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Walking through my suggestions for the 2012 Yankees
The reality of my job - and I suppose most jobs - is that not all assignments are fulfilled equally. I have more time to dedicate to some than I do for others.
For instance, I like doing a "How to Fix the Yankees" piece on the day that the Yankees' bigwigs hold their post-mortem at the Stadium. Last year, that occurred on October 25, and I took a car service from Yankee Stadium to JFK Airport. After waiting on an interminable line to check a bag and walking what seemed like an hour to find the Delta lounge, I planted myself there and fired off this column while also reporting on the Yankees' firing of Dave Eiland.
I was a little harried, in other words.
Yesterday, after Joe Girardi spoke, I drove home, took my time and put together this year's version of the column. I liked this year's better. I feel like I was able to focus better on it and think things over more.
So just for kicks, let's walk through my vision of the 2012 Yankees (as the headline to this blog post says).
1. Starting pitching: Yeah, I think the Yankees should extend themselves somewhat to make sure CC Sabathia comes back. When you consider how many high-priced starting pitchers have come to the Bronx over the years and disappointed, including the current Yankee A.J. Burnett, I think a premium should be placed on the certainty of a player's ability to function as a big-name Yankee.
There's no doubt that Sabathia's in-season weight gain has to be a concern. But his second half wasn't as bad as advertised, and greater track record shouldn't be ignored.
How much of a greater injury/ineffectiveness risk does Sabathia become because of his weight? I don't know. He's been pitching as a big man his whole career, and he hasn't pitched fewer than 230 innings since 2006.
Onto our next item: Trading A.J. Burnett to Atlanta for Derek Lowe.
Why would the Yankees do it? Because enough is enough with Burnett. Because Lowe has a history of functioning well in big markets and because he should be a motivated pitcher, going in his walk year. Because while the league change has to be a significant concern with Lowe, he is a groundball pitcher, which would help especially at Yankee Stadium.
Why would the Braves do it? Because they've been looking to unload Lowe since shortly after they signed him to a four-year, $60-million contract. Because they liked Burnett enough three years ago to offer him a significant contract, only to finish second to the Yankees. Because, assuming the Yankees throw in enough money - let's say $5 next year to provide some relief from their current commitment of $15 million to Lowe and then another $10 million for 2013, in return for the Braves throwing in a second-tier prospect - the Braves would assume minimal risk in return for a pitcher who, whatever else you want to say about him, has become a workhorse.
Why would Burnett, who has some no-trade protection, do it? Because he could benefit from the league change, pitcher-friendly Turner Field and less scrutiny than he receives in New York. Because he would stay somewhat close to his Maryland home.
Why would Lowe do it? Well, he wouldn't have a choice. He has no protection in his contract against a trade.
OK, onto part three of the starting pitching renovation: Trading for John Danks. I like this better than signing C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish because the Yankees already will be assuming the risk of Sabathia's long-term deal. They sure as heck don't need another albatross.
In Danks, who's currently on the rebuilding White Sox and a year away from free agency, the Yankees would get a potential top-flight starting pitcher for one year. It could be the start of a great relationship; Danks will turn 27 next April. Or it could be just a one-year arrangement, with the Yankees getting draft picks on the back end.
With a front two of Sabathia and Danks and the veteran innings-eater Lowe on the staff, the Yankees would provide room for error for Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, youngsters like Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances and any minor-league contract guys (like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia this year) who come aboard.
2. Bullpen: Not much needed here. With Damaso Marte coming off the books, it's essential that the Yankees sign another lefty specialist for $4 million annually, thereby maintaining their tradition of paying $8-million-plus for LOOGYs. Pedro Feliciano will collect $4 million next year to rehabilitate from left shoulder surgery, and he'll need someone with whom he can play catch in Tampa.
As I wrote in my piece, you can pretty much pick a name out of a hat, or throw a dart blind-folded, in trying to determine who will be the best investment of the free-agent lefties.
3. Catcher: Russell Martin, eligible for arbitration, will surely return. Will Francisco Cervelli? It makes more sense to trade Cervelli for a small piece and go with Jesus Montero to see if he can handle at least part-time catching duties.
Shoot, if they're that nervous about Montero's catching, the Yankees could option Cervelli back to the minor leagues and keep him as a safety net. But Montero clearly needs to get in the lineup regularly, either at catcher or at DH. He's the best internal option for an offensive upgrade.
4. Infield: This and the bullpen are the most stable areas. The four starters will be back, as will Eduardo Nunez. Eric Chavez won't, and replacing him shouldn't be terribly difficult. Brandon Laird could get a shot if he isn't traded for Danks or for someone else, although it might make more sense to have a lefty hitter in that role since they already have the righty-hitting Nunez.
5. Outfield: So the way I envision the roster is this: David DeJesus takes some of Jorge Posada's at-bats and some of Andruw Jones', and Nunez takes some of Jones' time and some of Chavez's.
Maybe DeJesus would just say, "No, thanks, I want to be an everyday outfielder." But I think it's worth a shot to make a run at him. Tell him that yeah, many of his starts will come at DH against right-handers, but that he'll see some time at all three outfield positions, too.
Jones was a more natural fit in the outfield mix because his righty bat complemented the lefty bats of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner. But Granderson and Gardner both can handle lefty pitching, and if Swisher continues to struggle against righty pitching, then DeJesus could get some rightfield starts as well, opening up the DH spot more for Montero, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.
I think DeJesus might be amenable to such a setup because of his New York/New Jersey roots and because he has spent virtually his entire major-league career playing for terrible teams. If he's sold on the notion of a one-year "pillow" contract, as Scott Boras termed it when Adrian Beltre signed a one-year deal with Boston, then the arrangement could boost his brand in the Bronx.
6. DH. We sort of went over this: DeJesus, Montero, A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira.
Put all of this together, and let's call this your starting lineup against righties: Gardner LF, Jeter SS, Cano 2B, Granderson CF, Rodriguez 3B, Teixeira 1B, Swisher RF, Martin C, DeJesus DH. With a bench of Montero, Nunez, Laird (or a replacement) and a player to be determined.
Then you plug in Montero against lefties, get Nunez and Laird (or a replacement) enough starts and you're good to go. If you plan for injuries to A-Rod and Jeter, you realize that you'll find plenty of playing time for Nunez and Laird, and Montero should get starts against righties, too.
I think this works. Montero gives the offense more pop DeJesus provides athleticism and production against righties and on the pitching side, Danks and Lowe are both worthwhile one-year risks at a time when the Yankees hope their younger pitchers take on a greater role.
But enough about me. What do you think about my suggestions?