The current plight of the Yankees makes it easy for fans, media and members of the organization to panic and do something stupid. In light of their free agent loss in their pursuit of Cliff Lee and the possibility of Andy Pettitte‘s retirement, there’s a movement for them to do something NOW!!!
That it might not be a smart thing to do for the team is irrelevant. For all the success George Steinbrenner has been lauded for following his death, it’s conveniently glossed over that he did as many if not more brainless things in the interest of assuaging his own impatience.
Fans and media have been trained to expect the Yankees to respond immediately. Had George been around, the reaction to losing out on Lee wouldn’t have been an issue since had George been around, they wouldn’t have lost out on Lee.
I truly believe that.
But those days are over. Now the Yankees—-along with many other clubs—-are waiting out the winter. Unsatisfied with the remaining scraps that are passing as marketable free agents, GM Brian Cashman is sitting on his hands and preaching patience. It’s more pronounced with the Yankees because the baseball world is accustomed to the boldness and speed with which they fill their holes. The combination of Lee’s decision to go back to the Phillies and that there’s not much else out there on the market that would help them has combined to leave them waiting….waiting…waiting.
Yankees fans don’t like to wait.
But they’re going to have to.
One of the biggest obstacles in coming to an accurate prediction of the upcoming season have nothing to do with the various faults in all “systems” like PECOTA, ZiPs, Stat Zombieland AKA FanGraphs or my way of using everything I can get my hands on including whatever pops out of my addled mind—-it ‘s that no one can predict what’s going to happen at mid-season; who’s going to be available; which team will be willing to gut their system to win immediately; how past relationships and a player’s desire to go to a certain locale will influence his waiving a no-trade clause or not making outlandish demands to approve the deal.
We don’t know.
We can guess based on history, but we don’t know.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at which players might be available at mid-season—-contingent on their current club’s fortunes; the security of the front office; whether the current team has the intestinal fortitude to shun criticism and do something drastic for the long term.
Garza is arbitration eligible; the Rays were supposedly listening to offers for him, but haven’t moved him yet. Shields is signed through 2014 with a series of buyouts.
If the Rays falter, they’ll undoubtedly put these two pitchers on the market. There’s an overreaction in effect because of the departures the Rays are dealing with; but are Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano such massive losses? The Rays have been able to find bullpen arms and get use out of them and I have no doubt they’ll be able to do it again; the starting rotation is deep; they have bats to replace (and improve) on what they’ve lost.
The Rays are going to be in the playoff mix, but if they’re not , they’ll act quickly and move either or both pitchers.
New York Yankees—C/DH Jorge Posada:
Posada’s not going to be happy about DHing; he’s in the last year of his contract; the Yankees current situation is iffy whether they want to admit it or not. If things are going poorly at mid-season, would they approach Posada about waiving his no-trade clause to go somewhere he’s more appreciated?
Posada can still hit; for a half-season a team would put up with his declining defense. He’s a pain, but he might’ve had enough of the way the Yankees have treated him recently. He’s also playoff proven. If the Yankees are fading, they might want to get something for Posada and Posada might want out.
Toronto Blue Jays—INF/OF Jose Bautista:
Bautista is arbitration-eligible and wants (as is his right after the year he had) a long-term contract. The Blue Jays are in the middle of a retooling, have a load of pitching ready to blossom and need to make a decision as to whether they’re buying into Bautista’s breakout year in 2010.
Personally, I’m not buying it. It’s hard to deny 54 homers, but that kind of jump from a career high of 16 homers to 54? It’s a got a “Luis Gonzalez-feel” to it as Gonzalez hit 57 homers in 2001; and Gonzalez was a way better player than Bautista before and after that *magical* year.
I’d listen to offers on Bautista as the season moves along. I’d solicit them.
A lefty reliever who racks up strikeouts and is in the final year of his contract? As bad as Gonzalez was in 2010, teams will still be after him at mid-season.
With Scott, politics and ill-informed rants against the president aside, he can really hit. I wouldn’t care what he said off the field if he drove in runs and nor would any team that got him for the stretch run.
I happen to think the Twins are going to have a bad year in part because of the hangover and disappointment from the way 2010 came apart in the ALDS loss to the Yankees; in part because the essence of the Twins—-the bullpen—-has been gutted.
Nathan’s a potential free agent after 2011; Cuddyer and Kubel are as well. Young is arbitration-eligible and is coming off his career year. If things are going badly, the Twins might clear out some of these players and reload.
