After falling convincingly in the ALCS, the New York Yankees face some serious questions as they head into the off-season. Mola Ram would like to go on the record and address these questions.
1. How much & how long for Jeter?
Three years for $60 mil. No options, no nonsense. Jeter will be the shortstop in all of those three years, but must accept the fact that he’s going to get spelled more often in the coming years to compensate for his rising age. He’s not moving to left field; he’s not moving to center field. It’s hard to believe people are nuts enough to think he could do this seamlessly at his age after having spent his entire career at SS. Plus, would the Yankees really want to possibly sacrifice OF defense and have a corner OF who doesn’t provide huge offensive output (HRs and RBI) to justify it– something which Jeter doesn’t really provide? At the end of those three years, the sides can come together again and work on a one or two year deal—and perhaps some extended personal services contract—if they want to at that point.
Note: Yes, Jeter had a subpar year offensively; but as this analysis points out, we shouldn’t be shocked by improved numbers next year.
And in my personal opinion, two things contributed significantly to his poor season at the plate: (1) this looming contract situation, and (2) too much playing time due to injuries elsewhere.
2. Is there a serious chance that Nunez will play SS soon? If so, what position does Jeter play?
No, Eduardo Nunez will not be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees in anything but a temporary capacity. He very well may see “regular” time next year, but it will be mainly to spell the aging left side of the infield, with the very speculative upside of seeing if they have a real player there. In my opinion, he is not good enough to be an everyday player on the New York Yankees. But hey, prove me wrong.
3. Does Andy Pettitte come back? If so, for how long and how much?
Yes. 1 year for $15 mil.
4. How much and how long will Mariano Rivera get ? Is he going to be worth it ? Can he get it done another year ?
There’s no doubt about it– Mo is slowly but surely coming back to earth (and by “back”, I mean that the last time he was “on earth” was when he was still being developed as a starter in the early 90’s). His velocity is slowly dropping and the eye-test reveals his cutter is losing just a tiny bit of its notorious bite. That being said, he is still clearly one of the top 5 closers in the game. I think he gets it done for at least one more year, probably two.
I think he gets two years for $35 mil. This is a nice increase from his current $15 mil/year pull, solidifying and dignifying his pinstriped ride into the sunset.
5. Do the Yanks look for a young set-up man and future closer ?
I think they’ll sign a somewhat proven closer when they need to until they stumble across a young guy worthy of consideration either in their own organization or another. Besides the absolute shut-down closers, it’s a very overrated position.
6. Can they deal AJ? Will they ?
I don’t see how they could deal AJ without taking a huge loss. I also just don’t think it’s worth it to take such a guaranteed loss when there is still some possible upside there. They will sign Cliff Lee (see below), have the best top 3 in baseball, and hope for the best from Hughes (who will deliver… he’s 24 years old, people) and AJ (who the hell knows).
7. Will any of the mid-season acquisitions stay ? Berkman maybe ? Kerry Wood?
No. Options are way too expensive. If Berkman were much cheaper, he would be a nice fit at DH.
Note: If the Yankees don’t sign Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, don’t be surprised if they snag Adam Dunn to DH and live with a Swisher-Gardner OF. Imagine those guaranteed 35 HR (probably more with the short porch) and 100 RBI (probably more with the lineup in front of him) in the 6th slot… IF they can get him down to a 2-3 year deal. Having a strict everyday DH limits their ability to semi-spell some aging regulars like Jeter, A-Rod, and Posada.
8. Will Cliff Lee be wearing Yankee pinstripes ? If so, how much will he cost ?
Yes, to the tune of seven years for $130 mil. A little scary because that will take him to 39 years old, but let’s face it, he’s reeeeeally good and his mechanics are sound enough to assume a slightly lower injury risk than the average starting pitcher (like CC’s).
9. Will Carl Crawford be roaming the outfield in the Bronx ?
Despite intense pressure from the Red Sox and Angels, yes. In my personal opinion, he is primed for a slow but steady decline. Yes, he’s an excellent defender, but he’s 28 and there is significant evidence that defensive declines begin earlier than offensive declines. Additionally, he has sustained a good amount of wear and tear on the turf in Tampa, and on the basepaths. Those legs have a lot of miles. He is a good hitter, but not a great one. His OBP and Slugging leave a lot to be desired for a guy who will command a $100+ mil contract; and while his steal totals and excellent success rate offset that to an extent, I believe, as alluded to earlier, that this part of his game will decline a little more quickly than many predict.
All that being said, the Yanks have made no secret that they love him. Seven years for $120 mil (I wouldn’t be surprised if that price is even driven up closer to $130 mil due to intense competition from the Red Sox and Angels).
10. How much and how long for Joe Girardi ? Any chance that they set him free ?
No chance girardi does not come back. I’m no expert on manager salaries but I’d guess something like 4 years for $20.
11. Is Swisher going to be starting in right next year ?
Yes. He’s due $9 mil. I think they eschew Jayson Werth for Crawford, leaving RF open for Swisher to reclaim over Gardner. Sure Gardner is a pest on the bases, plays hard, gets on base better than most thought he would, works a lot of pitches out of ABs, and is a good defender (though he does take weird routes sometimes and makes AWFUL throws once in a while).
But Swisher hits HRs, drives in runs, and is coming off the best year of his career. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he even improved on his career year as he gets even more comfortable with his new approach at the plate. I still think Nick provides more at the plate than Gardner while maintaining decent defensive ability in a small right field at Yankee Stadium. This is absolutely not a sure thing, though, as Swisher’s buyout is only $1 mil and, as stated, Gardner is no chump.
12. Is Joba trade bait ?
I sure hope teams still have interest. He’s eligible for arbitration and would probably get a hefty raise. Try to move him now, take what you can get. I know he was linked to a Dan Haren trade mid-season, but I don’t know much about what teams are interested this off-season. At the end of the day, I think there would be interest if he were made available, which he should be in my opinion. Character questions too.
13. Is Hughes trade bait ?
No. In fact, I think the Yankees might try to sign him to a 3-4 year deal this winter to avoid arbitration. He’s 24 and will end of being a very good pitcher.
14. Do they start the season with Posada behind the plate and bring Jesus Montero up in May (that move buys them time before he’d be eligible for arbitration) ?
Yes. He’ll be behind the plate being spelled often by Cervelli before they bring up Jesus Montero sometime in May of June.