WTNYOctober 30, 2003
More Damn Yankees
By Bryan Smith

Yesterday, Alex Belth and Larry Mahnken answered questions about the Yankees future. There is perhaps no media subject more chronicled than Yankee offseasons. While most everone (me included) hates the Bronx Bombers come October, we love them in December. No other pro sports team floods as much money into their team, and with Steinbrenner, no player is ever out of reach.

Today, I'll take my stab at the Yankees, more specifically, my answer to question 8 from yesterday. Question 8 read: Create an Offseason To-Do List for the Yankees. Again, here is Alex Belth's answers:

a. Making pitching decisions. Sign Pettitte, trade Weaver for another front line starter.
b. Figure out the outfield. Move Bernie to left, and then either Sori to center and Matsui to right, or Matsui to center and Vlad or Sheff to right. Or Maybe get another center fielder and move Matsui to right.
c. Sign Hasegawa.
d. Figure out third base and second base. Move Aaron Boone.
d. Figure out if you want to trade Nick Johnson.
e. Get a left-hander in the pen.
f. Sign coaches.

And Larry Mahnken's answer:

1. Re-sign Andy Pettitte
2. Sign Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, or Mike Cameron (in that order)
3. Sign Kevin Millwood or Bartolo Colon (in that order)
4. If step two fails, try to trade for Carlos Beltran, but without giving up Johnson
5. Re-sign Gabe White, pick up the option on Heredia
6. Improve the bench: get a backup catcher who can hit some, a backup infielder who can field some, a good defensive replacement center fielder, and a real pinch hitter (NOT Ruben Sierra)

Before I move on to my attempt, let me note two things I've come to realize about the Yankees...

1) They are the smartest team in baseball. While Aaron Gleeman may be onto something that Jeter's clutchness is a wee bit overrated, there's no questioning this team's intelligence. They run the bases intelligently, bunt well, and move runners over. They take walks and work counts.
2) New York has very bad defense. There aren't many things holding the Yankees back more than defense anymore. This must be resolved.

Now, for a brief overview of my answer:

1) Re-sign Andy Pettite and Felix Heredia
2) Name coaches
3) Trade Soriano
4) Trade for Vazquez
5) Reboost right side
6) Go cheap on bench and bullpen

Now, to go more in depth, here goes...

1) Re-sign Pettite and Heredia- While these two may seem like an odd couple, both fit in New York. Andy was raised in the Yankee system, and all his success has come in pinstripes. It's a good argument that without Pettite the Yankees wouldn't have advanced to the World Series, so in other words, the team must re-sign him. The man is loved in New York, and has more postseason wins than anybody...ever. He'll never see $11M associated with his name again, but three years at $21M sounds good.

Heredia pitched well after an August claim, earning Torre's trust and respect. He can retire lefties, and is a good second southpaw in the bullpen. He should be low on the priority list, as should the rest of the bullpen. All the AL rivals (Boston, Oakland, Minnesota) should have worse bullpens in 2004, so Steinbrenner and Co. should leave that on the backburner. If need be, trade for a player during midseason.

2. Zimmer is gone, Down is gone. Mazzilli and Stottlemyre are out the door. That leaves Joe Torre and Willie Randolph to pick up the mess. So, I had a revelation. Why not go with younger, more popular coaches in this situation. Sign Don Mattingly as hitting coach, David Cone to be pitching coach, and Luis Sojo for 1st base. Then find another funny-looking bench coach (Lasorda?) to give Fox great images of Torre and his funny-looking sidekick. God...I miss Zim.

3. Trade Alfonso Soriano to the Royals for Carlos Beltran- Let's see. The Yankees want to move Soriano to center, have him become more selective, and be an ideal middle-of-the-order hitter? Well, by trading Soriano you can have that player without all the development needed. Beltran is the player the Yankees want Soriano to be: he has one of the best SB success rates in baseall, has power from both sides, and plays good defense. He is a much smarter player than Soriano, thus he would fit better with the team. Beltran would allow the team to pass on Guerrero and Sheffield, and the Yankees would move Bernie to left and Hideki to right. That would result in a vastly improved outfield.

The Royals would do this deal, as it would give them three more years before free agency, at a position they need more. David DeJesus is ready to replace Beltran in center, but the Royals have no long-term option at second base. They can afford for him to be a hit or miss player, with potential greater than that of Beltran.

4. Trade Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and whatever prospects necessary (save Navarro), to acquire Javier Vazquez- Again, this would only give the Yankees a player for one season, but it would be worth it. Vazquez had a sensational second half, and would immedietly become in upper-tier of AL pitchers. He's a strikeout pitcher that wouldn't put a lot of stress on the players behind him.

And while Larry Mahnken is so sure about Johnson, I'm not sold. He's very injury-caliber, and hasn't produced well enough for me to be convinced he'll be a superstar. His baserunning mistakes were deadly in the playoffs, and like Soriano, his stupid antics don't belong with this team. But in Montreal they would be welcomed.

5. Revamp right side with Luis Castillo and Doug Mientkiewicz- Whew, talk about a defensive upgrade! Castillo is a switch-hitting second basemen that would add 50SB speed to the lineup immedietly. He seems to be a good guy to hae in the clubhouse, and don't let his playoff numbers confuse you: Luis Castillo is a great player.

Is there a more perfect player for the Yankees than Doug Mientkiewicz? He defends well, and would make Jeter and the rest of the infielders much better. Doug is a clutch hitter, and has a very sweet swing. He wouldn't be asked a lot of offensively, other than to hit 30-40 doubles in Yankee stadium. But, for a 2-year, $5M contract, the Yankees would be stupid not to sign.

6. Go cheap in bullpen and bench- First, the bullpen. Decline the options of Osuna and White. Make Karsay healthy. And then sign Mike Williams. He would come cheap, probably about $1M, and was a 40-save closer not that long ago. Williams would be a good set-up man to Rivera, and take the pressure off Karsay. Then, the rest of the bullpen is Chris Hammond, Heredia, and the loser of the Jeff Weaver v. Jon Lieber rotation battle.

The bench is easy to construct. No Ruben Sierra. In fact, the Yankees have a rich man's Sierra within their farm system: Fernando Seguignol. The 2003 IL MVP had a great season, is a switch-hitter with pop, and can play first and the outfield corners. David Delucci is a good fit here, and Enrique Wilson should be kept around. Either Erick Almonte or Andy Phillips should be considered for the backup infield bench spot. The backup catcher? Why not Todd Greene? His defense wouldn't effect the Yankees in the 30 games they ask of him, but his hitting skills (including pinch hitting) would really benefit the team. Plus, he comes cheap, to the tune of the minimum.

That's it. That gives me a 2004 Yankee lineup of:

Castillo- 2B- S
Jeter- SS- R
Giambi- DH- L
Beltran- CF- S
Posada- C- S
Matsui- RF- L
Williams- LF- S
Mientkiewicz- 1B- L
Boone- 3B- R

A rotation of:

Mussina- R
Vazquez- R
Pettite- L
Contreras- R
Lieber/Weaver- R

A bullpen of:

Rivera- closer
Karsay- main set-up
Mike Williams- secondary set-up
Chris Hammond- Main southpaw
Heredia- 2nd LOOGY
Weaver/Lieber- Long relief

Finally, a bench of:

1. Seguignol- 1B/OF- S
2. Delucci- OF- L
3. Wilson- IF- R
4. Almonte- MI- R
5. Greene- C- R

Now, tell me that's not a good team. Tomorrow the Giants will be taking place in my organizational meetings, so be sure to check that. Plus, this weekend I'll throw some mad rumors I'm hearing onto the site, so keep visiting!