By Sweeny Murti
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We are now under 60 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.  And every time I talk to a Yankee fan I get the sense they have no faith whatsoever that the Yankees are prepared for 2012.  I understand your frustration, but please take a step back and look at what’s here rather than focusing on what isn’t here.

The Yankees didn’t need to overpay for C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Yu Darvish, or any of the other non-ace pitchers that were/are on the market this winter.  The Yankees made their biggest off-season move when they ensured that CC Sabathia wasn’t going anywhere.  After that it was about making sure whatever move they made was not going to be too prohibitive in cost of dollars or prospects, and that such a move would be a clear upgrade.

Let’s face facts.  The Yankees have a good team with a big-hitting lineup that will bludgeon its way through a 162-game season.  They have won 95 and 97 games in the two seasons since their last World Championship.  They need five HEALTHY starters, not five Hall of Famers.  Their lineup and their bullpen are built to get through 162.

Now you can tell me all you want about guaranteeing October success by building a better rotation, but who built a better rotation than the Phillies last winter?  And where did that get them?  The Yankees could use another starter, yes its true.  But it doesn’t mean they don’t have enough to get through the 2012 season.

The playoffs didn’t work out the way you wanted this year, but when the postseason began the Yankees were as good as any team in the tournament.  Put another way, there wasn’t another team you could clearly say was better than the Yankees.  It was just a matter of who wins a short series, and we have found out too many times over the years that Derek Jeter is right—it’s not always the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best.

Look around the league right now and tell me who’s definitively better than the Yankees.  Stop looking at who teams like the Angels acquired, and remember they did that because they weren’t as good as the Yankees before.  Sure, there are some questions and concerns.  But there are 15 other teams in the American League that would trade their problems for the Yankees problems in a second.

The Yankees haven’t totally changed the way they do business.  They’re just trying to do it a little smarter, because making mistakes becomes more costly than it ever was before.  In the three years since missing the playoffs in 2008, the Yankees have averaged 98 wins.  Something tells me what they are doing is working.  It may not always end well, but it is working.

*The Yankees were cautious about the bidding for Yu Darvish.  From the information I was given, my best estimate is their bid was somewhere between $15-17 million, far less than the Rangers’ $51.7 million bid.  The total outlay would have gone into the $100 million range for a guy who hasn’t thrown a single pitch in the major leagues.  He might be a good pitcher, but that’s not a cost the Yankees felt comfortable with.

*Is there a market for A.J. Burnett?  Could be.  After a New York Post story in early December that said the Yankees could eat some of the $33 million left on the final two years of Burnett’s contract, there hasn’t been much talk about any action on Burnett.  But word is out that the Yankees might be willing to pay as much as half the remaining dollars on Burnett’s deal.

The two teams I have heard the most about in conversations are Washington and Pittsburgh.  The Nationals have been shut out in their pursuit of veteran pitching so far, and they have kept tabs on Burnett.  However, one person familiar with the Nationals philosophy told me that GM Mike Rizzo would like a veteran to lead and teach his young staff, and Burnett isn’t exactly who he has in mind.  Meanwhile, the Pirates offer a low-pressure market in a weak division, and Burnett could be just the type of guy they would want.

Is it likely that Burnett goes anywhere?  Still too early to tell.  The biggest factor just might be how much money the Yankees are willing to take on.  One team executive I spoke with said the word going around is the Yanks could take on as much as $16-17 million of the remaining $33 million.  The executive pointed out that Atlanta had to swallow $10 million of the $15 million they owed Derek Lowe just to get a fringe prospect from Cleveland in return.

Burnett has a limited no-trade clause, a list that includes 10 teams essentially to keep him from getting traded to the NL West or AL West.  Again, too early to tell if this will happen.  I think Brian Cashman needs to be able to obtain a pitcher before he can think about unloading one.

*Could Roy Oswalt have gained the Yankees interest by only going after a one-year deal as was recently reported?  Perhaps, but the back issue is still something that concerns them. Hiroki Kuroda appears to still be in play, a pitcher the Yankees tried to acquire at the trading deadline last July.  Edwin Jackson remains a free agent as well, but he’s hardly the sure-fire rotation upgrade.  Always battling command issues, he has played for five different teams since 2008.

