Panic and patience • 12.20.10
At some point yesterday morning, around the time the Zack Greinke news spread to major media outlets, the state of panic in the Yankees fan base seemed to reach a new peak for this offseason.
The concern was very mild when the Derek Jeter negotiations turned sour. Then the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez. Then the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford. Then Philadelphia got Cliff Lee. Then Milwaukee landed Greinke. One by one, big pieces have come off the board, and all the Yankees have done is re-sign two of their own plus a catcher who hasn’t hit in two years.
My question is this: Is the concern centered on wanting the Yankees to do something or wanting them to do anything? In other words, is there something specific Brian Cashman has done wrong and needs to fix, or are his patience and silence making things uncomfortable?
Cashman hasn’t done much, but I’m not sure he’s truly missed out on very much either. I would never argue that he’s had a good offseason, but looking at a few common complaints, it might also be too early to claim he’s had a bad one.
Top free agents got away
Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford signed before Cliff Lee, and that essentially kept the Yankees out of the running for either of them. Outfield wasn’t a priority, pitching was, and Lee might or might not have been a fair fight. Otherwise, the biggest free agents who fit with the Yankees, signed with the Yankees: Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Trade targets have gone elsewhere
There was obvious frustration yesterday when Zack Greinke landed in Milwaukee for a package of young players that did not include a single premier prospect, but the Yankees didn’t match what the Royals were looking for in up the middle talent. It’s not even certain the Yankees considered Greinke a viable option in New York. Otherwise, most completed trades have been for players who either didn’t fit for the Yankees (Adrian Gonzalez, Dan Uggla) or are infinitely replaceable (Brendan Ryan, Josh Willingham). Those deals to not make or break the Yankees season.
The lineup has not improved
The lineup didn’t need to improve. The Yankees scored the most runs in baseball last season, and that was despite down years from Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. The one position that needed a boost, catcher, has been addressed with a reasonable $4-million deal with Russell Martin. It would have been surprising to see the Yankees overhaul the lineup. Staying with more or less the same starting nine is not a shock, nor should it be a cause for concern.
The rotation still has holes
This is true. Andy Pettitte still hasn’t made a decision, and that’s as expected. Lee was supposed to make everything better, but he signed elsewhere despite a bigger offer from the Yankees. At the time, Cashman said he would be patient, that the cost in terms of both free agents and trade chips would go through the roof for a while. That was less than a week ago. In that time, who, aside from Greinke, has come off the board who would have helped the Yankees rotation?
The bullpen still has holes
Perhaps the most legitimate gripe of the Yankees offseason. The team hasn’t necessarily been stingy — it did award the second largest left-handed reliever contract of the winter — but it hasn’t been aggressive either. The relief market still has plenty of viable options, but the a lot of late-inning options have come off the board (some on surprisingly large and lengthy deals, but that’s the going rate for relievers these days).
Eduardo Nunez is the best hitter on the bench
Not to knock on Noony, but the Yankees bench remains incredibly young and inexperienced, but it should come as no shock that Cashman is taking his time finding reserves and role players. Last year he let the market for Marcus Thames fall all the way to a minor league deal, and that was arguably his best offseason signing. The Randy Winn deal, of course, didn’t work so well. The Yankees still have a very real need for a fourth outfielder, and an experienced utility man wouldn’t hurt, but there are plenty of those options available.
Associated Press photos of Crawford, Rodriguez and Kerry Wood
Notes and links on a slow day • 12.11.10
The Yankees made their first offer to Cliff Lee on Wednesday. The Rangers flew to Arkansas to make their offer on Thursday. When I checked with Brian Cashman on Friday night, he literally told me to “enjoy the night.” There would be no news to report.
It’s the same story today. Lee has been meticulous in this process, making what is surely the biggest decision of his career.
Everyone else is left waiting. Many of them waiting anxiously.
At the end of another one of those slow days of waiting, here are a few notes and links from around baseball.
• You might want to look away, but my friend Ben Shpigel did a nice job looking back at the last time the Yankees targeted a premier starting pitcher with incredible control and missed out.
• Great stuff from the Boston Herald outlining the way the Carl Crawford deal came together for Boston.
• Speaking of Crawford, Thomas Boswell makes the case that Crawford’s talent is wasted in Fenway Park.
• Plucked from the Yankees, Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton will have a chance to win a rotation spot with the Astros.
• The Tigers are planning to move Phil Coke back into the rotation. He was a starter through most of his minor league career, but things never really took off for him until he moved to the bullpen.
Notes from Day 3: Cashman edition • 12.08.10
Andy Pettitte called Brian Cashman today. The message was vague and uncertain, but the purpose was direct and to the point. Pettitte still hasn’t decided whether he’s going to retire, but he had to make sure his indecision wasn’t negatively affecting the Yankees offseason.
