One the eve of Thanksgiving it has been over a month since the then defending champion New York Yankees have been dethroned by the upstart Texas Rangers. And the main culprit was Texas Ranger starting pitcher Cliff Lee. Lee dominated the New York Yankees in the ALCS, earning the game three win by shutting down the Bronx Bombers, or bummers, to two hits and eight scoreless innings of work. And Yankee GM Brian Cashman has to be thinking, “if we can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.” With that I have set up a checklist of tasks Brian Cashman must accomplish to win number 28.
Number One: Re-sign manager Joe Girardi: Yes Yankee fans, I can’t stand Girardi just as much as you do. But, he has led this team to a World Series Championship, two ALCS’, two postseason appearances, all in three years of work. He has also been able to manage the number of egos in the Yankee locker room. We won’t go down the laundry list of who we’re talking about, but I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now. Status: Check
Number Two: Find a new pitching coach: Following the pitching debacle that was the Yankees in the 2010 ALCS, GM Brian Cashman cut ties with pitching coach Dave Eiland. Although Cashman denied that the 2010 ALCS pitching performance was the sole reason why Eiland is no longer a Yankee may be true. In the middle of the season Eiland left the team due to “personal reasons.” We never found out if those “personal reasons” were due to a conflict between Eiland and Joe Girardi, or someone else, or if they were really something that happened to his family. We’ll never know what exactly happened, but we know that the Yankees need another pitching coach. And recently they have found their guy. Former Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild was elected by Cashman. Now, one encouraging fact that Yankees fans can look up to is that Rothschild’s Cubs from the beginning of his tenure, 2002-2010, led the major leagues in team strikeouts by his pitchers. That’s a good sign to look forward to as he tries to straighten out pitchers A.J Burnett and Joba Chamberlain. Status: Check
Number Three: Re-sign shortstop Derek Jeter. I know this may be a sticky situation right now, but it should resolve. Recently Brian Cashman offered the Derek Jeter camp a three year- 45 million dollar deal. That is a far cry from his previous 10 year- 180 million dollar pact he signed following the 2000 season, in which Jeter won the All Star game MVP and the World Series MVP against the rival Mets. But that is the past, this is the present. Jeter, who is coming of a career worst season batting .270 and making the most outs in the major leagues, is slowing down dramatically. Even though Jeter received his fifth gold glove, his defense has dropped a lot. Jeter committed only six errors, by far the fewest in the American League and fewest in his career, but his range has fallen off a cliff. His UZR, a sabermetric statistic determining his range defensively, is the worst among shortstops. Later, Derek Jeter’s agent fired back calling the three year-45 million dollar deal “baffling.” Then Brian Cashman responded by telling Jeter’s agent that if he doesn’t like the offer he received he can test the open market for something else. Now, I don’t think Jeter will end up somewhere else. All I know is that this is a messy situation that has reached the hierarchy of the front office and may not get resolved until Spring Training. Status: Unchecked, for a while.
Number Four: Re-sign closer Mariano Rivera: Ho-hum the greatest closer in the history of the game had another great season, and he’s in his 40’s. According to reports Mo wants a two year deal, but the Yankees are offering him a one year pact. I don’t think this really matters. This guy still gets big outs in the most crucial moments of the game. Expect Mariano to post a sub two ERA with a one year contract or two years. Although he is not signed don’t expect the negotiations to get sticky like Derek Jeter’s. Status: Unchecked, for now.
