AS NEW YORK YANKEES fans come to terms with the realization that there’s going to be no October baseball in the Bronx for the first time in nearly 15 years, our thoughts are already turning to next season.
There is no doubt that for general manager Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenner family and their cohorts, this is going to be the most important off-season for the club in decades.
The current Yankees roster contains far too many overpaid 30-somethings. It says it all that the biggest competition is for the DH spot. So who do you want to see back next year?
Like it or not, the Yanks are stuck with Alex Rodriguez for the next nine years, and Robinson Cano until at least 2011. We can only hope they return to last season’s form.
Derek Jeter has another three years to go on his contract. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui both have one more year.
Unless, the Yanks trade any of the above (and who would buy them?), they will again form the backbone of the batting line-up in 2009 – an order hopefully boosted by a fully fit catcher Jorge Posada.
With Damon struggling to take the field every day, and Matsui facing surgery on a knee injury, we already have two candidates for the role of DH.
I can’t imagine the Yanks will offer Jason Giambi another deal, even for one year, so the biggest dilemma for Cashman and Co. is whether to resign Bobby Abreu.
Nady a better long-term option than Abreu
With 15 home runs and 84 RBIs, Abreu (.302 average) has probably been the team’s most-clutch hitter this season.
On the minus side, he will be 35 by the time next season starts, he’s going to cost at least $16 million, and he never looks comfortable playing in right field.
The Yanks need an injection of players on the way up, rather than the way down, so if it were my decision, I would let Abreu go.
They would be better off spending the money on Xavier Nady, who has made a big impression since his short-term move from Pittsburgh at the end of July.
In contrast to Abreu, Nady seems more interested in hitting the ball out of the park than running the count deep.
The disappointing Melky Cabrera could be used as bait in a trade, although his value has dropped considerably since this time last year.
Talk has it that the Yanks will pursue first baseman Mark Teixeira, currently playing for the Los Angeles Angels. Teixeira would be a tremendous signing. Trouble is, he’ll want a similar deal to A-Rod if he comes to New York.
The same goes for pitching ace CC Sabathia, who is likely to be the Yanks’ No. 1 target this winter.
Pitching ace has to be No. 1 priority
Although they have failed to score anywhere near enough runs this season, their pitching problems have been more obvious.
Surely we have seen the last of Sidney Ponson after his failure to win yesterday’s game, even with a nine-run lead. Darrell Rasner must go and so too, ‘Big Game’ Andy Pettitte. Any game would have done just recently but Andy has been unable to deliver.
Pettitte, apparently, has expressed an interest in coming back for one more year. At $16 million a year, I bet he has!
Unless either Phil Hughes or dare I say it, Carl Pavano, can convince between now and the end of September, the Yanks could well be in the market for two new pitchers to form a rotation with Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and the evergreen Mike Mussina.
That’s assuming Joba continues as a starter and doesn’t return to the bullpen full-time.
I still think that with his explosive stuff, he is far better suited to pitching the eighth or ninth inning and becoming the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.
The Yanks can only hope that Rivera continues to defy Old Father Time, and that the likes of José Veras, Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke continue their development to form a young and energetic bullpen.
Those are not two adjectives you would often associate with the 2008 New York Yankees. That’s why Cashman, along with Hank and Hal, need to deliver this winter.