Yankees 2009 Off Season Moves – Part Two: POSITION PLAYERS

Now, on to the position players. The departure of Abreu and Giambi left a couple of holes to fill and some pretty big numbers to make up. The two combined for 52 home runs, 196 RBI, and 24 stolen bases as well as each being on base over 37% of the time. The Yankees already had an in-house answer to the vacated right field position with Xavier Nady. The Yanks had aquired Nady midway through last season to play some outfield and provide right handed pop in the lineup. As for first base, there was no one within the system that the team felt comfortable playing there on an everyday basis. The general feeling was that with pitching being the main focus of the offseason, that the Yanks would have to be more creative with their approach to fixing the lineup. Their first answer came with an early offseason trade with the Chicago White Sox in which the Yankees parted with Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez in order to aquire Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira. Swisher is a switch hitter with power and the ability to play quality defense at the corner outfield positions and first base as well as a passable center field. I absolutely loved this trade. Swisher gave the team a viable first baseman with versatility and they lost only Marquez that was of particular value. Betemit had been fairly awful in his role as utility man for the Yanks and research suggests that Nunez and Texeira have fairly comparable potential. So, had the Yankees ended their fixes there, with Swisher and Nady replacing Giambi and Abreu, the lineup would be ok. It wouldn’t be over the top, but it would work. Not good enough.

Enter Mark Teixeira. Seemingly content with their acquisition of Nick Swisher to play first base, the Yankees were considered a peripheral player at best in the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, until they swooped in at the eleventh hour and signed the switch hitting gold glover to an 8 year $180 million dollar contract just before Christmas. Teixeira was too perfect for the Yanks to pass up. Hit for power? Check! (33 HR last yr) Hit for average? Check! (.308 avg and a switch hitter to boot!) Drive in runs? Check! (121 RBI) Get on base? Check! (.410 OBP) and possibly the best defensive first baseman in baseball (certainly in the discussion). All that and he’s only 28 years old and doesn’t get hurt. He was by far the most complete position player on the market this offseason and plays a position at which the Yankees had a need; not to mention the fact the the Red Sox (chief rivals to the Yanks) had made him their offseason priority. How could anyone not love this move?  With Teixeira signed, the question becomes what to do with Nick Swisher. Some suggest he play off the bench, but he’ll be paid over $5 million this year; an awful lot for a bench player. He also hit 24 home runs last year in what was an awful year for him. This to me suggests that his skill level is far too great to be wasted on the bench. Reports indicate that the Yanks are fielding trade offers for both Nady and Swisher. My hope is that they trade Nady and keep Swisher to play right field and here are my reasons why:

  1. Last season. It was a career year for Nady and an abysmal year for Swisher. In short, it was an abberation. Last year, Nady Posted 25 HR, 97 RBI, and an OBP of .357, while his averages over the previous three seasons are 17 HR, 60 RBI, and an OBP of .330  Last year Swisher posted 24 HR, 69 RBI, and an OBP of .332, while his previous three season averages are 26 HR, 82 RBI, and an OBP of .358
    Swisher’s horrible year posted slighty better than Nady’s previous three season averages. I think It’s more likely Swisher bounces back than Nady continues at last years’ pace.
  2. Defense. Nady is a slightly above average right or left fielder. Swisher is a very strong right fielder, a strong left fielder, a strong first baseman and a passable center fielder.
  3. Switch hitting. Nady is a right handed hitter that hits better against righties than lefties. Swisher hits from both sides of the plate, giving him an advantage against lefties and also allowing him to make better use of the short porch in left field at Yankee Stadium when facing righties.
  4.  Contract. Nady is a free agent after the season and a Scott Boras client; meaning that if he has even a decent year, he will be expensive to resign. Swisher is under contract for at three years with an option for a fourth, all at affordable rates. If the Yanks were to keep Nady, they may have to sign two entirely new corner outfielders for 2010.
  5. Youth. Swisher is two years younger. Every little bit of leverage against father time helps.

