Jun 25, 2007

What to do?

if the Yanks continue to play .500 ball through late-July (and are 10+ games out of the playoffs), I say become sellers. Yes, the New York Yankees should become mid-season sellers, in order to create a better team for the 2008+ seasons. (Wow, I just noticed that several other blogs are taking on this exact subject, but I swear I didn't do it to emulate them. I've been thinking about this for a few days...)

What moves should be taken between then and the beginning of the 2008 season? I'll try to organize it into a list:

1. Trade Arod.
He is at his very highest value now and will almost certaily opt-out of his contract at season's end to become a free agent. I (and seemingly Brian Cashman) don't want the Yanks signing another overpriced free agent in his mid-30s. And that's what Arod will be, perhaps garnering as much as $30 million a year for the next eight years! There are several teams stocked with prospects looking for offense - notably the L.A. teams, the Angels and Dodgers. Now the question is: what would they give up for potentially half a season of Arod? Maybe Jon Broxton and/or Clayton Kershaw from the Dodgers? The 23-year-old Broxton, in three big league seasons, has K'ed 165 in 127 innings. He has a high-90s fastball with a passable slider, and I watched him utterly dominate the Mets in two games earlier this month. Broxton could quite possibly be Mo's replacement. The 19-year-old Kershaw is utterly dominating the High-A Midwest League, to a 1.72 era in 68 innings with a ridiculous 91 Ks (with 35 walks) and one HR (oh, and he's also a southpaw).
As for the Angels, they have Casey Kotchman, a good young first-baseman, Howie Kendrick, a great hitting utility player, and Mike Napoli, a solid young catcher. The 24-year-old Kotchman is an excellent defensive first-baseman, and despite having a few sub-par years (mostly due to injuries), is having a break out year (and it should only continue - his patience and discipline is telling: a career 53/58 bb/k ratio). The 23-year-old Kendrick is one of those pure hitters, like Robbie Cano and Vlad Guerrero. Through two partial seasons, he has a career line of .290/.321/.423 - not a great OBP, but the fact that he's played 2B, 1B and 3B makes him the best utility infielder in baseball. And with experience his patience will come. The 25-year-old Napoli has a career OPS+ of 114 through two partial seasons. None of these guys will become superstars like Broxton or Kershaw have the potential to be, but perhaps all three of them could be brought back for Arod. But between the two teams, the Dodgers prospects are far more intriguing. And between half a year of Arod and the right prospects, I'll take the young'ins.

2. Trade the dead weight.
That might be a harsh term for Abreu, Mussina, Myers and Farnsworth, but it's mostly true. They're old and overpaid. Abreu is a three hitter getting paid $15 million that regularly bunts and has an OPS of .716. Mussina is 38 and is getting paid $11 mil to have a 4.98 ERA. Farnsy has an ERA of 5.19 and just 19 Ks in 30 innings. And of course Myers, the lefty specialist that can't get out lefties (.794 OPS vs. lefties, .547 vs. righties). The three pitchers shouldn't be too hard to get rid of, everyone's looking for pitching. And Abreu has a good eye (despite this sub-par year), a strong arm and speed.

3. Get these guys.
Sign Ichiro and Carlos Zambrano. The Yanks are probably going to sign one of them (and thereby lose their 2008 first round draft pick), so why not go for both, who happen to be the best free agents on the market?
Ichiro is one of, if not the best centerfielder (and leadoff hitter) in baseball, which would be a huge upgrade over Damon (not that his range is poor, but his arm is weaker than weak), and a slight upgrade over Melky. Now understand, I do think Melky will become a very good centerfielder, but his inexperience has hurt the team several times this year. Let him take over right field (or 4th OFer) for the time being, and perhaps he becomes the everyday CFer after Ichiro's contract runs out. If Damon can't be traded, make him the first-baseman/DH/4th Ofer. And I know Ichiro is 34, but he will age well (having young player skills: batting average and speed) and bring even more popularity to the Yankee franchise in Asia. However, I do not want to sign him for more than four years - despite his young player skills, 39 is too old for an everyday CFer.
Carlos Zambrano is a workhorse who is sure to give the Yanks quality innings. Let's get it out of the way now: he has been overused in Chicago, by the same machine that burnt out Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. So there is the risk of injury. But, he will be 27 next year, and has pitched more than 200 innings each of the past four years. This fact means that he has successfully passed through the most injury prone period in a hurler's career: the 19-21 age seasons (as I believe Baseball Prospectus' TINSAAP states, although I can't remember specifically). And not just passed through them, but throwing 200+ innings every year. You probably have an idea how good he is, but for good measure - careerwise: 1082 ip, 8 K/9, 4 BB/9 (admittedly high), .69 HR/9, 1.6 GO/AO, .670 OPS against, 129 ERA+. He even holds runners extremely well, with 21 basestealers successful against 26 being caught - no one's even attempted to steal off him this year (that's incredible, and the Cubs haven't exactly had Pudge behind the plate all those years). As further evidence of his 'work-horseness,' his OPS against is actually better after his 100th pitch than between pitches 1 and 50. And again, he'll be just 27. Think about 2008's potential rotation: Wang, Zambrano, Pettitte, Hughes and TBD (a lot of good options for the fifth spot - T-Clip, Karstens, Rasner, Igawa, Kennedy, Joba, Marquez, Horne, not to mention any free agents or trades).

4. Let's see what we have.
Bring up Chris Britton, Edwar Ramirez and Shelley Duncan, who are all doing exceptionally well in Triple-A Scranton. Drop Villone, Myers and Phillips. Perhaps Eric Duncan actually is the first-baseman of the future, or maybe Trenton's Juan Miranda, the Cuban refugee signed to a four-year, $2 million deal.

5. Time to go, Joe.
Joe Torre retires gracefully at season's end. Joe Girardi comes down from the YES booth to take his place. Youthful intelligence and prowess pervades the team. Fantastic!

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