Understanding Baseball's Offseason With The Man Who Outpredicted The Experts
If there is anything I could preach, it is this all important lesson. Open your notebooks and get your pens ready, because this is a big one that so many journalists have either forgotten or simply pushe aside.
Trust your instincts!
Journalists have gotten into this horrible habit of only reporting what others might hear. Predictions were always a fun thing to do in a piece, but today it seems that picks can't be made without reading 15 tweets and citing 12 articles to make an "educated guess".
Well, all those "educated" people have been wrong a lot this offseason, while yours truly, who has trusted his intuition, has been a lot more accurate.
Since I didn't actually published my picks, I will refer to Virginia Califano, the editor of this site, to back me up with a comment below this article. She will most certainly confirm that I said the things I'm about to write.
When the baseball season ended, the biggest story was "when will Cliff Lee sign with the Yankees?" As a Yankee fan myself, and one who has a fully functioning brain, I knew the Yankees would make a strong run at the left hander, but having watched the guy over the years, I had this feeling that the man just didn't want to be in New York. About the only thing that made me think that Lee might don the pinstripes was his lust for money. His comments for years made it clear that he was looking for a large contract, and when you ask for a large contract, the Yankees will always be in the conversation.
I stood by my feeling though, and said that Cliff Lee would NOT be a Yankee. No one believed me. In fact, some Yankees fans became angry with me for having this belief and for not truly wanting the guy. Call me crazy, but I think having a guy playing for your team solely for the money is counterproductive to having a cohesive clubhouse. Cliff Lee would sooner be a cancer.
Cue Sunday night. The "mystery team" swooped in and snagged Cliff Lee. It was the Phillies. Yes, the Phillies that Lee led to the World Series just two years ago only to fall to the Yankees in 6 games. This time, those Phillies will be armed with Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. That is downright scary.
So how did it happen?
Perhaps the wife had some influence in the decision. Perhaps Lee enjoyed his time in Philly and wanted to go back. Perhaps we are talking about these issues without looking at the contract he signed.
Lee signed for 5 years, 120 million dollars. For the math majors out there, that's 24 million dollars a year, or a million more per year than the 7 year deal CC Sabathia received from the Yankees. Lee's deal also includes a vesting option for a 6th year worth 27.5 million dollars.
In other words, the Phillies threw more money at Lee annually than anyone else!
Now that we understand the plight of Cliff Lee, let's shift gears to another prediction of mine, Carl Crawford.
For weeks, people said that the Angels would snag Crawford as a first step to reviving the franchise. People don't like to see the bigger picture.
Every offseason is controlled by two teams, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Generally, the team that was eliminated first is the more aggressive of the two, and since it is unacceptable in either city to fall short, both franchises will throw sometimes unfathomable amounts of money in the directions of numerous players. Why? Because finishing behind a rival is simply unacceptable.
Thus, when Boston finished the year in 3rd place, it was pretty obvious that they would be one of the most aggressive teams in the offseason. After securing Adrian Gonzalez via trade and extension, Boston had to turn their sites to the outfield market. Yours truly was on the scene weeks before.
Again, knowing that Boston would spend the most this offseason, I predicted very early that Carl Crawford would end up in Boston. Again I was called crazy because I "didn't read the facts" and I "am ignoring the obvious signs". Yep, I'm the crazy one.........
While the Angels bidded a respectable 108 million dollars over 6 years, the Red Sox overwhelmed the young outfielder with a 7 year, 142 million dollars. Perhaps they overpayed (and I believe they did), but the Red Sox got the best option left on the board. With Jayson Werth having shocked the world by signing with the Nationals a week earlier, Crawford was the only top outfielder on the market, and the Red Sox could not go into next year with the crop of outfielders they currently had on the roster.
With the Red Sox having spent 323 million dollars on just two players this offseason, the question that still lingers is "how will the Yankees respond?" So far, it's been a very quiet response. The Yankees have added catcher Russell Martin for just 4 million dollars and have signed Mark Prior to a minor league deal. Not exactly the big splash the pinstriped franchise often makes. With a rotation that still possesses a lot of question marks and a bullpen that severely underachieved in the playoffs, where do the Yankees go from here?
