Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A New Beginning

Things have started to settle in for the Yankees as the offseason picture is coming to a slowdown. Major moves, major money, and a serious commitment to winning now. What a difference a year makes. No one in the Steinbrenner family can stomach "not winning", which is basically a way to say "losing" without actually attaching it to the Yankee brand.

Adding C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira and the payroll associated with those names, has put a lot of pressure on the other teams in the league during a time of global financial downturn. Uncertainty over the state of the economy has made more than a few teams gun shy in the free agent market, but the Yankees are set up to spend in any environment. Particularly important here is the notion that the Yankees are actually saving money on the 2009 budget, despite these signings, thanks to jettisoning Mussina, Pettitte, Giambi, Pavano, and Abreu. Their replacements are Sabathia, Burnett, Teixeira, and some combination of Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher. I would say that the Yanks have upgraded everywhere except perhaps RF, but the Moneyball strategy would suggest that a player who can't be replaced by another player can always be replaced by two players of lesser dollar value, platooning for equivalent production. I think that's where Cashman went with that position...wisely, I might add.

Over the last few years, this moment in Yankee history was at the front of my mind and now that it's upon us, it looks as good as I thought it might. Next offseason will complete the retooling of the club, and I think we'll likely see the end of Matsui and Damon. That aging, noodle-armed platoon makes a fair lump of cash and it's not unreasonable to expect that we can sign a single, younger player to fill LF that will total less than the 25-ish million that the two aforementioned players cost us now.

The Red Sox have a lot of holes in their rotation and on the field now, and I would suggest that they are dangerously close to dropping back into 3rd place in the division as they were some years ago. The Rays are tough and young and have a tremendous farm system. They are here to stay. The Yankees are aging, but have bolstered a flawed lineup and built a rotation that should compete for years to come. The Sox have Beckett and Matsuzaka, but follow them with Bucholz, Lester, Penny, and Wakefield. That looks fairly similar to our own 2008 rotation with Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Hughes, and Kennedy at the start of the year. Without Manny in the middle of the order, the Sox are relying on a lot of 2nd tier guys to produce for their mediocre rotation. I don't think it's a winning environment. How will Pedroia, Papi, Bay, Youkilis, Lowell, Drew, and the younger fill-ins do enough to help out the good, but not great pitching staff? Their problem is the decline of Varitek and the inability to do anything effective with the other "up the middle" positions.

Are the Yankees finished? Is there anything in the works with Melky? Is the bullpen locked up? Is there one more free agent in the ether? Manny? That would be overkill, no? I know it's not popular among smarter Yankee fans, but I would almost just love to see it to thumb my nose at the Sox and let him eat them alive in pinstripes. May cooler heads prevail.