Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reconstructing the 2007 Yanks, Or Not

Each year when the trading deadline approaches, at least since their return to prominence in the mid-90’s, the Yankees become a one-team rumor mill. The Yanks come up in conjunction with any player that has a chance to be available, whether the move makes sense or not. Teams want New York involved to drive up the price, while the Yankees feel the need to be involved thanks to a do anything to win now mindset and occasionally the prevent other teams from winning tactic. This season is different. Below .500 for the first time since 1995, fielding an inflexible roster log jammed with superstars, the playoffs a long shot, unlikely to be sellers simply because its not the Yankee way, the Yanks appear headed to an uneventful trade deadline.

A-Rod is not going anywhere this season. One train of thought says with the team out of contention to trade A-Rod, likely to opt-out of his contract after the season anyway, obtaining prospects instead of letting him walk. No chance this happens. Even if somewhat logical, there are too many reasons it will not happen. First, the Yanks just announced they plan to negotiate an extension with A-Rod. Regardless if the extension is completed, the commitment means he stays. With attendance expected to reach 4 million, a privately owned television network depending on star power for ratings, and the prospect of chasing a 60-homer season, Ruth or Maris ring a bell, the Yanks need A-Rod, no matter how far from the playoffs the team is. Trade him and risk a major public out lash. Cashman will learn the fans “Big Hook” may be bigger than the Boss’. Finally, no team will exchange fair trade value for A-Rod given the contract situation, without negotiating an extension, which Boras will never allow. At worst, if he walks after the season, at least the Yanks save face publicly.

Besides A-Rod, rumors continue to surface about trades involving notable underperformers, Bobby Abreu and, before the injury, “Mr. Stuff”, Jason Giambi. Not happening. One major oversight here, trades require two willing teams. What team wants a mediocre fielding corner outfielder with no power, hitting seventh in a struggling lineup, susceptible to prolonged slumps? Did we mention the $15 million salary? Yes, the Yanks can eat it, but why even go there, play it out.

Up the middle the Yanks are entrenched, Jeter, Cano, Posada, Cabrera, and Damon, in some capacity. Matsui mans left, and the revolving door platoon of Phillips, Mientkiewicz, and Cairo, handle first. With three high paid veterans, a young ace, and burgeoning prospect, the starting rotation is not going anywhere. In the pen, Rivera is untouchable, but everyone else is in play. If the Yanks trade any major leaguers, the bullpen will be the source. Other contenders can use a Farnsworth or lefty-specialist Mike Myers, the two most likely targets. For some reason the Yanks seem to love something about Farnsworth, but I can envision swapping the big mouth reliever for an underachieving reliever on another team, or Myers for a low-level prospect.

On the buy side, the most obvious targets are first base, and the bullpen. Texiera rumors continue, but not at the price Texas is asking. Cashman’s plan remains and I believe correctly, to hold onto all the young minor league pitching. Trading Hughes, Chamberlain, or any other player off the Double-A pitching staff for a 3-month rental in what appears as a lost season, would haunt the Yanks for years. Cashman will not allow that to happen, irrespective of his job security.

Swapping relievers is possible, but how much impact will that have. Like it or not, barring a major surprise, if the 2007 Yankees plan to make a miracle comeback, they need the current players to pull it off. However, over the past few years, we have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to the Yankees.


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