Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Happiest Place on Earth

The Baseball winter meetings are taking place in Orlando, Florida this week and so far the Red Sox are showing no signs of slowing down. After the incredible offer to secure the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka (they still haven't signed him yet), they have signed J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo. They are also in serious talks with a few team (Dodgers, Padres, Cubs) about trading Manny Ramirez. The Yankees meanwhile have done, um, nothing. Brian Cashman is there, but has yet to pull the trigger on a deal of any kind.

The Yankees did trade Gary Sheffield last month and got a top line pitching prospect from the Tigers in return. If this were the old days, the Yankees would immediately trade that prospect for Jeff Weaver. Thankfully times have changed in the Yankeeland. Cashman's plan is to restock the farm system and try to bring down the Yankees payroll if possible. Trading Sheffield and renegotiation Mussina's contract have certainly helped in the effort, but with the number of high priced players the Yankees have on the roster, it would be almost impossible for the Yankees to have a payroll much less than $200 million and still remain competitive in the AL east.

The Yankees apparently have stars in their eyes for the return of Andy Pettitte to the Bronx. Andy is unsure at this point as to whether he will pitch again, although it has been reported that his asking price is going to $15 million for one season. $15 million seems like a lot to ask for a pitcher with a suspect elbow, a 14-13 record and 4.20 ERA in the national league. What did the Astros get for their $30 million/3 year investment in Andy Pettitte? One great year, one mediocre year and one year mostly lost to injury. Now tell me again why Andy Pettitte is worth $15 million a year? I guess he's worth it because pitchers like Ted Lilly are demanding $10-12 million a year. I know that Andy has a proven track record in the Bronx, but it seems like he's asking for a lot considering his results over the past three seasons. However, if he decides to come back and play, I'm pretty sure that Cashman will do everything in his power to get him into pinstripes.

So what should the Yankees be looking for? They need a first baseman to take over for Giambi in the field and they need a right handed power hitter to replace Sheffield in the lineup and it just so happens that there may be a perfect solution to both issues in Seattle. There is talk that Seattle is trying to dump some salary so that they can make a run at Barry Zito and if that is the case, I'm sure that Richie Sexson would be one of the first players that they would want to trade. Given his salary ($14 million for the next two years), I'm sure that if the Yankees could put together a package of middle level minor league talent and agree to assume all of Sexon's salary, that the Mariners would be hard pressed to find a better offer. Sexson is a reliable power hitter and he's only 31 years old. I think that he makes perfect sense for the Yankees and he's a lot better option than the various platoon that have been floated in the press.

Pitching is at a premium this year and Cashman has made it pretty clear that he's not going to overpay for mediocre talent. Zito and Schmidt are going to probably get something north of $15 million a year and I don't think that the Yankees are going to play anywhere near that ballpark. It is possible that someone falls through the cracks, but at this point the Yankees can probably do no better than adding another back end of the rotation starter. They have Mussina, Wang and Johnson (if he returns from back surgery) to anchor the top of the rotation. The back end is another matter. Igawa, Pavano and a slew of career minor leaguers are going to be competing for the last two spots in the rotation. It remains to be seen what the Yankees pitching staff will look like come April.

I suspect the biggest news that Yankees will make at the meetings will be the signing or non-signing of Pettitte. Cahsman will probably wait and see who's still available after the feeding frenzy for pitchers is over. He may pick another arm, but it won't anything spectacular. Of course, Roger Clemens is a free agent...



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