Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yanks reclaim favorite role with Teixeira

Well, I don't think many of us could say they saw that coming.

Mark Teixeira is a Yankee, and with that, the balance of power in the American League East has shifted. With a fortified starting rotation and now the most coveted slugger on the market in the fold, the Yankees have become the team to beat.

Phew. That underdog stuff didn't suit us around these parts.

It goes without saying that this transaction has people up in arms. A whole new line of venomous "The Yankees are ruining baseball" chatter has filled the interwebs, the club being painted as the demonic warhorse that cackles in the face of a recession. The angry mob points out that the Yanks have committed to nearly half a billion dollars in salary this offseason and that the four highest-paid players in the league will now call Yankee Stadium home in 2009. The general manager of some team called the Milwaukee Brewers even went as far as to send a missive to the press calling for a salary cap. It was adorable.

I can certainly understand the anger in some respects. This is the Yankees' Shawn-Michaels-kicking-Marty-Jeanetty-through-the-Barber-Shop-window move, a defining act of power lacking any sense of subtlety. This is who we really are, screw you for thinking we were anything different. The Yankees have the financial might to dig deep into their war chest, and when the Red Sox hesitated on pulling the trigger to get Teixeira, Brian Cashman jumped in. An eight-year, $180 million mega-deal was born.

And how about those Red Sox? It's hard to say they didn't drop the ball in a big way here. The Yankees needed a young slugger like Teixeira in the worst way, but Theo Epstein and the Boston brass were apparently convinced by New York's possum act. The Sox have become the model for front office excellence in recent years, but their policy of refusing to go beyond set financial limits backfired in this case. Was that $10 to $15 million difference on their end really worth allowing one of the league's premier players to suit up for the archrival? It doesn't seem to make sense.

I have to hand it to Cashman here. If this was his plan all along, it was pretty damn brilliant. You got the two pitchers you coveted and now you stole the top position player right out from under the hated Red Sox's nose. Sure, his job is made exponentially easier with all the resources at his fingertips, but this hot stove work is very much a finesse business. Cashman has kept his cards close to the vest throughout, and now it is the Yankees who will head into April with baseball's best hand.

A winter wonderland, indeed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good news or a front?

My personal offseason wishlist was all about 1a and 1b. Get that ace in CC Sabathia and get that young slugger in Mark Teixeira. Mick Jagger taught us that you can't always get what you want, but at least the Sox may not get what they need, either.


It looked Thursday afternoon as if the Boston Red Sox had made strides toward completing a deal for first baseman Mark Teixeira, major league sources told

But by Thursday night, Red Sox owner John Henry had sent an e-mail to The Associated Press saying they had been outbid for Teixeira and "are not going to be a factor" in signing him to a nine-figure free agent contract.

"We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him," Henry told AP. "After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."

The Red Sox seem aware that their once-robust lineup could be significantly weakened this season, with Manny Ramirez long gone and David Ortiz a year older, a year fatter, and coming off tricky wrist surgery. They are also a smart, albeit despicable, organization that has earned a reputation for making smart business decisions in recent years. It will be interesting to see if Henry's bluffing, or if the Boston braintrust actually feels Teixeira is not the best fit at this time.

That said, if he is true to his comments, more good news for the Yanks. If the Angels are stupid enough to let him get away, even better. This offseason is going very well for the Bombers thus far.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yanks ransack Winter Meetings

The Yankees remind me right now of one of those movies where the bad guy is sucking power from somewhere (a scientist's brain, the city's electric current) and while the source gets weaker, the bad guy keeps on getting stronger, laughing maniacally along the way.

The Yankees are, of course, the bad guy ... familiar thespian ground for the Bombers. And the rest of baseball's recession-conscious organizations are helpless to stop them from taking over the Winter Meetings. You see that when they bid $60 million more than the next suitor to lock down CC Sabathia, and you're seeing it again with the reported fifth year (are you kidding me?) that has been offered A.J. "Don't Call Me Carl" Burnett.