The Indians are going to be atrocious; they’re waiting out the heinous Travis Hafner contract ($26 million remaining); they don’t know what they’re going to get out of Sizemore; Carmona is either really, really good or really, really bad.
New GM Chris Antonetti has some large decisions to make; if Sizemore’s playing well after micro-fracture surgery, does he move him? I would.
Carmona will be popular among the contenders if he’s pitching well; he’s signed long-term too.
Kansas City Royals—RHP Joakim Soria:
All I keep hearing is how the Royals have the “best farm system in baseball”. Okay. But how many of their prior top prospects have developed thus far under the current regime? Billy Butler. That’s it.
I looked at the minor league numbers of these prospects (all I have to go on since I don’t trust the judgment of, well, anyone)—-there are some young and impressive players down there—-but who knows?
The Royals have to decide whether they want to maximize Soria at mid-season or keep him and hope that he’ll be their closer when they’re ready to try and contend. He’s signed through 2014; he’s had arm trouble; he’ll be in demand.
I don’t know what I’d do either.
Abreu is a potential free agent at the end of 2011. He’s a productive bat for whom they could get a few prospects.
I don’t care how well Kazmir is pitching, if there’s an offer on the table for him to get his salary ($14.5 million guaranteed) out of town, the Angels should grab it.
Pineiro is a free agent at the end of the season.
Would Ichiro be tired enough of the losing to okay a deal to a contender? He’s a temperamental nuisance, so I’m not going to speculate; the Mariners should look to get him out of town.
I think Figgins will play closer to his career numbers in 2011, but that contract ($26 million guaranteed) is onerous.
The Mariners are going to be awful, so they should try to clear these players.
Florida Marlins—RHP Javier Vazquez:
If Vazquez rebounds and the Marlins are struggling, they’ll get something for him. He’s on a 1-year deal.
Put it this way: I don’t expect either Beltran or Reyes to be wearing Mets uniforms by August and I’m not talking about them being injured (although that’s as viable a possibility as them being traded, going by their history).
Both are getting traded. Watch.
K-Rod will be harder to move, but if he behaves and is pitching well; is reasonable about his contract option for $17.5 million in 2012, the Mets can get him out of town and the return is essentially irrelevant; freeing up the money is the key.
Given their rampant stupidity this off-season, the Nationals are just as likely (if not more) to be buyers at mid-season than sellers. This is regardless of their position in the standings. But Marquis can bring back some prospects for a pitching-hungry team; Pudge would welcome a move to a contender.
Cordero, Phillips and Hernandez are all potential free agents after 2011; the Reds are going to take a major step back; Phillips is not popular in the clubhouse.
Rolen is signed for $13 million total through 2012; if they’re out of contention, they could get a couple of prospects for him from a contender if he’s healthy. A big if with Rolen.
St. Louis Cardinals—RHP Chris Carpenter:
They’re not trading Albert Pujols and I highly, highly, highly doubt they’ll let him leave as a free agent.
If the Cardinals have an off-year though, Carpenter might be a great option for a pitching-hungry team like the Yankees. He’s a potential free agent after 2011 and is a major injury risk at any time to every part of his body; but if he’s on and healthy, he’s devastating.
Carpenter somewhat reminds me of Jim Palmer in that Palmer refused to pitch if he wasn’t 100% healthy; it’s not gutlessness, but a perfectionism and it’s not something to pigeonhole as “wrong”.
I’ve long had a man-crush on Rodriguez because of his great stuff; he’s a free agent at the end of the year.
Lyon’s a homer-prone arm out of the bullpen; he’s signed through 2012.
Chicago Cubs—RHP Carlos Zambrano:
So many variables are involved with Zambrano. If he’s pitching well, do the Cubs take that at face value and think he’s turned the corner of maturity? Or would they look at their position in the standings and try to clear the salary which has over $36 million guaranteed with a vesting player option for 2013?
I love Zambrano’s talent and he’s still only 29, but if someone made an offer to take him and the money and gave me a couple of prospects, I’d cut my losses and grab it.
San Diego Padres—RHP Heath Bell:
The Padres aren’t going to win 90 games again, nor are they going to contend. They’ll trade Bell at mid-season.
Colorado Rockies—RHP Ubaldo Jimenez:
No, I don’t expect the Rockies to move Jimenez; but if they’re struggling and out of contention, why not call and ask? You don’t ask, you don’t get. It would take a lot—-a….lot….to get him, but he’s signed through 2014.
Why not ask?
Why not ask about anyone?