“If I had to bet at some point, I think he’ll play,” Cashman said. “But he’s telling me right now he’s leaning the other way. He just doesn’t want to hold us up.”
Cashman said there was nothing Pettitte said that gave him reason for optimism, he simply believes — because “this is what he always does” — that Pettitte will eventually have a change of heart and decide to pitch one more year. For now, though, it’s completely up in the air.
“He hasn’t put himself in play yet,” Cashman said. “We’re just going to stay in touch with one another… I’m focusing on what’s in play. He knows that.”
Cashman is not waiting for Pettitte. The Yankees are going to make the moves they have to make. What if Cashman spends all of his budget, and then Pettitte decides to come back?
“I never have a problem knocking on Hal’s door and asking for more money,” Cashman said. “I have a problem sometimes with Hal saying yes. I know my title is general manager, but I consider myself the director of spending for the New York Yankees. I don’t make it. I spend it.”
• While they’ve stayed in touch, the Yankees and Pettitte have never talked money. Cashman said he has no idea whether that will become a problem, but he doesn’t expect it to be an issue like it was two years ago. That, Cashman said, was a problem of communication, and there will be no such problem this time.
• Cashman would not confirm nor deny reports that he had dinner last night with Carl Crawford. His only comment on last night’s dinner: “I had steak.”
• For whatever it’s worth, Cashman never shot anyone down when they asked a Crawford question. He once again referred to the “wide net” he’s cast into the free agent and trade markets.
• Speaking of the trade market: “There are definitely pitchers out there available,” Cashman said. “And I know that we can line up with teams because of the deep farm system I think we have, and I think people recognize that. There are some players that are available on the trade market.”
• Cashman once again spoke to Kerry Wood’s agent, but said he has no idea whether Wood has been offered a closer job. He’s also not ready to push the Wood talks forward at this point. “Right now we’re going to wait on Cliff,” Cashman said. “By my choice.”
• I might have been wrong, but when Cashman said, “by my choice,” I took that as him making it clear that he’s choosing to wait right now. His choice could change at some point.
• It’s not only Wood who’s being put on hold. “There are different things that are within range,” Cashman said. “There are things that we could potentially conclude, but I described before (as) Hannibal Lecter in a straightjacket waiting on this Cliff Lee thing. It’s kind of restricting my movements a little bit.”
• Cashman would not comment on rumors of the Yankees being interested in Mark Prior.
• Cashman also would not say whether he has enough money to sign both Lee and Crawford.
• According to Cashman, Pettitte specifically said that he wants the Yankees to sign Lee.
• If some sort of opportunity presents itself and Cashman needs to stay in Orlando tomorrow night, he’s ready and willing to do that, but for now he’s planning to attend the Rule 5 draft and then get on a plane back to New York. Most likely, he’s done all he’s going to do at these Winter Meetings.
Associated Press photos
Could Crawford be another Tex? • 11.13.10
Two years ago, the Yankees were definitely NOT in on Mark Teixeira. Definitely not. They wanted pitching, pitching, pitching and after signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, Brian Cashman was supposed to be done.
Except he wasn’t. He swooped in, completed a recruitment that he’d started much earlier in the winter and landed Teixeira, snagging him away from the Red Sox who thought – once again – they were on the verge of landing a big time player only to see him head to New York.
Could the same thing happen with Carl Crawford?
Although the Yankees are (again) focusing on pitching winter, they have reached out to Crawford’s agent. Most people think Crawford will end up in either Anaheim or – and here we go again – Boston, and I have to admit I think Anaheim, in particular, is a great fit. The Angels have a history of paying top dollar for outfielders and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them pull off a big-money deal with Crawford pretty quickly. But I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Yankees were in play for Crawford, too.
Look, we all know that Crawford is a great player. The question is, do the Yankees need him to put themselves in position to the World Series? I don’t think so. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong about Brett Gardner before last season, saying I didn’t believe he was going to be a solid everyday outfielder; obviously I was way off on that.
And while Crawford is absolutely a better player than Gardner, I’m not so sure he’s $18-20 million better. The Yankees have a lot of guys on their team who are going to be overpaid – starting with Derek Jeter, who will surely be overpaid whatever contract he signs. Gardner, for what he gives, is one of those players that is underpaid (Phil Hughes is another). Having players like is an important offset for the big-money stars. In my opinion, replacing Gardner with Crawford is an upgrade but not one that’s going to be worth the price.
Could it happen? I don’t think it’s likely. But as we learned with Teixeira, when it comes to the Yankees you can never say never.
* That’s an AP shot of Crawford.