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August 11, 2004

Rebuilding on the Fly
by SG

I'd like to thank Larry for letting me write for his blog. I'm not nearly the writer that he is, but will try and do my best. You can all rip me if you like, I can take it.

In watching the Yankees this year, one thing that's painfully obvious is that this is a remarkably talented team, but one that is deeply flawed. The biggest problem the Yankees will face in maintaining their success going forward will be the age-related decline and increasing likelihood of injuries to their star players. I decided to look at the upcoming offseason to see how the Yankees should deal with this.

First, I looked at the players under contract for next season. (All ages are for the 2005 season)

Starting Pitchers (3)
Javier Vazquez, rhp 29 signed for $10.5 million for 2005
Kevin Brown, rhp 40 signed for $15 million for 2005
Mike Mussina, rhp 36 signed for $17 million for 2005

Relief Pitchers (5)
Paul Quantrill, rhp 36 signed for $3 million for 2005
Mariano Rivera, rhp 35 signed for $10.5 million for 2005
Tom Gordon, rhp 37 signed for $3.75 million for 2005
Steve Karsay, rhp 33 signed for $5.0 million for 2005
Felix Heredia, lhp 30 signed for $1.8 million for 2005 (someone please explain this to me)

Catcher (1)
Jorge Posada, 33 signed for $8 million for 2005

Infielders (3)
Jason Giambi, 1B 34 signed for $11 million for 2005
Derek Jeter, SS 31 signed for $18 million for 2005
Alex Rodriguez, 3B 30 signed for $25 million for 2005 (Yankees are paying $15 million of this)

Outfielders (5)
Bubba Crosby, RF 29
Kenny Lofton, CF 38 signed for $3.2 million for 2005
Hideki Matsui, LF 31 signed for $8 million for 2005
Gary Sheffield, RF 36 signed for $13 million for 2005
Bernie Williams, CF 36 signed for $12 million for 2005

Possible help on the farm
Dioner Navarro, c 21
Robinson Cano, 2B 22
Sam Marsonek, rhp 27
Scott Proctor, rhp 28
Jorge DePaula, rhp 26 (recovering from ligament replacement surgery)
Brad Halsey, lhp 24

Players under options for next year
Travis Lee, 1b 30 option for $3 million, with a $250K buyout
Jon Lieber, rhp 35 option for $8 million, with a $250K buyout
It's probably a good bet that the Yankees decline both of those options.

Yankee free agents
Orlando Hernandez, rhp "35"
Esteban Loaiza, rhp 33
C.J. Nitkowski, lhp 32
Tanyon Sturtze, rhp 34

Miguel Cairo, 2b/ss 31
Tony Clark, 1b 33
John Flaherty, c 37
Ruben Sierra, of 39

The Yankees are committed to $164.7 million in contracts next year for 17 players. The Yankees will need to add two starting pitchers, at least one relief pitcher, a backup catcher, a second baseman and utility infielder, and although they still have Bernie and Lofton signed through next year, a CF would be a good idea.

Potential free agents (All ages are for the 2005 season)
Second Basemen
Jeff Kent, 2b 37 - I'd pass, too old and not a good defensive player.
Todd Walker, 2b 32 - I'd pass, a butcher defensively.

Would they play 2B?
Adrian Beltre, 3b 26 - Intriguing, but not sure if he'd play second
Nomar Garciaparra, ss 32 - I'm also not sure he'd play second, his injury history is troubling, and he's on the wrong side of 30.

Center Fielders
Carlos Beltran, of 28 - Probably the Yankees #1 off-season target, but there could be quite a bidding war for his services.
J.D. Drew, of 29 - I like Drew as a fallback if Beltran can't be signed.

Right-Handed Starters
Matt Clement, 30 - Appears to have put it together after an inconsistent start to his career, probably my first choice as a free agent starter. I think he will be a tough sign.
Derek Lowe, rhp 32 - I'd rather re-sign Sturtze.
Pedro Martinez, rhp 33 - The most marquee of the free agents, there's the whole stick it to Boston aspect, but Pedro's not "Pedro" any more. I'd have a tough time rooting for him, and although I think he will be a top fifteen pitcher for the next five years, you're going to have to pay him like an ace to get him.
Brad Radke, rhp 32 - Would slot in nicely as a third or fourth starter, but probably not flashy enough for the Yankees.
Kris Benson, rhp 30 - Hey, he'd be an ex-Met. I think he could be good signing for someone if he continues to recover from his surgery, but I also think he's too risky. I do like his wife though.
Kevin Millwood, rhp 30 - Another guy who'd I'd be wary of.
Roger Clemens, rhp 43 - Will Roger play another season? Would he come back to New York to do it? Unlikely on both counts.
Carl Pavano, rhp 29 - Another good young starter, but has a somewhat shaky injury history and is really just starting to show the promise he's had for a long time. I think he's a got a bit of uncertainty that would make me wary.
Chris Carpenter, rhp 30 - Nothing special, coming off injuries, but a serviceable starter.
Matt Morris, rhp, 31 - He seems to be declining somewhat, his stuff used to be dynamite but now is a little less so. Also has a spotty injury history.

Left-handed starters
Odalis Perez, lhp 28 - The only blemish on Perez is his injury history. He makes a lot of sense to me though, he's a solid lefty and the youngest available starting pitcher. He would be my #2 choice after Clement.
Eric Milton, lhp 30 - The Prodigal Son returns?. He might not be a bad signing, but will be highly overrated due to his gaudy win total.
David Wells, lhp 42 - Probably persona non grata after the way he left the Yankees last time, but you never know with Steinbrenner.

Left-handed relievers
Mike Myers, lhp 36 - Strictly a LOOGY at this point, but probably an upgrade over Heredia.
Rheal Cormier, lhp 38 - had a great season in 2002, but that looks like a fluke.
Steve Kline, lhp 32 - He must be good, he has a fan site and everything.

If I were the Yankees, I would try and sign Beltran for $17 million, Clement for $11 million, Odalis Perez for $10 million, and a backup C not named Flaherty. Gregg Zaun wouldn't be a bad choice. I don't think Navarro is ready yet, otherwise I'd promote him. I would also start to play Posada at first base some. I also think they should re-sign Tony Clark, he's a solid defensive player with some power, not a bad backup at all. The lefy relief crop is uninspiring, but I could see dumping Heredia and signing Myers. I'd re-sign Cairo, and promote Cano to platoon with him. I'd also promote Halsey and put him in a swingman role.

If they could pull this off, they'd have the following roster next season.

Vazquez, Brown, Mussina, Clement, and Perez

Rivera, Gordon, Quantrill, Karsay(yeah, right), Halsey, Myers

Posada, Zaun

Giambi, Cano, Cairo, Jeter, Rodriguez, Clark

Beltran, Matsui, Lofton, Bernie, Sheffield, Crosby

They could run a lineup out there that looks like this:

Jeter, SS
Beltran, CF
Sheffield, RF
Giambi, 1B,
Rodriguez, 3B
Matsui, LF
Posada, C
Bernie/Lofton, DH
Cano/Cairo, 2B

Assuming they can sign the new guys for what I mentioned earlier, that puts the 2005 payroll at about $202.6 million. If you factor in the other costs they are paying for on bad contracts throughout baseball and releasing Heredia, it probably moves up to over $210 million. They would also work in some younger players in Cano and Halsey. Thoughts, besides the fact that the Yankees payroll advantage is really ridiculous?