I'm not going to give you what other "experts" are predicting. I'm going to give you what I think the Yankees should do. Here goes:
1) Trade for Mark Buerle or Francisco Liriano - With the Red Sox trading for Gonzalez and adding Crawford, the easiest couterpunch to make would be to add left handed pitching. Since both Gonzalez and Crawford are left handed hitters, that gives Boston 5 top left handed bats. Countering those with solid left handed pitching would certainly go a long way towards having the upper hand. I prefer Buerle as he has shown durability throughout his career (over 200 innings in every season since 2001), but Liriano has some upside if he stays healthy as well. If Buerle is getable, I say get him. He's still pretty young and would be an excellent addition to the Yankee rotation.
2) Trade for Adam Wainwright - If the first two guys are unattainable, this would be an excellent direction to look. Why Wainwright you ask? Look at who he plays for. The Cardinals will be strapped for cash soon, with Albert Pujols due for a new contract after this season. With Matt Holliday already inked to a big contract, it would seem a guy like Wainwright will not get what he wants from his current team and will have to look elsewhere. Thus, if the Cardinals want to get some value for him that is greater than the draft pick that a Type A free agent would garner, why not consider trading him. The Yankees have the prospects to get it done, and Wainwright's swing and miss stuff would be an excellent fit in the rotation.
3) Get Andy Pettitte back - This should be #1, but for some reason, I think it's going to happen regardless, so I figured I'd put the bigger, more surprising moves first. Pettitte pitched well last year despite an injury that kept him out almost 2 months. Most Yankee fans would like to see him back one more time and I think we get that. If he can stay healthy, he already strengthens the rotation, and with another big trade, the Yankees rotation could suddenly become formidable again. Pitching wins championships, so this top 3 is quite important.
4) Resign Kerry Wood - One of the most important jobs in modern baseball is the setup man. If you can't get the ball to the closer, what good is the closer? For the Yankees, Wood has been the best setup man since Jobas 3 month surge in 2007. He was downright dominating at times, and getting him back would really give the Yankees a back end force to be reckoned with when it comes to their pen. The Yankees now have money since they failed to get Lee, so why not spend it in part on a guy that you know can succeed in pinstripes?
5) Add a left handed reliever - This has to happen. Boone Logan did a fine job last year, but he can't do it alone. Damaso Marte is out for a minimum of 3 months next year and the Yankees won't be sure what he'll be able to contribute, if anything. I'd prefer the Yankees to find a left handed reliever that isn't a type A free agent, so Pedro Feliciano might fit the bill. Again, if you are up against the Red Sox, you will need to get lefties out. Another lefty in the pen is an absolute necessity and I expect Cashman to find someone to fit the bill.
6) Find a guy to spell Jeter and A-Rod - It's no secret that the once fabled athleticism of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez is slowly fading with age. Both men are still quite valuable as players, but playing 162 games in the field is not ideal for either man. Thus, if the Yankees can find a man that can play both short and third and wont' be a liability at the plate, this would go a long way towards Yankee success. This would allow the Yankee captain and his first mate to rest more and thus be more ready for the playoffs. Sign a guy like this to a 1 year deal and then look for A-Rod to DH next year with Jeter moving to third. When that happens, either Nunez becomes the every day SS or the Yankees go out on the market to find a new one.
I know that I was on record saying that the Yankees should avoid Cliff Lee (see my last article on Pinstripe Partison). Now that they have, the team still needs to make improvements. Perhaps they should listen to me, as I've been more accurate this offseason than most of the experts. Then again, that's just predicting who will go where. I have yet to predict whether acquisitions will bring success, but I do think that if at least some of the moves I suggested happen, the Yankees will put themselves right back in position as the top team in the AL East. Anything else would be uncivilized.