Yanks should not sit tight
Shut up, he explained
Now that Mark Teixeira is in the fold, it feels as if the Yankees can settle back, burp loudly, and wait for spring training to begin. No one would blame them if they felt a sense of completion, having picked up the two best players on the free agent market in Teixeira and Sabathia, and clearly some owners would be happier if they took the rest of the winter off, but it would be a mistake. There is still more work to do.
Before we run down the list of items that should still be on the agenda, is it possible we can have a moratorium on owners calling for a salary cap because the Yankees just purchased a player on whom they weren’t seriously bidding? Sabathia could easily have gone to the Dodgers, Teixeira to the Red Sox or even the bleeding Nationals, and these captains of industry wouldn’t have made a peep. The playing field is not even. There are ways of fixing that have little to do with salary caps, which simply transfer dough from the players to the owners without changing the competitive balance even slightly. If redistribution of wealth meant that much, revenue sharing would have already done the job, but we know what those same owners do with the revenue sharing dough–they pocket it, or use it to pay down debt on their leveraged franchises.
Until such time as these owners are ready to truly address the issues of competitive balance, which will require revisions to basic assumptions about territoriality that go back to the business’s earliest days, they can stop trying to fool the public about the need for a cap and try to beat the Yankees, which we’ve seen can be done by virtue of just being smarter. The Yankees spend, they win regular season games, but they haven’t been to a World Series in five years, haven’t won one in eight, and the Joe Torre run of great teams is a little, glorious island in a long sea of trying and failing, despite enough money to keep Steve Kemp in comic books and champagne for his next several lifetimes.
Meanwhile, the Yankees go about the work of trying to craft a winning team. I should stop there, but I won’t, and not just because I get paid to go on at great length. In a winter in which the Yankees have made great strides in pursuing the obvious, like an ace pitcher for a staff that needs an ace and a first baseman to play first base–as opposed to a designated hitter, or a catcher, or a singles-hitting left fielder, or Miguel Cairo–now are looking to get their outfield in order. They don’t have to trade Xavier Nady, but given that he’s not the hitter that Nick Swisher is, or was, given that he’s not the hitter that the average right fielder is, it makes sense to see what they can get for the overvalued corner-man. He’d make a nice reserve/injury insurance policy, but if they can get anything of long-term value for a player of his minor key skill set, arbitration eligibility, and impending free agency, they should certainly go for it. Current rumor has them doing just that. Again, it’s pursuit of the obvious. Do that often enough, and you’ll get better.
In other news…
The Red Sox signed Brad Penny, who had a truly unpleasant year with the Dodgers, concealing an injury before breaking down altogether. His strikeout rates and general career path don’t suggest that he gives the Red Sox much more than above-average depth, but that’s something. What’s most interesting in the signing is the vote of no-confidence it expresses in Clay Buchholz. One wonders if this is an effect of the Yankees’ aggressive work this offseason–it is more typical of this regime to give the tyro pitcher another shot, and just chalk up the fifth spot in their rotation to development. Given other uncertainties in their rotation, such as the health problems of Josh Beckett, the wildness of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the 42-ness of Tim Wakefield, they needed more certainty. They apparently preferred the younger Penny to old hand Derek Lowe, and one supposes that if anyone knows about Lowe they do, but Penny still seems like a gamble. One can see why they wouldn’t want another wild pitcher in Oliver Perez, but Ben Sheets would seem to have a higher upside. Perhaps the Red Sox, like the rest of us, are overleveraged.
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