Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bring on Spring Training!

Tomorrow marks 5 weeks until the Yankee's pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. After it was announced today that the Giants have retained Tom Coughlin as coach, and gave him a 1 year extension to boot, it can't come soon enough. This is by the far the coldest day as well and the first time the ground was coated by snow. But with temperatures going back to the well above normal 50s this weekend, the mind is definitely turning towards baseball.

Some major developments have occurred during the Yankees off-season. The first was of course a tragic one, which we spoke about in an earlier post, with the death of Corey Lidle. Lidle probably would not have been back as a Yankee, but his death was certainly unexpected to say the least.

The Yankees jettisoned two veteran, future Hall of Famers in Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson. The Yankees have suddenly become the team to rid themselves of veterans with prospects coming back.

The Yankees picked up Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Wheelan, and Anthony Claggett. All three are right handed pitchers with Sanchez being the big centerpiece of the deal. The 6'6", 230 lb, soon to be 24-year old, is a hard thrower with an intimidating presence. There has been speculation in the past that he might be moved from the starting rotation to a closer spot. Sanchez bounced back from an awful 2005 season to put very good numbers at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

The Yankees latest deal took about 3 weeks to complete and it sent the Big Fugly back to the Arizona desert. In return the Yankees received major league pitcher Luis Vizcaino, and minor leaguers Ross Ohlendorf, Steven Jackson (both also right-handed pitchers), and shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. The Yankees are very high on Ohlendorf and Gonzalez has received high marks for his defensive play.

The ability to deal Johnson came about because the Yankees brought back one of their own. After spending 3 seasons deep in the heart of Houston, Texas, Andy Pettitte returned to the fold as a free agent. Pettitte signed a 1 year deal with an option for 2008. With the addition of Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, the composition of the Yankees starting rotation has changed drastically for 2007. And of course there is the oft-injured, much maligned, Carl Pavano waiting in the wings too.

The starting rotation could drastically change even further if the Yankees are successful in persuading Roger Clemens to rejoin Pettitte in New York. Clemens is doing his whole "I don't know if I'm playing" routine again, but Pettitte and others feel that he will. Where remains another question. Houston and Boston will compete with the Yankees for Clemens's services.

The Yankees also unloaded oft-injured, oft-ineffective starter Jaret Wright to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Chris Britton. If nothing else with Britton and returning reliever Brian Bruney, the Yankees can start to build an offensive line.

The Yankees have added veteran 1st Baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to split time with Andy Phillips and/or newly acquired Josh Phelps. Miguel Cairo is back in the utility role and there may be no room for the return of Bernie Williams.

Rumors have been floating around that the Yankees have tried to use backup outfielder Melky Cabrera to get lefty closer Mike Gonzalez from the Pittsburgh Pirates. So far the Pirates haven't confirmed they're willing to deal Gonzalez, but they certainly have plenty of suitors.

As expected, Alex Rodriguez was not dealt this off-season. A couple of rumors floated around, but they were probably nothing more than just that, rumors.

Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera..and the rest of the Yankees will be ready to go before you know it. And I can't wait.

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