I quite literally lost myself in the back bowls of Vail last week, but when I came back to New York, I found myself right at home with the unavoidable Yankees topic of the offseason. I guess it’s hard for the Yankees to escape Andy Pettitte these days. I tend to agree with Jesse’s morning post — I’m not sure Pettitte’s a Hall of Famer — but right now the Yankees don’t need a Hall of Fame addition to their rotation.
They’ve built a remarkably deep bullpen, their lineup is still arguably the best in the league and they have some new power on the bench. What they don’t have (still) is depth in the rotation. It’s an issue that’s going to linger, and until Pettitte gives a definitive answer about his future, his name will never fall out of offseason speculation.
As for recent events, I actually missed a fairly active week. A few highlights:
Rafael Soriano became official
Press conferences for new free agents are fairly predictable. The team is happy to have the player. The player is happy to be with the team. Those situations are interesting only because it’s a new face in a new uniform, not because there will be any sort of interesting news or realization. This week, though, the Yankees signing of Rafael Soriano became official, and the team had to address the obvious: That the general manager wasn’t in favor of the signing and ownership ran the show in signing the team’s biggest winter addition. This topic has been discussed over and over again, and there’s no sense rehashing it here, but I will say that this was one of the few press conferences that I actually thought might be legitimately interesting. I was on an airplane at the time.
Rumor became fact, Andruw Jones became a Yankee
At some point around the first of the month, the Yankees and Andruw Jones became a constant rumor. They were talking. They were interested. They were sorting the details. Last week, it was done, with Jones taking a one-year deal worth $2 million plus incentives. It fits into the going rate for similar players, and I like the signing. As I’ve written before, I think Jones made the most sense for the Yankees. Of the outfielders in this market, only Matt Diaz might have been a better fit, and he got a regular gig with the Pirates. Jones isn’t what he used to be, but the Yankees don’t need him to be what he used to be. They need him to hit for power and play the outfield corners. He can still do those things, and he can do them without costing much this season or putting the Yankees on the hook for any long-term risk.
The Yankees avoided arbitration with everyone
No arbitration hearings this year, which is probably better for everyone involved. Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan all settled on 2011 contracts last week, locking up the only arbitration eligible players still on the Yankees roster (Sergio Mitre had already re-signed, Chad Guadin had already been released, and Dustin Moseley had been non-tendered). I actually thought all three might get more money than they did, but my ability to judge arbitration value is suspect at best. Those three are still a year or two away from becoming truly expensive for the Yankees.
Johnny and Manny together again
While the Yankees settled on their fourth outfielder, the Rays also completed their outfield picture by signing Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to one-year deals. Damon seems likely to get most of his playing time in left field, Ramirez at designated hitter. To me it’s a nice signing for the Rays, but not a big loss for the Yankees. Neither Damon nor Ramirez exactly fit the Yankees needs – defense plays a role here, so does Damon’s left-handed bat – but the Rays had a wide-open DH situation and an outfield in flux, stuck somewhere between Carl Crawford and Desmond Jennings. To an extent, Jones, Damon and Ramirez each made sense for both the Yankees and Rays, but it seems to me that the Yankees got the guy who best fit their needs and the Rays got the guys who best fit their needs.
The Angels showed what desperation really looks like
Whether true or not, there was something about the Yankees Soriano signing that seemed desperate: It wasn’t a perfect fit or a good contract, but at least it gave them a significant addition. However, when it comes to perceived desperation, the Angels took the prize this week when they traded for Vernon Wells. I like Wells and wouldn’t be shocked to see a repeat of 2010, but his contract is an absolute mess that the Blue Jays have clearly wanted to dump for a while. Not only did they dump it, they dumped that contract – all of it! — for two solid young players, and to a team that didn’t necessarily need an overpaid center fielder. It’s like the Soriano level, only on a whole other level: Wells might make the Angels better, but does that mean he’s worth this sort of cost and risk?
Marcus Thames remembered his glove
Last winter, Marcus Thames was – pretty much without question – Brian Cashman’s best offseason signing. He came to camp on a minor league deal and settled into a significant and productive role as a semi-regular. Thames has some very real power, and he can really hit against lefties, so it’s easy to see why the Dodgers signed him last week. Of course, you might have noticed that the Dodgers are a National League team without a designated hitter. Thames is best left out of the defensive game plan, but to be honest, if he hits like he did last season, his bat will be more than enough to make up for shaky left-field defense. That’s my guess, anyway.