Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Need To Panic

Two things have happened in the last two weeks that are both unusual for the Yankees and threaten their dominance. First, the Boston Red Sox have taken their payroll for a level that is at least within range of the Yankees. For a time it was higher, and I'm not sure if the Martin and Feliciano signings for the Yankees have changed that. As both of those deals are only for a few mil per year, if the Yankees have taken back the lead it isn't by much. The biggest reason for the Yankees sustained and consistent success in this era is because of their financial strength. As the payrolls of their competition rise, it becomes tougher and tougher to have this sustained and consistent success.

Second, the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee. By most accounts, this is the first time since the '92-'93 offseason with Greg Maddux that the Yankees seriously went after a premier free-agent and lost out. It's tough to win every year, which is the Yankees expectation. It's even tougher when you miss out on a pitcher like Cliff Lee. Again, a big reason why the Yankees are able to win year after year is that they are able to use their dollars to get players like this at a higher rate than most every team. It's not the only reason, but it's a big reason.

Both of these things might give a team with the Yankees expectations reason to panic. The Red Sox are now on equal footing in terms of money they are willing to spend on their roster, and losing out on Cliff Lee isn't helpful in trying to maintain an edge over them. In prior years, the Yankees probably would have made a panic type move. Even if it wasn't what was best for the team, they would have done something just to do something.

But they haven't, and that signifies a team that is in control. And this is despite a panic move candidate, Zack Grienke, being readily available. The Yankees could have easily beaten Milwaukee's package to get Grienke, and in the past they probably would have. In doing so, they would have been ignoring concerns about his ability to pitch in New York and any other reasons not to trade for him. I have no idea if Grienke can or can't pitch in New York, and I have no idea if this was a consideration for the Yankees and what their exact reasoning was for not trading for him. But in not trading for him we know that they did have reasons, they didn't just trade for him just because it seems like a good thing to do, and again that is a really good thing in my book. Not just Grienke, but anybody. You have to make a move because it is right, not because it is in panic.

And the Yankees have no reason to panic right now. The Red Sox are improved, but push them - who you'd have to consider - aside for a second and look around the rest of the American League and give me one roster you'd rather have than the Yankees right now. Even with uncertain back of their rotation, I still wouldn't take anybody else. So even if the Red Sox were a decidedly better team than the Yankees, which I wouldn't be ready to concede, the Yankees are still right at the top of the league competing for playoff spots. Which is what matters. In addition, they have all of the money they intended to spend on Lee plus their farm system - which is one of the best in baseball - totally intact. That combination of being cash and prospect rich gives them a lot of flexibility for the next group of premier talents that are made available later this offseason or, even more likely, during the season. That's not such a bad place to be in, and certainly not a reason to panic.

So for the time being, you make moves like Martin and Feliciano. You hope Pettitte comes back. You try to put all of the other pieces in place so that you can focus on adding a key impact piece if need be, and if and when you do then the team is really primed and ready to go after a championship. To that end, the Yankees are reportedly looking into Johnny Damon on a one year contract. This would be an outstanding addition, and is the exact type of player the Yankees should be looking at. Veterans that still have something left who can contribute but don't have a lot of risk associated because of the short length of the contract. Damon is a particularly good fit because he is a winning player/personality, is a known entity in New York, is loved in the Yankees clubhouse, and would provide excellent depth in terms of lineups, would protect against Gardner coming back to earth, and gives the Yankees added flexibility to include an outfielder in a trade package as a Major League bat and still have three viable starters of their own. He had 49 xbh last year in spacious Comerica, and really knows how to use Yankee Stadium to his advantage, so he can still play. Not only is this the type of player the Yankees should be looking for, but Damon is an especially outstanding fit in my opinion. Getting him and bringing Pettitte back into the fold would be excellent moves to improve the roster without overreacting.

Unless there is big news, we are done posting until after the New Year. On behalf of DV and I, we want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays. As the year comes to a close we also want to thank all of our readers and commentors for another great year in this space. Your contributions are what makes this fun. Thanks again.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

I think Zack Greinke would have seriously struggled in New York. I don't know the guy at all, but if you have anxiety issues, I'm going to say that pitching in New York is not a great idea. So, agreed that bringing him in would have been a panic move.

DV

Olerud should get some Hall votes just because he had arguably the prettiest swing ever.

Also, Merry Christmas to you both and enjoy the holidays.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Pat,

I echo the Gunn's assertion that there's no way Grienke would have thrived in New York for the exact reasons stated. On the other hand, he's going to win multiple NL CYAs in Milwaukee. Not only is he facing weak lineups, but since he has to hit, he won't be bored anymore. He'll just run up the score against the whole league.

Gunn,

I'm just looking for one vote. People might also argue the "pretty swing" thing about Drew. So I guess the new goal might have to be more Olerud votes than Drew votes five years from now.

Damon would be an outstanding spare part if he's willing to accept less playing time.

Pettitte's Brett Farve (I know I spelled it wrong) impression is hurting the Yankees. How is a team supposed to operate while waiting for this idiot while all the good pitchers are being gobbled up on the free agent market? I'm sure Tom Jackson admires Pettitte for the fact that he's never been afraid to give up a home run.

Ross Kaplan said...

Next year's rotation is banking on an awful lot of conditions that could easily backfire: Pettitte retiring or going to another team, AJ bouncing back from last year's miserable performance even a little bit, and neither CC nor Hughes getting injured despite years of overwork and a career high pitch count respectively. Unfortunately there just are not any pitchers readily available that would make a big difference for this rotation so maybe they should just try some reclamation projects and hope for the best.