A Baseball Weblog

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Yankees' offseason

Congratulations to the World Champion New York Yankees. In my mind, they are the deserving champions, as they were clearly the best team in the major leagues for much of the 2009 season. As a Yankee fan, I must admit to a bias, since they were the team that I followed throughout the year. That being said, it was remarkable that to me that they never seemed like they were ever out of a game, especially at home. That's been the case for many years, though --- the big difference this year was the acquisition of two strikeout-type pitchers (both had varying levels of brilliance during the postseason) and sure-handed first baseman that was also an offensive sparkplug. Obviously, they had contributions across the board in 2009, but where do you think the team would be if they didn't have CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira?
But, I actually would not like to reflect on 2009 (right now) - I'd like to look ahead to 2010 (already). The team has plenty of offseason challenges ahead; two notable decisions the Yankees have to make involve Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. As great a hitter as Matsui is, I don't see him coming back with the team next year. The Yankees seem intent on getting "younger and more athletic," and one way to do that is to clear up the DH slot. I think it's more realistic to see Damon back in pinstripes next year, even if it is only for one year. If the Yankees were to resign Damon and let Matsui walk, Damon could more easily slide into the DH role when needed (do you really think he can play the outfield every day all season long?) and possibly give more playing time to better defenders. And who are those better defenders? It's possible that the Yankees take a look at Matt Holiday, who played above-average defense last year. I don't get the feeling that the Yankees are that high on Brett Gardner as a hitter, even though he did hit .270 with an OBP of .345. I figure Austin Jackson will see some playing time next year, even if he doesn't start the year with the club.
The outfield is only one thing the Yankees have to sort out for next year. Although the bullpen was arguably the best in baseball this year, two guys that really helped them along at some point or another in the year, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, look like they're headed to the rotation. This leaves the Yankees with David Robertson, Damaso Marte, Phil Coke, and Alfredo Aceves as in-house setup options. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if we see Joe Girardi "mix'n'match" those guys at the beginning of the season, and then see which one excels the most. I think Marte will become the primarily lefty, with Coke going into the longer role that he had in 2008 and at the beginning of this season. I think it's quite possible that we see American League K/9 leader David Robertson slides into an 8th inning role. Of course, the Yankees could always go out and get a late-inning reliever to set up Mariano, but with the exception of Tom Gordon in 2004, that hasn't seemed to work out too well for the Yankees in recent years (Kyle Farnsworth, Luis Vizcaiano, LaTroy Hawkins come to mind ...).
Finally, starting pitching. We've got Sabathia and Burnett, and most likely Chamberlain and Hughes. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Andy Pettitte will announce his retirement sooner rather than later, and if that does happen, there would be at least one vacancy in the starting rotation. The Yankees do have some young pitchers (Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy) that could possibly fill a #5 slot in the rotation, though probably not in April. John Lackey might be getting some calls from the Yankees' brass; that would certainly be a nice addition for the club, but I wouldn't count on it.
Granted, these are not huge issues - most of this World Championship team will be returning. But, the Winter Meetings are only a month away, so we might as well begin thinking about the Hot Stove.

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