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
So the Yankees division lead stayed the same, but he most significant news of the night might have come a little before midnight when Buster Olney reported that the Rays were talking about a trade to acquire right fielder Jayson Werth from the Phillies. The deal could be a blockbuster, because Ed Price is reporting that the Phillies are also talking to the Astros about adding Roy Oswalt.
With that, I’m on my way back to Yankee Stadium. It’s as if I never left.