Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Winter of Our Discontent

This Hot Stove season is an even bigger one for the Yankees than last year's. The team is coming off, for them, a poor season and the team's roster is currently in disarray. Mike Mussina has retired. Andy Pettitte is whoring for more money. Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu have been cast aside. Other than an offer to CC Sabathia, trade talks for Jake Peavy, and salary arbitration decisions, this has been the slowest off-season for the Yankees (and all teams) in recent years. But that should all change next week. Oops! And the acquisition of Nick Swisher..duh.

The annual general manager's meeting is set to begin Monday, Dec. 8 in Las Vegas. That means that player agents will be able to bounce back and forth between teams in a short amount of time. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett are among the names that could walk away with new deals by the time the meetings end on the 11th.

The Yankees biggest focus right now is on their pitching. At the moment, the pitching staff consists of Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. Phil Hughes is certainly not being counted on as a definite as he was last season. We won't even get into Ian Kennedy.

Sabathia is of course the grand prize. But the consensus is that he prefers to staying on the west coast and in the National League, where he thoroughly dominated after being dealt to Milwaukee at the trade deadline. Money will be no object for the Yankees when dealing with the big left-hander so it will come down to Sabathia's preference, and possible pressure from the player's union to take the most money.

Burnett is number two on the Yankees hit list, but there's a significant drop off from the the one and two spots. Burnett doesn't have the resume Sabathia has and won't make nearly as much cash. But he'll still make plenty. Burnett probably won't agree to a deal until Sabathia sets the bar. He's looking for a 5-year deal in the neighborhood of $75-$80 million. Burnett has proven he can pitch in the American League, and more importantly, in the AL East. But there are concerns about his arm and his mental toughness.

The Daily News is reporting that the Braves, who are expected to officially announce their deal for Javier Vazquez later today, are reportedly set to offer Burnett a guaranteed 5-year deal. That 5th year is something the Yankees have been reluctant to offer.

Peavy is the best signed option out there, but teams are finding that the Padres are asking for too much in return. As we previously mentioned, Peavy has already shown his distaste for playing in the Big Apple, so a deal doesn't make a lot of sense. Widespread reports say that both the Braves and Cubs have broken off talks after failing to swing a three team deal.

The Yankees can always use left-handed pitching, especially if they part ways with Pettitte. The Mets' Oliver Perez makes for an interesting case. He seems to have recaptured the ability that he had in San Diego and lost after one season in Pittsburgh, but he can still be awfully inconsistent and wild at times. He went 25-17 over the last two season for the Mets, and threw a career second best 194 innings last season. After putting up a 3.56 ERA in 2007, he saw that number rise to 4.22 in 2008. You have to wonder if his stuff would translate to the American League.

Ben Sheets has had a fine career with the Milwaukee Brewers, but the 30-yr old is perennially hurt. His 198.1 innings this past season was only the 2nd time he topped 150 innings in the last 4 years. He's coming off a 13-9, 3.09, 158 strikeout season, but had trouble with his right triceps, forearm, and elbow this past season. We would definitely stay away from him.

There could be other pitchers on the move, such as those who will become free agents after the 2009 season. Plus those who were disappointments in 2008. Erik Bedard fits both those categories.

So what do we have? The Yankees have to go all out, balls to the wall, in an effort to land Sabathia. If they don't, that doesn't mean they should blow Burnett away with money. He's had one very good season and has had arm issues (see Carl Pavano). If the Yankees do land Sabathia, they may be better off going for a secondary option that is cheaper (Perez), or dealing for someone like Bedard. That will free up more money to shore up the offense with a player like Mark Teixeira or someone of that ilk.

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