Brian Cashman is not messing around here. He has a fortune in which to rebuild the starting rotation, and he isn't taking any chances. If he gets his way, Phil Hughes will have gone from No. 4 starter in the Bronx to Double-A ace waiting for someone to get injured on the parent club ... all in the space of eight months.

Burnett scares the hell out of me, but on paper it would further fortify a rotation that has come a long way since the end of the 2008 campaign:

September '08
RHP Mike Mussina
LHP Andy Pettitte
RHP Carl Pavano
RHP Sidney Ponson
RHP Alfredo Aceves

December '08
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Chien-Ming Wang
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Joba Chamberlain
LHP Andy Pettitte

As for Sabathia, the Yankees are catching a lot of flak for their supposed over-pursuit of the left-hander, but the fact is that the guy did have reservations about playing in New York and Cashman did a great job alleviating them (adding the extra year was a nice bullet to have in the chamber as well). The pursuit and eventual securing of Sabathia showed a world of improvement over the laughingstock that was the Johan Santana dance. Remember Hank Steinbrenner spewing forth those hollow deadlines? It made the franchise look foolish. This time Hank -- perhaps forcibly -- was completely out of play, allowing Cash to do his job. It was a delicate process, and the GM got the job done.

The Winter Meetings end today, and you get the feeling the Yanks are far from done. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Yanks may dodge Burnett bullet

It looks like A.J. Burnett may not be in the Yankees' plans after all.

The pitching-starved Braves are making a big play for the talented right-hander. According to Jayson Stark of, Atlanta has offered a four-year deal with a "easily vesting" option on a fifth year. Burnett has been chasing a five-year pact since he opted out of his contract with the Blue Jays and Atlanta is said to be willing to guarantee that fifth year if it will get it done.

Let's assume this deal goes down. First off, congrats to Allan James Burnett, who went from being the Great White North's answer to Carl Pavano to signing the richest free-agent pitcher deal this side of CC Way over the course of 12 months. Bravo. Secondly, this is great news for the Yankees. Admit it ... you weren't looking forward to holding your breath every time Burnett through a pitch for the first Obama administration. The guy was a walking M.A.S.H. unit for two seasons in Toronto before last season. You're not getting consecutive seasons of 34 starts, you're just not.

On top of that, a deal with the Braves would mean Burnett wouldn't be re-signing with the Jays and he wouldn't be going to the Red Sox. In fact, he wouldn't even be in your freaking league anymore. This dude kiiiillllls the Yankees, going 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts against New York in '08. With the exception of one Interleague series next June -- a likely three-hit shutout, of course -- Burnett would be out of the Yankees' lives. Praise Jesus!

My wish when free agency kicked off last month was that the Yanks would sign Sabathia and Derek Lowe. Well, Mark Teixeira as well, but that's a whole other story. While Sabathia continues to take his sweet time -- hey CC, no one else is giving you $140 mil, get over it -- you still have to figure he'll end up in slimming pinstripes. Lowe is more of a longshot at this point and there's talk that he may return to Boston. If he does end up back at Fenway, bring back whatever's left of Pettitte and head into 2009 like this:

  • LHP CC Sabathia
  • RHP Chien-Ming Wang
  • LHP Andy Pettitte
  • RHP Joba Chamberlain
  • RHP Phil Hughes/RHP Alfredo Aceves/RHP Ian Kennedy
That would potentially be the best 1-2 punch in baseball, but the rotation as a whole looks dangerously thin to me in this scenario, with a innings-limited Joba coming off a scary DL-stint, Pettitte on the decline and Hughes/Kennedy reprensenting huge question marks. Burnett isn't the right fit for the Yanks, but general manager Brian Cashman should remain committed to making a splash that goes beyond Sabathia. If I'm in charge, I lock up CC and lock up Lowe, even if I have to overpay for the playboy sinkerballer. Sabathia gives you your ace, Lowe provides you peace of mind.

It's just money, Cash. Spend it.