Remember those numbers the Yanks lost with Giambi and Abreu leaving? If they keep Swisher in right field and he bounces back to his previous three year averages; he and Teixeira should combine for at least 59 HR, 203 RBI, and be on base over 38% of the time. If Brett Gardner plays center field rather than Melky Cabrera, then the Yanks should completely negate the loss of Abreu’s stolen bases and then some. This configuration should have the team putting up better numbers in every category as well as playing better defense than the past. Also, last season, Jorge Posada contributed only 3 HR, 18 Runs, and 22 RBI while his average contributions over the previous three seasons were 21 HR, 74 Runs, and 85 RBI. Similarly, Hideki Matsui contributed only 9 HR, 43 Runs, and 45 RBI while his previous three year averages were 19 HR, 80 Runs, and 83 RBI. If you take into account that Matsui was also hurt for the majority of the 2006 season, his healthy numbers should project closer to 23 HR, 100 Runs, and 105 RBI. Assuming that Posada and Matsui can play significantly more than last season, the offense should have much better numbers on the whole. Stabilize and improve an offense that struggled to put runs on the board? Mission accomplished!

In other position player moves, the Yanks also added Kevin Cash on a minor league deal to provide catching depth, and Angel Berroa on a minor league deal to compete with Cody Ransom for the back-up infielder position. Good stuff!

So, what’s left to do? Many people have talked about the possibility of the Yanks signing Manny Ramirez. Although I would have a very difficult time rooting for a player featuring Ramirez’ personality, I admit that the lure of what he could do for the Yankees offense is immense. Given the current construction of the team, however, this move simply will not happen. The Yankees have no place to play Ramirez and far too much money tied up in immovable personnel to make him fit. The team supposedly explored possible trades for Hideki Matsui that would have freed up the DH position as well as some funds, but no one is interested in picking up an aging hitter that’s coming off his second knee surgery and has 13 million owed to him for the season. The Yanks could probably find someone that would take on Johnny Damon’s contract, but that would leave the team without a true leadoff hitter. Perhaps adding Ramirez’ powerful bat would make up for losing Damon as a catalyst, but it doesn’t appear to be a risk the Yanks are interested in taking. So unless a team comes out of the woodwork with a new found interest in Matsui, Ramirez will continue to remain a “What if” topic for Yankees fans. Therefore, other than irading Nady, the only other move I would suggest is to sign reliever Juan Cruz. The guy is just hanging out there on the market because his type A free agent status will force a team that signs him to give up a draft pick. He’s a set up guy with nasty stuff that racks up the strikeouts and would be a nice addition to the Yankee bullpen. Due to the free agents they’ve already signed, he wouldn’t cost the Yanks an early round pick the way he would most other teams. There seems to be some confusion in recent reports as to what the quota of type A and B free agents that a team can sign is, but if the Yanks can indeed sign another, this would be a good one.

I hope everyone enjoyed this overview of the Yankees offseason moves.

Note by Lisa – I would prefer to hold onto Nady over Swisher, and uhh, I wouldn’t protest Manny in pinstripes, especially with this A-Rod mess.  Alex could end up being a distraction to the Yankees a la Barry Bonds to the Giants!

The whole A-Rod-steroid mess coming soon…

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10 Responses to Yankees 2009 Off Season Moves – Part Two: POSITION PLAYERS

  1. timo says:

    Hi Jason

    I am a Red Sox fan who has conversed with Lisa a few times on the MLB Yankees board using the sn “bsox1918”.

    Firstly, I am sorry about Lisa’s accident and the serious injuries it caused. I am glad she is on the mend. Secondly, thanks for the very astute analysis of the Yankees moves. I’ve been checking in here every so often, eagerly waiting for a baseball post. The wait was well worth it. Very interesting reading.

    One thing really surprises me, though: Your willigness to dump Matsui for Manny. Hideki seems to me to be the Yankee’s Yankee. I, and many Red Sox fans I know truly respect and admire him. Manny on the other hand, seems to me to be the perfect anti-Yankee. He is a devastating offensive force no doubt, at least when he is happy like he was at the end of last season in LA but a really high maintenance distraction when he is not. I think he would eventually drive a no-nonsense guy like Girardi nuts.

