Been a while. I know you were all clamoring for my return, and I apologize. The last time I posted, Lehman Brothers was still the 4th largest investment bank, Barack Obama was just a Senator instead of President-Elect, and the Cubs and Angels looked destined to meet in the World Series. Has it been change we can believe in? Not sure about that. On to more pressing matters...
1. Congrats to the Rays and Phillies. If you look at the young rotation the Rays have assembled along with All-Star talents like Longoria, Upton, Crawford, Pena, Iwamura, and Navarro (wouldn't the Yankees love to have him back...), it is clear that this was not a one time deal. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with as long as they keep those guys signed and healthy. The advantage that the Yanks and Sox have is still plain and simple...$$. If the Rays are hit by injuries or ineffectiveness at a particular position, they probably won't be able to plug a hole with a big free agent or mid-season salary dump. Its clear to me that the Yanks need to rebuild, and until they do they are only the third best team in the division (though that could still mean they are the third best team in the AL).
2. Congrats to Mike Mussina on his 20 wins and his Gold Glove. Gold Gloves are probably the least deserved award in sports (evidenced by Rafael Palmeiro winning one year at first base when he played DH something like 120 times), but its still a nice trophy to go on the wall and something that HOF voters look at (cause they are probably the same idiots that vote on Gold Gloves). I hope Moose comes back, but if not he can take pride in going out on his own terms. Its been a great career, I just wish he had a ring to go with it.
3. Kudos to Hank and Hal for re-signing Cashman. He's not perfect. No one is. Gotta get more right than wrong and he does that. Gotta have a clear long term plan, and stick to it when you can and deviate when you must. He does that too. I share his vision and philosophy but unless the players on the field play up to their potential it means nothing. Cashman has a tough road ahead to get this team back to the World Series, but there is no one else in baseball I'd rather have at the helm.
4. Goodbye Carl Pavano. It's like we hardly even knew you.
On to 2009: Question Marks
Moose: Probably not coming back, but let's hope he does so they don't sign someone like Derek Lowe to a four year, $60mm deal.
Andy: Probably coming back, but after his performance down the stretch last season he better take a look in the mirror and accept a sizeable pay cut.
Joba: Apparently he will be in the starting rotation, though there will be an innings limit. Will be interesting to see how he holds up. I still say his talent is best served as a #1 starter, but if his arm can't handle the stress its better to stick him in the bullpen than end up with another Mark Prior. I suspect he will be on a short leash and at the first sign of trouble they will pull the plug for good.
Giambi: Appears to be gone and perhaps headed back to Oakland (good fit), but we'll see. He had his ups and downs but he always gave it his all. I wish him well.
Abreu: Looks like he is the odd man out due purely to the timing of his contract since Nady, Matsui, and Damon are all still signed. If they can trade Matsui or Damon (and they probably can't), then Abreu is gone and they'll likely get a first round draft pick for him. I like Bobby. He's our best defensive outfielder, he always has good at bats, and he's a good base runner. No doubt in my mind that he was the second best all around player on the team last season and that is tough to replace.
The Veterans: Jeter, Damon, Matsui, Jorge, & Cano all had disappointing seasons for various reasons. An optimist would hope they return to their previous levels next year provided they stay healthy. A realist would say that only Cano is likely to do that given his late season return to form. While the others may show flashes of their former brilliance, it is likely that they will continue to struggle with injuries and ineffectiveness. Its not their fault...they are just getting old. And other than Jamie Moyer (freak) and Barry Bonds (drugs), baseball players don't get better after 30.
The Young Guys: Hughes, Kennedy, Melky, Gardner. Will any of them contribute next season? Will they be traded? Should be interesting to see what Cashman does. I think Hughes still has high end potential if he can stay healthy. I'm cautiously optimistic about him. I think Kennedy has #5 stuff at best. Melky needs to improve his hitting. He's young, but he's running out of time. Gardner to me will never be an everyday player, but he is the type of player that championship teams need. I hope they keep him as their #4 outfielder for the next 10 years. He can pinch run, bunt, and play the field. He can also play all three outfield spots in case of injury. Just the perfect glue guy to have on a winning team.
Free Agents/Trade Possibilities: Clearly they are going to make a pitch to Teixiera and Sabathia. I think both players are great talents and are without a doubt the two best players on the market (not counting Manny, who I refuse to consider and K-Rod who doesn't fit at all). The fact that they perfectly plug the holes on this roster is even better. But breaking the bank as far as dollars and years go has not proven successful in most cases. I would love to have one or both of them, but not if that means paying through the nose (relative to what other teams are offering). I would rather sign Sabathia to a 6 year, $150mm deal than miss out on him and overpay Derek Lowe (bum), A.J. Burnett (injury concern), or Ben Sheets (injury concern). I would also rather pay Sabathia than trade Hughes, Kennedy, and Austin Jackson for Jake Peavy. So in some ways you could say that breaking the bank for C.C. is the lesser of all evils. If they do sign him lets just hope he can keep his body in pitching shape for the duration of the contract. They are also exploring a trade for Mike Cameron, who is old, on the decline, and strikes out a lot. But if they are not comfortable going into the season with Melky/Gardner in CF, then a 1 year deal for Cameron makes sense while they wait for Austin Jackson to develop in AAA. That's assuming of course that the Brewers asking price is reasonable. Similar logic would apply to a possible trade for Nick Swisher, but only if they fail to sign Tiexeira. Plus the White Sox always ask for too much. One player who I have not heard much of anything about is Japanse hurler Junichi Tazawa. He is a free agent so no huge posting fee would need to be paid, but they are still feeling burnt by the Kei Igawa disaster so I can understand their reticence towards him. Hopefully the Red Sox give Varitek a Posada-like contract and the Mets sign Derek Lowe to a Pavano-like deal.
So what are we left with? Here is what I'd like to see for a roster next season (I'm assuming Moose is gone even though I'd like him back).
RP: Marte (they declined his option but can still re-sign him)
Waiting in the Wings: Giese, Robertson, Melancon, Sanchez, Britton, Albaladejo, Rasner, Kennedy
Bench: Gardner/Melky, Betemit, Molina, Ransom/Duncan (??)
That's a team that can contend for a title, but only if they stay healthy and produce somewhere near their historical averages. I think its a decent blend of power/speed and age/youth. We'll see over the next few months just what they do and what other contenders do as everyone looks to overtake the 2008 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays (sounds weird, right?). I for one am excited about the potential for success as they move into the new Stadium.
Yes We Can!