*Baseball America’s Top 10 Yankees prospect list is out.  Chad Jennings of the Journal News takes a look at it here  Chad knows the Yankees system as well as anyone, so give him a read for more on the guys that every other team is asking about in trade talks for pitching.

*Happy Holidays to all and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive 2012.

Sweeny Murti

Do you think we’ll see a slimmer, trimmer CC in spring training? Yankees fans, be heard in the comments below…

Comments (6)
  1. arizona today says:

    The Yanks will be just fine … for the regular season … as a wild card. Then they’ll lose in the first round because they STILL are not a championship team. If you’re not a championship team and you stand pat in the offseason, you remain an also-ran. Yankee fans, get excited about the 2018 World Series, which is the next one we’ll win … with Sleepy Brian Cashman asleep at the wheel.

  2. dabooch says:

    As long as the ‘Big Three’ A Rod, Teixiera, and Swisher are in the heart of the lineup 4-5-6 it doesn’t matter what the Yanks do, they have proven to be dogs when it really counted. They should of let CC walk, saved $ 150,000,000, that’s an awful amount of denaro for a fat guy that is going down hill and most likely will never win 20 games again. If the Yankee brass were smart, they would of picked up Damon and Matsui off the waiver wire in September. They should also eat AJ Burnett’s salary or trade him for just a bag of balls.

  3. Pete P says:

    Look, we have come to expect as Yankee fans a big splash on the open market every year since Steinbrenner bought them. But other than early on, with the addition of Catfish, Reggie, etc., we haven’t done well in the free-agent market. Just take it from the point when we bought Giambi, and other than the World Series against The Marlins, back in 2002, it took us seven years to make it back to the fall classic. It had been frustrating to see us not advance with all the money they paid these free agents. Instead, now, it’s been quite a ride for us fans to witness and follow our minor league players as they develop into valuable assets for us.

    The Yankees have done exceptionally well since ’08 and unfortunately we haven’t been able to advance as far in the playoffs as we have liked. We have met not only good and formidable teams that have, at the very least, matched the Yankees in just about every department, but in some cases are probably better.

    Yes, we still have Jeter and Mariano, two, undoubtedly Hall of Fame members one day, but it’s nice to enjoy Cano, Gardner, Robertson, and the rest of our homegrown players as they perform and mature.

    I for one, would not want to see Moreno or any other of our prized prospects go for players who have not been groomed to play in NY, as ours are. If Sanchez is as good as they say he is, then let Moreno be groomed by a veteran catcher like Martin. That means you give Martin a short but multi-year contract and have him tutor Moreno, as did Giradi with Possada, and allow Sanchez to mature during those two or three years we give Martin. So let’s just wait and see how our prospects do. I mean, wasn’t it wonderful to witness Nova’s huge success this year and in the past few years, Cano? Didn’t we see Gardner mature and show signs of becoming a very good player for us? And if what they say about our prospects is true, then we have a lot to look forward as Yankee fans.

    As for our starting pitching, I think with exception of the erratic, nerve racking but talented Burnett, we will be just fine. Having, arguably the finest bullpen in the league, we don’t need for our starters to log too many innings into the game. All they have to do is keep us in the game and the bullpen will do the rest.

    Oh, and yes, winning the World Series every year is just a selfish thought on our part as fans. And imagine if our Yankees were run like the Mets, Dodgers, who are high priced teams and have had no success in the past few years.

  4. zg says:

    I am thrilled that Cashman is not rushing into anything. The Yankees became great when they had the “core” from their system. I want to see the same with Montero and the others. Spending a fortune on free agents hasn’t panned out. A-rods contract is a killer- teichera has done nothing in post season- Burnett is a bust- The Yankees lost in the playoffs because they could not score runs. They only need pitchers to go 5 innings and with their bullpen it should be a victory. Having said that I would take a shot with Oswalt who could dominate if healthy.

  5. Steve says:

    I also agree. Yankees have some young pitchers. They will be just fine

  6. Brian P says:

    I agree with you that the Yankees were right to avoid long term commitments on mediocre pitchers (CJ,Buerlee) or unknowns (Darvish) but a one year deal for a known commodity Kuroda makes perfect sense adds depth to the rotation and even allows for perhaps buying out Burnett and ending that debacle.

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