    I never judged Manny harshly for stuff like not running hard on ground outs because I tend to look at the bottom line, which for Manny was always stellar. But the kind of stuff he pulled last season was unacceptable. I don’t care how many dingers he hits, a player who attacks old men and quits on his teammates by faking injury does not belong in a Red Sox uniform as far as I am concerned. I was so glad to see him go. Sometimes there are higher principles than just winning on the field (although, as Theo pointed out in today’s Boston Herald, the Red Sox run scoring went up after they traded Manny).

    Speaking of high maintenance guys, I am really looking forward to your take on the A-Rod situation. I will add my two cents after you post your commentary.

    Best wishes,

    timo

  2. Jason says:

    Timo, thanks for the kind words! As far as the Matsui vs. Manny thing goes; the trade-off would be based in practicality rather than heart. I’ve always been a big fan of Matsui and what he’s done for the Yanks, but no one in their right mind would assume that Matsui is going to put up the same type of numbers in 2009 that Ramirez will. Plus, as you well know, Ramirez changes the way opposing pitchers deal with a lineup. He makes every hitter around him better. While I love Hideki, he just doesn’t bring that to the table. All that said, I’m not crying over missing out on Manny, as I said it would be very hard to root for the guy. I was just trying to illustrate that I could understand why Yankees fans would want him.
    As for the A-rod situation, I think Lisa is planning to do a write up of her thoughts on it – although she’s now asking me to do it lol She’s focusing on her limited cooking and baking at this time.

    I’m waiting to see what A-Rod has to say before I voice any opinion on it.

  3. ingrid says:

    Another great post Jason. I admit to not showing Devon your last one…forgot but I’ve actually emailed myself the link so that I can have him read it. He actually told me about the A-Rod steriod thing. That’s crazy, huh!?

    Btw, I like what the red sock fan wrote in his comment. Very civil & well thought out! I cannot stand a gungho fan that just runs their mouth. We seem to have A LOT of those here in FL. (gator, fans, the most but FSU & Miami have quite a few too) I know that every team does but they’re so in your FACE!
    ~ingrid

  4. ingrid says:

    Oops, Hi, Lisa!! Hope all is well & I’m looking forward to some FAB dessert posts!!
    ~ingrid

  5. A&N says:

    Another nice post 🙂

    I am not sure what to say here because I am still shocked by A-Rod’s admission. I guess I’ll wait for your thread to express my opinions 🙂

    As far as position players are concerned, I guess one of the things that happened last year is the collapse of our bottom order. Cano had a terrible year in 2008. His averaged dropped by over 40 points, his OBP dropped by over 50 points and his slugging dropped by almost 80 points!

    The top of the order pretty much did what was expected of them (I know you guys will probably kill me but I think DJ didnt have a good season last year because his production also dipped quite a bit…similar to Cano’s 🙂 ) With Damon, Jeter, Abreau, A-Rod, Giambi….the top-order looked very solid. But with (injured) Matsui, injured Posada, an ugly Pudge….the bottom of the line-up looked thin. Nady provided great stability to it, although his numbers dropped considerably after coming to NY. I guess it was the whole ‘adjustment’ thing. But had Cano performed to his level, things would have been much different. I guess if the bottom of the line-up gets on base, there is a lot of pop in the top order to drive them in.
    And Cano is a great athlete obviously. I hope he has a better season next year. Another person who had a poor offensive season is Melky. He also experienced at least 30 point drops in the three major offensive categories that I mentioned for Cano. If he can get his act together, that would make the line-up extremely potent.

    There are several ‘dark horses’ in our team. Morgan ensberg (he finished 4th in NL MVP voting in 2005 with the Astros!), Shelly Duncan, Betemit, Gardner and Cody Ransom. I guess with such a deep line-up, the youngsters could be developed well.

    You have addressed the offseason moves (regarding position players) very well! But the only thing missing is a catcher. Posada is getting old and I was shocked at the defense that Pudge played after donning pinstripes. It was horrendous! I certainly expect him to do a lot better this year. But i any event, we need to start developing or consider acquiring a good catcher. I dont think Jose Molina is a long term solution either.

