Pettitte and the perfect team

hughes_250_012709.jpgI said a good deal of what I wanted to about the return of Andy Pettitte in yesterday’s installment, and you said what you had to say in the comments. Then, in Brian Cashman’s phoner after the deal was announced, he echoed some of your comments about depth and how at some point the Yankees might still need to call upon one of their younger pitchers.

Still, Phil Hughes (pictured) and pals have clearly been relegated to Plan B, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Yankees are well fixed for Minor League pitchers, so depth was unlikely to be an issue. More pressing is the need to give those pitchers Major League experience so that when Chien-Ming Wang gets hurt again, or Pettitte’s always troublesome arm acts up, or A.J. Burnett experiences whatever happens to Burnett, they are ready to step in with more consistency than they showed in 2008. It is not overly optimistic to think that last year was the growing pains year for Hughes and Ian Kennedy, while 2009 could be the year they begin to deliver. Yet, that possibility seems to have been aborted.

Yet, there is no reason to be glum. On paper, the Yankees have put together a team that is going to be very tough to beat. If everyone does what they’re supposed to do, the rotation will be the deepest in the game, the bullpen will be solid, and the lineup… Well, the lineup may still have some problems, even if Jorge Posada is healthy. Robinson Cano needs to snap back, Derek Jeter needs to find the Fountain of Range — I mean Youth, and the outfield could be a complete wipeout.

That leads me to the question of the day, and one which I will probably center my Hot Stove show comments around this Thursday: on the phoner, Mr. Cashman was asked if he was now ready to retire for the winter. “I wouldn’t expect anything further at this stage, or anything significant,” he said.

Here are my questions: Should the Yankees be done? Has Cashman done enough? How would you evaluate the job that he and the Yankees did in preparing the team to contend this year? I’m not sure what the structure of this week’s show will be, but if it all possible I will read selected answers and respond on the air.

A-ROD/A-FRAUD/A-FROG/WHATEVER
I’m holding my comments on the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book until I’ve actually read it, but it’s worth briefly revisiting Alex Rodriguez’s supposedly un-clutch performances. I can’t defend the guy’s personality or his teammates’ perception of it. That’s a different matter from what he does on the field. The fact is, except perhaps in very limited cases of piling on, all the runs generated by a player count. We make judgments as to a hit’s value using information that we could not possibly know at the time, which is to say the game’s outcome. It is true that if an A-Rod hits a home run with his team down 5-0 in the seventh, it’s likely that the home run won’t have any impact beyond the back of his baseball card.

However, game conditions change, and scores affect player behavior and managerial decision-making. A three-run shot with a 3-0 lead moves a game from in doubt to safe. That single tally in the face of a big deficit may bring a closer into the game who otherwise would have rested, or serve as the foundation block of a rally. You can’t really know until it’s all over. Naturally, it would be preferable if A-Rod chipped in a few more two-run shots when the team was down 1-0, but it is incorrect for anyone to imply that his stage fright in some of the big spots means that the rest of his contribution is without value.

22 Comments

I don’t think there’s much left they can do. Theyre set as far as the rotation goes, and I like their bullpen as well. As for the offense, I’ve heard rumors on Orlando Hudson but I don’t expect that to happen as it would mean either moving Cano or putting Hudson in CF. They can adress the catching situation, but I don’t expect them to do that either.

I am heavily in favor of them signing Manny, if we have the money then why not? But, again, I don’t see that happening.

As for A-Rod, he was the most clutch player in baseball in 2007. Last year, that all changed. Which raises my question, do you think he really has a fright of the big stiuation or he just has bad luck sometimes. I don’t see how someone can go form being the most comfortable in ninth inning one year to batting below .200 in the ninth the next year.

Well, the pitching looks swell, and though I would have liked to see Hughes and others eat those innings this year, I think having Andy and his 200 innings will help given the innings limits on Joba, Phil and others. Anyway, I’m very comfortable with the pitching.

Where I am not comfortable with in CF at C, and on the bench. I don’t think they will give Kevin Russo a chance to make the team as a UT, and I don’t like any of the other options they seem to be entertaining there.

And I don’t think the Yanks can do what we want them to with below average bats in CF and at C (if Po can’t go). I guess it’s possible that Melky could start walking again like he did as a 21 year old, or that Brett Gardner could also start walking, and bunting and getting on base enough to help, but I don’t think either of them giving us an OPS+ of 100 is remote.

So, I think Cash should not be done and should make a trade or two, and perhaps a cheap signing or two to shore up CF, C and the bench.

the Pitching looks great but i don’t think people understand how much of a questionmark our offense is right now.
Matsui and posoda are both health questions., who even if they are peferctly healthy are both 2 years older than the last time they were effective. Swisher and Cano are both “hoping” for rebound years and we all know that Melky/Gardner are not the anwser and as much as i love Jeter and Damon they both are getting older. I think Cashman really needs to make a push and get a solid bat for the outfield. If hes not going to play Kennedy then lets trade him, we only need so many backup pitchers. I’m sure we can probably pry one of ST. Louis 5 outfielders.

