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 http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2011/12/21/baseball-america-reveals-its-top-10-yankees-prospects/. 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.
Do you think we’ll see a slimmer, trimmer CC in spring training? Yankees fans, be heard in the comments below…