the season. You’d probably have to start Joba in the minors at the beginning of the season due to lack of roster spots, but that would work out fine as he would need to get back into the routine of starting and its better he work on that in the minors.
11) Fire Torre and bring in Joe Girardi, with the following stipulations – Bowa remains as 3B coach, Pena remains as 1B coach, Long remains as hitting coach, and AAA coach Eiland becomes the new pitching coach. Girardi is allowed to pick his bench coach and his bullpen coach. I think he’d jump at that chance as he turned down the Orioles job this season in hopes at a chance at the Yankees job this offseason.
12) Have a spring training battle for 1B between Andy Phillips and Juan Miranda. They really only need to find a 1B for one more season, then Mark Teixeira is a free agent after next season and with Giambi’s large contract (along with the contracts of Pavano, Farnsworth, Mussina, Pettitte) off the books, there is no reason they wont win a bidding war for a switching hitter 1B with power and gold glove caliber defense.
13) Construct the following bench – Molina as backup catcher, Betemit as utility player, Duncan as righty power/backup 1B/5th OFer. Only 3 “bench” players because Giambi is locked in as a permanent DH and there are 4 starting OFer who will split time in the OF and pick up some at bats at DH when Giambi inevitably makes his annual trip to the disabled list (Matsui, Damon, Melky, Abreu).
All of this hinges on retaining ARod. If he opts out, rather than go into panic mode and overpay Hunter or Jones, I would see what it would take to get Sexson from the Mariners. He has one year left on his contract, which works out perfectly with the plans to sign Teixeira next offseason. Sexson replaces some of the right handed power lost by losing ARod, and solidifies 1B for next season. I’d hand 3B over to Betemit and give Alberto Gonzalez (one of the players acquired in the Randy Johnson trade, not the disgraced former attorney general) a chance at the utility role.
In conclusion, let’s fight the urge of signing other team’s players to large contracts right as they enter the downside of their career’s, I’m looking at you Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones, and LET’S GO ROCKIES!