I feel everything will be fine except I wish they had signed Bobby Abreu. They could get him a lot cheaper than Manny and he would be a great 3rd or 5th batter in the lineup. I realize there would be a overstock in the outfield but Nady and Matsui could platoon at DH while Nady could also platoon with Damon in left. Also Swisher could play 1st base if Tex needed a day off or he could also DH to spell someone. Swisher could also play CF at times. I think they will miss Abreu more than they know.

Thank you for not jumping on the “bash Torre” band wagon for actually waiting to read the book. I think a lot of people might have different opinions after they read it.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

The offense projects to be adequate, but moves to make it more than merely adequate are always a good idea.

The lack of options at catcher should be a priority – in a pinch, any number of players could be shifted from another position or acquired to handle infield and outfield positions, but the catcher position is another matter entirely.

There seems to be a good basis, both statistically and anecdotally, for optimism regarding Cano. That’s not a guarantee, but those who have worked with him say he has the talent not only to revert to form, but to become a truly great player (or hitter, at least).

That Melky once had a modicum of patience attests that a significantly improved OBP is possible, but he doesn’t appear to have anything like Cano’s upside. And if there’s anything to the posit that Cano’s improved hitting later in the season was caused, at least in part, by the event that it succeeded – Melky’s leaving the roster – then Melky should be excluded from the roster right away.
Gardner seems more promising, at least in the absence of a better option, but the prospect of watching him is more interesting than exciting – his UPSIDE is being merely acceptably productive, whereas Cano’s upside is something special. If there’s any potentially special CF out there to be had, however, I’m not aware of him. Dejesus doesn’t project to make enough of a difference to give anything up to get him…
Which leaves us with the possibility of trading Nady or Swisher. Either one would be a very, very useful bench player, better than the Yankees have tended to have in recent years. I’ve heard that Nady might bring more back, and he plays fewer positions, which makes me lean towards Mr. Goldman’s position (that it is Nady who should be traded). There is one interesting counter-argument, however: a clearly different SG ran a very interesting study that suggested that stand-out years like Nady really do represent a significant shift in talent/skill level far more often than I would have guessed.
In any event, improving a corner outfield position, and especially the catching alternatives, would seem to be avenues that Cashman should pursue actively. Non-trivial, red-flag issues.

1-I definitely feel that rotation is good to go, but the bullpen could use another good arm. Juan Cruz is talked about a lot in the blogosphere, and I’d be in favor of adding him. 2-If you went into the season with these position players, I’d say you have enough to mix and match with. Melky and Gardner and even Swisher can see time in center until one of them emerges. Swish can also play the other outfield positions and back up Teixeira. Nady should be the starting right fielder, but if he’s traded for another piece Swish can start there as well. 3-The problem I see is that neither Swisher or Nady are better than Abreu was. You were guaranteed with what you were getting with him, these other guys are going to be question marks. Maybe if they can give you what Giambi did offensively, though, you may be OK then. 4-I think Posada is going to be ready sooner than later, so I don’t see them signing another #1 catcher type. Remember, they have Kevin Cash in their system to help back things up. Maybe Franciso Cerevilli, too, so there are options. 5-If Mo isn’t ready to go, Joba mostly becomes interim closer, and Hughes/Aceves steps into the rotation. They are covered here as well. 6-I hope Cody Ransom beats out Angel Berroa for the utility spot, but it wouldn’t be so bad having a former rookie of the year as your infield back up. So besides a possible Nady trade, you can argue that this team is done. Of course there’s always Manny out there… 😉

-Sal Cipriano

The Yankees could start the season as is and then evaluate say two months in and make necessary adjustments. They will have some payroll available for a late season fix and young pitching to trade if a need arises (say catching). A Nady/Swisher platoon might be interesting to start as it keeps a bat on the bench at all times. If Jaba is in the pen then we have the 5th spot to give young pitchers opportunity. No one goes a whole season with out injury so the young arms will have a shot. My observation over the years is this…. you are either good in NY from the start or you never will be. So giving them tons of innings may not help anyway. If it did last year would have groomed several young starters. It did not.

As for AROD, I have no problem with a guy hitting a 5-0 three run HR. I would like a player to be clutch a reasionable percentage of the time. AROD however seems to press in the clutch and I suspect he is more inclined to relax when the pressure is off. I wish for his sake that he could just stop trying to be all things to all people and just relax and have fun. He has big talent but a relaxed AROD would do much better. In his walk year I thought he was very cluch early and tailed off late. Last season it appeard that he was back to normal.

