Yanks should not sit tight

cash.jpgShut 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.

To the mats with reader mail, so get your queries and comments into oldprofessor@wholesomereading.com.


  1. juliasrants

    I will agree – the Penny signing is puzzling to me. I think when it comes to Buchholz, there seems to be a general feeling here that he needs more time to mature. Watching him struggle last year was painful. You could see in his face that the confidence wasn’t there. If the Sox do anything well, it is the fact that they bring their young kids along slowly. I don’t know what will happen next season – but I do have faith in my Red Sox! Happy New Year Steven!


  2. richinnj

    I am in complete agreement that Nady should be moved for a young asset, and I’m still sorry that the Yankees sold low on Tabata in order to get him. I have always wondered whether Cash could have gotten Bay instead of Nady/Marte for the same package.

    It was reported in several places that Sheets’s medical records had given the Yankees (and other teams) pause. That may explain the reluctance to sign him.

    Penny is a lot cheaper than Lowe both in AAV and years, so I think the signing makes sense.

    The Sox also have to be cognizant of the fact (and perhaps concerned) that Lester’s IP spiked from 153.2 in 2007 (91.2 in the mL) to 210.1 in 2008.

  3. lbury@gc.cuny.edu

    Hi Steve,

    I agree that Nady is expendable & will likely have as much, or more, trading value than any of the other Yankees OF’ers, but I don’t think that they’ll be able to get much that’s worthwhile in return for him.

    In the heat of a pennant race, the Yankees didn’t give up much for both Nady & Marte – a fallen OF prospect & 3 mediocre pitchers – so it’s unlikely they’ll get anyone particularly useful in return for just Nady, particularly when the FA market has a glut of capable corner outfielders.

    IF they can in fact get something of genuine long-term value in exchange for Nady, then I agree they should do so. But if they’re trading him just to ease their OF congestion, & they don’t really get much in return, then I’d just rather have him as a backup/platoon player for one year (& hopefully he’s a type B FA next off-season & the Yankees get a draft pick when he leaves).

    – Louis

  4. dachshund4

    Nady is a decent outfielder. he doesn’t have the arm of Abreu. His speed is average at best. He has good power. With that being said who is available? Manny will not be in pinstripes. He can crush as we all know but is a libility in the OF as we also know. Swisher needs to hit to take Nady’s job. I think they will stay pat for now. Lets hope Oakland stinks it up and by deadline we can get Holliday. That also will cause a logjam and either or both Damon & Matsui will have to agree to be traded. This will be their last year no matter what happens anyway. I would love to see gardner win the CF job & hit about .275. He could lead of with that. Melky could play RF if needed. He has the arm for RF but has to hit also. To many things to work out. Cash has done miracles before. Let’s hope he has another left.

  5. richinnj

    Regarding Holliday, the Yankees have been reluctant to trade for players in their walk years unless they can sign them to an extension as a condition precedent, and since Boras is his agent, that’s virtually impossible.

  6. buzah

    If the Swisher trade and Teixeira signing say anything, they’re saying the Yanks want to get back to high OBP grinders who get on base and burn through starters. Nady, who’s not that type of guy and never will be should therefore be dealt to whoever will give them the most, maybe even a minor leaguer with good ideas about the strikezone.

  7. jjf0122@yahoo.com

    I think they got Penny for a bargain and he is a good pickup. He is better than what they have, assuming he is healthy, and I think that if he stays healthy he will give them a year well worth the $5 million they’re giving him. I believe this is a very under rated move that will prove to help the Sox in the long run. Brad Penny as a fifth starter is not such a bad thing, as he went 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA for the Dodgers in 2007. For his career, he is 94-75 with a 4.06 ERA. Its very difficult to argue these numbers.
    Danny in Queens

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