Offseason Swap Series: New York Yankees
By Matthew Van Wormer
Today, we finish off the American League East in our Offseason Swap Series as I spoke with Mike D from Yankees Fans Unite and got his take on the end of 2011 and what to look for from the Yankees in 2012. When you are a team like the Yankees, expectations are always high and not meeting those expectations is always a disappointment. So, without further ado, here is my blog swap with Mike D.
DTTWLN? 1 – The Yankees came short of their ultimate goal for 2011, and every year, winning the World Series. What could New York have done better to move forward in the post season?
I would be lying if I said that Yankee fans were confident about the team’s chances going into the 2011 season, especially after missing out on Cliff Lee in the off season. However, hardly anyone would have predicted that Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and Ivan Nova would have such great seasons out of the rotation in 2011. Contrary to what anyone would have thought prior to the season, it was their undoubted strength, the offense, that let them down in the postseason. Although you can argue the starting pitching wasn’t exactly stellar in the ALDS against Detroit, the major issue was clutch hitting, or lack thereof. I think that when reflecting on the postseason “failure,” the Yankees have found that the absence of even just a few timely base-hits was the primary cause. Even a couple RBI singles here and there may just have put the Yankees over the edge against the Tigers. So when asked what they could have done better, I regard it as a live and move-on type circumstance, as it really was a case of poor offense in a small sample size – nothing to get too concerned about.
DTTWLN? 2 – Because of the way the Yankees sign free agents and trade for big name players, the farm system cupboards seem to be pretty bare. Do you see this as a concern going into the 2012 season?
The latter part of the first sentence is actually a common misconception of non-Yankee fans regarding the Yankees farm system. Despite the team’s high payroll and tendency to go after the “big-fish” in both the trade and free agent markets, the farm system is deep and talented. Ever since the Yankees traded for a second round of Javier Vazquez before the 2010 season, they haven’t really made any major trades. GM Brian Cashman has been very good at holding onto their prospects throughout the past couple years. In fact, the Yanks now have four prospects: (C/DH) Jesus Montero, (LHP) Manny Banuelos, (C) Gary Sanchez, and (RHP) Dellin Betances within Baseball Prospectus’s Top 50 Prospects. Montero, called the next Miguel Cabrera by many, was called up to the team in September and absolutely mashed (.328/.406/.590). The two B’s figure to get a lot of time to develop in Triple-A in 2012, and could easily find spots on the major-league club in 2013. Beyond Montero, the Yankees have plenty of catching depth, including the defense-extraordinaire Austin Romine, offensive-powerhouse Gary Sanchez, and J.R. Murphy. They also have a wide array of pitchers at the Triple-A level who could absolutely provide some help to the MLB team in 2012. However, the team’s supply of outfield talent is pretty barren, except for some low-level, high-upside prospects, like Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott. Overall, I feel that rather than a concern, the farm system is actually an asset of the Yankees moving forward.
Question 3 – The Yankees do seem to have some over priced players that are taking up space. Any chance of moving any bad contracts before the season starts to start a bit of a rebuild?
Of course, anyone could make the argument that much of the team is made up of high-priced players (Teixeira, A-Rod, Jeter, etc.) but I’d imagine you are referring to A.J. Burnett and Rafael Soriano. On Wednesday of the Winter Meetings, the Yankees were rumored to be shopping starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, who is coming off his second straight over 5 ERA season. Also taking into consideration his overall inconsistency, unreliability, and pricey contract (owed $33MM over the next two seasons), it would make a ton of sense for the Yankees to move him. The only thing preventing a trade of A.J. is the terrible contract. Last I heard, the Yankees were only willing to chip in $8MM if they traded him, so unless they are willing to increase that, I highly doubt they’ll receive any interest. Rafael Soriano, on the other-hand, is here to stay at least for 2012, as his contract is virtually unmovable right now as well. Nevertheless, I’m sure the Yankees would love to unload those two contracts, and replace Soriano and Burnett with two of their young, cheap/homegrown pitchers.
Question 4 – The new Yankee Stadium is entering its third season as the home of the Bronx Bombers. Have people adjusted to the prices of the new park or is attendance still going to be a bit of an issue?
I think that Yankee fans know that the prices are what they are, and there is not much to be done about them. With that said, I don’t think attendance really has been or will be a major issue for the Yankees, simply because of the legacy the team holds. It’s unfortunate, but the team knows how loyal and dedicated its fans are, and in my opinion, that is part of the reason why prices at Yankee Stadium can be so high. However, there was a slight drop in attendance from 2010 to 2011, causing 70% of ticket prices to be lowered for next year. You also have to figure that if the Yankees have a rotation of: Sabathia, Nova, Garcia, Hughes, Burnett next year, they can’t possibly have as outrageous prices as they would if, for example, they acquired a top-notch number-two starter. Overall, I don’t think attendance will be too much of an issue for the Yankees.
Question 5 – The Yankees are perennial favorites to make the playoffs and are always a contender for the World Series Championship. Where do you see the Yankees finishing the 2012 season?
It’s hard to tell now, as no one has a clue as to whether or not Brian Cashman will add a solid number 2-3 starter. There isn’t a single doubt in my mind that the Yankees could make the playoffs with the current rotation. As we’re seeing more and more, the postseason is widely becoming a tale of pitching, pitching, and pitching. Because of that, I don’t see the Yankees getting very far in the playoffs with the rotation the way it is. Beyond C.C. Sabathia, the rotation is in a state of the question-mark. We aren’t certain whether Ivan Nova can repeat his excellent rookie campaign in 2012. Freddy Garcia had a great comeback-type season this past year, but can he maintain that level of success? Hughes had a pretty good season in 2010, but flopped in 2011. On the other hand, they should be receiving increased production out of the DH spot, with up-and-coming Jesus Montero. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez has vowed to return with a vengeance in 2012, after an opined career-worst season. So I’d say the Yankees are in very good shape to make the playoffs, but won’t win the World Series with the current status of the rotation.
Much like the rest of the league right now, questions are abound for the New York Yankees as the Winter Meetings continue and moves get made. Now that we’re done with the East, we will head to the American League West which is now home to one of the highest payrolls in all of Baseball. It’s been a wild, wild, west for sure and we are excited to talk to those teams about their off season and what’s coming up in 2012!
Photo: Bill Kostroun/Associated Press