I Don’t agree that the yankees had 2 give hughes or kennedy a shot this year..Don’t get me wrong if they did it would be fine with me, but we learned from last year that we dont know if we can depend on them this year..It’s the same thing with Boston & Bucholz.. Hes not going to pitch for them in the beggining of the year, there gonna wait so taht he develops..& thats what the yankees are doing with hughes & kennedy cuz they need to learn more & get there commomd & mechanics back together..Trust me they will have a shot this year 2 pitch in the Big Leauges just not out Spring Training..SO i think thise pettite move wuz a gReat signing for both The Yankees & Hughes/Kennedy.. SO dont listen to everything Steve Says.. Like they say Theres never to much Pitching.. What if Joba gos to the pen,or A.J get hurts Or anybody @ taht we got depth & we also have trade bait, so if we need something that bebefits the team we can get it by trading one of these guys.. GO YANKEES!!

I think the Yankees should be open to upgrade in the areas needed to upgrade. We have a gluttony of outfielders with a pretty major need in centerfield. If I were Cashman I’d see if I could get a considerable upgrade in center. If I can’t then i’m not making any deals. Unlike everyone else on here, I don’t think our lineup is in bad shape at all. The big time players on the 08′ team had an off year for the most part. Jeter’s numbers were down, A-rods were down so to say we NEED an upgrade is overstating the fact. Sometimes the best deals are the ones that aren’t made. Either get a considerable upgrade or have faith in your team.

I agree that the offense seems to be the biggest issue, so why not address the outfield. Trade Nady/Swisher and sign Abreu at a discounted rate. Cashman gets his prospects and the lineup is greatly improved.

I think the Yankees should always be open to making improvements if there’s a better option out there or a move that makes sense for the future. Cashman has vastly improved the team, but it never hurts to have more options. The team is stacked with pitching, and having a tandem of Nady/Swisher off the bench for the outfield provides much more depth and pop than the Yanks have had in recent years. I think they should still look for a third catcher, like they did last year with Moeller, but I’m open to more roster flexibility and options.
As for the moves that Cashman has made so far this year, I’d give him an A. I wasn’t a fan of the Burnett signing, but if he can pull off what he did last year in Toronto against the Yankees, he’ll be a very welcome upgrade. Grabbing Swisher and the “wrong” Teixeira from the White Sox was a great deal.

With the abundance of corner OF types still looking for jobs and going for far below the normal market rate, I think it would be wise if the Yankees kept both Nady and Swisher. If someone gets hurt, they’ve got insurance. If Swisher has the bounce-back year people are hoping for and other teams are looking for a corner OF down the stretch, the Yankees could sell Nady off if the price is right since he’s a free agent after the season.

I could have done without Pettitte and been ok with Hughes being in the 5th slot. But I think there is more to the signing than just wins and loses. Pettitte brings familiarity and NY expierence that will help guys like CC and AJ when the heat is on during certain parts of the season. Pettitte could be that locker room buffer and veteran presence that is needed for this year anyway, they are going to need at least a year under their belts before they get accustomed to the way things work in NY. That might not be that big of a deal in other places, but here it’s huge. Without Pettitte there is no one in the rotation that provides that kind of veteran respect that he will get from those guys. He will be looked up to for a guy who has done it here and had great success and might actually listen to any advice he might provide. The fact that he is only signed for 1 year at a basically cheap rate is also a plus.

If the Yankees insist on leaving Joba in the rotation, it wouldn’t hurt to sign Juan CRUZ, (a proven commodity) to hold the lead for Moe. The Yankees must plan for the inevitable day when Moe retires. Leave Joba in the bullpen to learn from the best there ever was. Moe learned from Wetteland. Joba can learn from Moe.

CF and C are the 2 positions that I can see an upgrade happening, with the only movable pieces being Matsui, Nady or Swisher, and Cabrera. Matsui has a full no-trade clause, so it needs to be someplace in the AL that he can be a star. Unfortunately, not too many places short of Seattle are appealing enough, so he is off the list. That leaves Cabrera and one of Nady and Swisher. With only 2 movable pieces, both of which being average at best, you can’t get a big player back, unfortunately. If we wait a couple of months and someone has a big need for a corner outfielder plus a backup centerfielder, then we can shop Nady and Cabrera. Otherwise, we can alternate Nady and Swisher with Matsui in the DH spot and still get each player enough at-bats to keep them happy for at LEAST this year (when Nady, Damon and Matsui become free agents)

I believe I’m in the minority with this opinion but how can the Yankees ignore one of the best right handed hitters of all time, Manny Ramirez? They certainly have the money and this is not an opportunity that will come around very often. I don’t care if he skips down to third base every third at bat, just get him to the post season and watch what happens. A clubhouse distraction ? Maybe. Apparently so are a lot of other players according to some managers who are “writing” books these days. And I have a hard time believing all the Red Sox hype about him. Seems like a lot of Red Sox players who have apparently (to the Red Sox) outlived their usefulness, suddenly become “problems”. Ramirez can hit and hit in the clutch and the Yankees need to leave no stone unturned to get back to the World Series and win Championship No.27. Sign this guy and do it quick It would almost be worth it just to add a fourth ring to the circus that is played 19 times a year in Boston and New York. If they don’t sign Ramirez I believe they will regret it.