Number Five: Convince starting pitcher Andy Pettitte to pitch “one more year:” Yes we’ve gone through this a number of years in a row now, but like those years the Yankees need Andy Pettitte to win a world championship. Pettitte still has enough in the tank. He made the AL All Star team, but suffered a groin injury that kept him out of action until the middle of September. But he still pitched well in the postseason-getting a win in game two of the ALDS against the Twins, and losing game two to the Texas Rangers. In that game versus Texas in the ALCS, Pettitte was matched up against Cliff Lee and he earned the tough luck loss giving up two first inning runs in seven innings of work. It will be a one year deal, and it will probably be worth 10-15 million a year. Status: Unchecked
Number Six: Sign Cliff Lee: This is another must for the Yankees. Lee has owned the Yankees for the past few years and has been his best against them in the biggest games. Lee pitched a complete game, one run win for the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He also won game five of that series as well. And as mentioned before, he dominated the Yankees in the 2010 ALCS, pitching eight scoreless innings. He has also dominated the Yankees a number of times, in a number of different uniforms, in the regular season pitching with Cleveland, Seattle, and the Rangers. There have been some grumblings that the Yankees have offered him a six year -140 million dollar deal, but Lee reportedly wants a seven year deal. If the Yankees would sign Lee to a seven year deal it would carry until he is 40. I believe they should sign him to just a four year deal worth 25 million a year. I have a feeling this can turn into an A.J Burnett situation, four years too many, but the deal needs to get done to win number 28. Status: Unchecked
Number Seven: Build a stable bridge to Mariano Rivera: Now what I mean by this is that the Yankees need to sign a setup man for Mo Rivera, because current Yankee relievers Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson have failed a number of times. They may be able to resign standout reliever Kerry Wood. Wood, who came over from Cleveland right on the July 31st trade deadline, was like striking gold. Wood pitched to an under 1 ERA and built a stable bridge to Mo by getting a lot of key punch outs of the AL’s best bats. But, because of this, Wood may want to sign with someone else to become a closer. The Yankees are willing to pay him closer money and he would still love to setup Rivera for the right price, of course. If the Yankees can’t sign Wood they could sign former Tampa Bay Ray reliever Grant Balfour. Status: Unchecked
Number Eight: Convince catcher Jorge Posada to be a full time DH: This may be pretty tough but this has to be done. Posada is on the final year of his contract, and probably the final year of his great career. But he has logged a lot of mileage behind the plate. At age 39 Posada’s defensive skills have dropped considerably of late, and there is younger competition in his rearview mirror. Most notably 20 year old Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Montero is said to have a major league ready bat, but lacks some skills behind the dish, even though he has improved over the last year. Romine on the other hand, has great skills behind the plate, but like current backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, doesn’t have the major league ready bat. This may be tough to convince Posada to do but ego’s aside it must be done. It’s best for the team. Status: Maybe, maybe not...
Number Nine: Sign a lefty reliever: Although this may not be a necessity this could be something that guides the Yankees to a World Series victory. Yes the Yankees have Boone Logan, but he showed us in the ALCS that he can crumble at any moment. Ask Josh Hamilton. And yes the Yankees also have Damaso Marte, but he has shown he can also implode. Also, Marte will be on the shelf up until after the All Star break and may even miss up to the entire season. I don’t think the Yankees should cross their fingers and hope he’ll comeback. Luckily, there is an abundance of lefty relief help. The list is headlined by Pedro Feliciano and Scott Downs, both Type A free agents. Instead of giving up two first round draft choices for a situational lefty they should just play it safe by signing former Yankee Randy Choate. Status: Unchecked.
Number Ten: Improve the bench: Marcus Thames was a nice find last year. But he is free agent and nobody knows where he will end up. My gut feeling is he will end up with the Yankees on a one year deal. The Yankees should be fine at the backup infield spot with Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena. Also they should be good at backup catcher with Cervelli or Montero/ Romine. But I think the Yankees should re-sign Melky Cabrera. I think he’s a good fourth outfielder with a clutch bat with a good glove and a rocket arm. Plus he’s a good clubhouse presence that would be reunited with his best friend Robinson Cano. Status: Unchecked
There you have it. If you are reading this Brian Cashman you now have a guide to getting through this offseason in one piece in just ten steps, some easy and some not, but all possible. And hopefully for Yankee fans like me, those moves will get done, and then the Yankees will be on their way to winning number 28.