    I also like Nady over Swisher 🙂 I think Swisher can provide a lot of depth to the line-up (say, from the bench) because he is a switch hitter. Or we could start him daily and if he has a good season, we could trade him to address any potential mid-season needs. Typically, there is no scarcity of outfielders in MLB as far as trade is concerned.

    So I guess even though Giambi and Abreau left NY, the offense is still fine…..but it could be a LOT better if the bottom of the order performs. And that’ll rest quite a bit on the shoulders of Cano, Melky, Nady and Swisher. If they can perform up to their potentials, this could be an extremely dangerous offense and could score a ton of runs 🙂

    But right now I guess the biggest question is…..how will A-Rod’s admission affect the team’s chemistry and overall performance on the field? How will A-Rod respond on the field? Especially because the opposing fans will be all over him! I am still shocked by this whole episode.

  6. Hey Lisa, hope you’re doing well and that you’ve found a work-around for those nasty kitchen steps.

    I’ve nominated you for an award over at my blog: http://www.aspoonfulofsugar.net/wp/2009/02/roasted-squash-dolcelatte-wrap/

  7. Jason says:

    Thanks to everyone once again for taking the time to read the post and for your kind words!
    ———————————————————————-
    A&N, I hadn’t really thought to mention Cano and how his production dropped off, though I probably should have. I fully expect him to return to the player we knew from prior to last season. All reports are that he has shed weight, worked on his mechanics, and has found a new drive to excel. I believe that having Melky and Gardner both heading into the season knowing that either of them can win the job will work out well for the Yanks. The competition should fire them up enough that either one or the other puts up decent numbers this season. If neither is able to get on base consistently, don’t be surprised to see either Austin Jackson come up from the minors for a look or Mike Cameron wearing the pinstripes. As for your concerns about the catcher position; Posada is expected to be good to go. If that’s the case then there’s nothing to worry about. If not, the Yanks are actually somewhat deep at the position in the minors. Francisco Cerveli is a very strong defensive catcher, Jesus Montero is the Yanks most promising farm system power hitter, and Austin Romine is currently touted as the Yanks 4th best prospect by Baseball America. To go along with them, the Yanks also signed Kevin Cash to a minor league deal this offseason. All that aside, if the Yanks offense comes down to who’s manning the backstop, there are other problems afoot! 🙂

  8. A&N says:

    Hi Jason, I’m glad to hear that the Yankees are developing some catchers. Regarding Manny, initially I was against it, simply because that would be another huge investment for a short term gain. And personally, I think that that money could go towards bolstering our bullpen.

    But now, considering what has happened with A-Rod, in case his numbers take a big dive or something, it may not be a bad idea to get Manny. Besides, he might be able to ‘exact some revenge’ on Boston by playing against them several times during the season. I dont think the New York pressure should be a problem for him. He is quite used to big situations in his career. He could be deployed as a DH on occasions if Matsui is not fully healthy or if his defense is awful in the outfield. I am kind of torn in between as far as Manny is concerned….thanks to the A-Ro(i)d situation!

  9. Odalys says:

    Hi LIsa,
    We met while you were at CareOne and so was my father in law, Frank, You gave me your website info so that I can see a pic of Jason who looks like my husband. I love your site by the way, but I can’t find a pic of Jason.

  10. lisamichele says:

    Hi Odalys! Glad you stopped by! I’ll get some photos up of him as soon as he approves one LOL Men can be almost as bad as women when it comes to that and he’s been kind of ‘mum’ on the subject whenever it comes up. However, I’m baking something special for him soon and I told him I want to put up a photo of him enjoying it. His reply was “We’ll see” with a grumble or two LOL Regardless, there WILL be at least one..SOON! I’m so sorry there isn’t any yet!
    —-

    With that said, how far along are you now? You and Frank must be SO excited as the date gets closer! I’m so happy for the both of you!
    —–

    Finally, how’s Frank Sr. doing? Is he still at CareOne? He was such a bright spot during my stay there – a truly wonderful man. Please say hello to him for me!

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