Adam Dunn is the exact replica of Jason Giambi. Long ball threat who strikes out a ton. We don’t need guys who are all or nothing. When the Yankees won championships in the late 90’s, we had guys that hit for average. I think Tino had the most homers with 24 homers or something like that. Come on guys, Lets think about this. Don’t sign players just for the sake of signing players. He’s a below average outfielder. Where can you see a fit? Abreu fits the mold more for the Yanks than Dunn does. As for Manny Ramirez? I know he’s a great hitter but he’s 38, he’s a terrible outfielder and is asking way too much for his antics. We don’t need 9 stars on this team. We need guys who are going to get the job done.

I still think the Yankees need to improve the bench, make it more solid and reliable. One option is to sign Nomar Garciaparra if they can get him to come to New York. He can play all four infield positions, last year with the Dodgers he played 1B, SS, 3B so I’ll assume he can play 2B too. In 55 games in 2008 he hit .264/.326/.466 which isn’t bad given that the year was injury plagued and translates well to a backup if he can come close to his prior numbers. The Yankees could sign him cheaply with the understanding that his role would be on the bench as a sub, pinch hitter, and he can give the Yankee infielders days off.

The bullpen was solid last year with most of the same guys, but I feel like there could still be a lot of questions out there. Bruney and Veras along with Marte should be solid, but where do you go from there to build that infamous “Bridge to Mariano”? I like that its built of mostly guys out of the farm system, meaning it could be cheap and effective. Looking at the current roster and the guys that pitched out of the pen last year there are two spots open. I’ve heard people mention the name Juan Cruz as an option since he’s a Type A FA no one has signed yet. I would be all for him, if the Yankees could sign him for $2MM. He has a low ERA of 2.61 last year K’s a lot of guys, maybe walks too many, but with the SO as a weapon the BBs aren’t a worry. Cruz looks good, but, if guys like Melancon, Coke, Aceves who have come through the system can do the job out of the pen then there’s no reason to spend money on the pen.

The Yankees still need to address center field. There really aren’t any options out there with remaining FAs nor were there at all this off-season except Milton Bradly, but I guess the Yankees didn’t want to roll the dice on that one. So unless a trade is made its between Cabrera/Gardner. The outfield in general is a mess. They are trying to jam 6 guys into 3 or 4 spots. Matsui won’t give muchin the field, but at least both of his knees have failed and been repaired, there can’t be too many other ailments left for him to suffer. So it would be a pleasant surprise if he can walk, run, and hit again. The bottom line is the Yankees need better defense out of the outfield combined with solid production.

I agree with college7, I am sick of players like Giambi. I don’t want a guy who walks, hits a homer or strikes out on the Yankees. Dunn has struck out between 126-195 times in a season in his career, that is way too high a number than I want to see. The only way I’d take Dunn is if he hit like he did in ’04 and ’07 with the Reds. An AVG in the .260s, 100+ runs, 100+ RBI, and 100+ BB and 40 HRs is pretty nice production.

Swisher is also the same type of player as Dunn and Giambi which is why I’m not that high on him.

If I could pick anyone for my DH it would be Abreu, Matsui, Dunn, Giambi, then Swisher in the order they are listed. Abreu hits for AVG, has some power, takes BBs, and can steal bases among other things. I like Matsui because he hits for AVG, has some power, and doesn’t strike out that much. Only once in his Yankee career has he had over 100 SO.

According to projections Swisher could have a BABIP between .277-.287, Dunn’s is .277-.290, Matsui’s will be .292-.309, Abreu’s is .321-.335, Giambi’s .253-.281. Abreu or Matsui are clearly the better choices for a DH based on how and where they hit the ball.

Giambi bashers must remember that he had a pretty good OBP, and got lots of walks. Dunn isn’t the anwer defensively, offensively, or financially. Abreu is a proven, and relaible commodity, who can hit third, and extend that lineup for the A-Rods, and Teixeira’s. He knows the team, the philosophy, and doesn’t need to be introduced to the City or the team. The uncertainty of Posada’s bat, makes re signing Abreu even more important. I don’t think that the centerfield position is as serious as people are saying. Gardner’s speed cov ers a multitude of sins, both defensively and offensively.

How about signing Andruw Jones to a minor league deal and inviting him to spring training and adding him to the CF mix. Now it doesn’t look like Jones will be rejoining the Braves. There isn’t much to lose by making a move like this. If he can’t show some promise in spring training then release him.

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