Thoughts During the Break

So we know the Red Sox are going to be facing the Indians.  I’ll comment a bit on the series.  Also, the Yankees have a few decisions to make.  Obviously I’ll never know as much as Peter knows about this squad (and all Yankees fans that read this), but I’ll offer my thoughts on them in the 2nd half of this post.

Terry Francona announced a change in the rotation swapping Josh Beckett (edit, I meant Curt Schilling, not Beckett!) and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

So it goes:  Beckett, Schilling, Matsuzaka and ?????.  The Red Sox will need a 4th starter and that is up in the air right now.  Tim Wakefield wasn’t healthy enough for the 1st round (that was the public reason anyway), so I’m not sure he is an option meaning Jon Lester is the most likely candidate for the 4th spot.

The Red Sox face C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona in games 1 and 2 respectively.  Those 2 are legit aces, or at least they were for the 2007 season.  Sabathia has history, but Carmona’s history is limited.  In fact, he was a disaster against Boston in 2006 allowing 5 earned runs in 1.0 IP in 2 appearances.  One was a walk-off grand slam.  But he fixed all that ailed him last year and put together a stellar 2007.  Carmona went 19-8, 215 IP, 199 H, 61 BB, 137 K, with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 Whip.  Check out his splits and you’ll see he was good in the 1st half and GREAT in the 2nd half.  And don’t offer up the "yeah, but what did he do against the Red Sox?"  Well, he had 1 start against them and shut them out over 8 IP with 4 H, 2 BB and 6 Ks.  I heard a few people say they weren’t impressed with Carmona going into the post-season, but he was great in the "bug game" in Cleveland the other day.

So those 2, Sabathia and Carmona, are great and pose a huge problem for Boston.  Next will come Jake Westbrook (6-9, 4.32/1.41) and Paul Byrd (15-8, 4.59/1.39).  Easier for sure, but you can’t dismiss the 3 and 4 starters for Cleveland.

WEEI is reporting that J.D. Drew will sit in favor of Bobby Kielty in game 1 against Sabathia (lefty).

Now, onto the Yankees.  Peter Gammons had a good piece about the Yankees on Tuesday.  They are preparing for major changes starting with their manager Joe Torre.  I have to assume Joe is gone.  Whether it is his decision or the Yankees, I don’t think Joe is coming back.  Then there are the players:

c – Posada – free agent (read one site that said there might be an option, can’t confirm)

1b – Giambi – under contract

2b – Cano – under contract

3b – ARod – can opt out and expected to do so

ss – Jeter – under contract

lf – Matsui – under contract

cf – Cabrera – under contract

rf – Abreu – free agent (team option for 2008 @ $16m)

dh – Damon – under contract

I talked with Peter about this a while back and he posed a good question.  If the Yankees do not re-sign Posada, just who exactly will catch for them?  The options are limited and while Posada is old for a baseball player and really old for a catcher (36), is a 2 year deal to retain him a bad investment?  Tough call.  He hit .338 in 2007, 61 points higher than his career average of .277.  So his 2007 season had all the markings of a contract season and re-signing him carries major risk, but it might be the best option.  I’d re-sign him as long as he was reasonable.

ARod is going to do whatever he wants to do, most likely become a free agent.  Here is a very good question.  If ARod is being paid $25m a year with the Yankees paying about 2/3 ($16m a year) of that and the Rangers the other 1/3, does it make sense for the Yankees to try and re-sign him at say $30m per season and be responsible for all of the contract?  Is ARod really worth that much?  He clearly offers amazing on-field production, but does he distract too much off the field?  Does he impact team chemistry?  If I were the Yankees, I’d let him go and take my chances.  Aaron Boone is available, isn’t he (joke).  The replacement options are limited, but Brian Cashman gets a chance to earn his pay with this one.

I’m guessing the Yankees will exercise the option on Abreu.  He isn’t worth $16m, but it’s only 1 year and makes sense.  He is a good hitter.

The pitching staff will lose Roger Clemens, but will have a bunch of guys around they probably don’t want around.  Carl Pavano is on the books for 2008, Keg Igawa is on the books, Mike Mussina is on the books and Kyle Farnsworth will be around.  The biggest possible losses are Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.  If Rivera doesn’t sign, this will be the most striking change to the Yankees (on field anyway).  Not having Rivera come in the game in late innings will just be…weird.

The challenge will be finding a role for Farnsworth, Mussina, Igawa and maybe Pavano if they cannot trade them.  Those could be ugly options if the new manager has to blend those guys in.  My guess is Farnsworth can be moved (with the Yankees paying a bunch of $), but the other 3 are ugly contracts.

The good news for New York is that they do have significant young talent to fill in the gaps created by the possible departures of Clemens, Pettitte and Rivera.  Philip Hughes will be in the rotation alongside Chien-Ming Wang, Ian Kennedy and perhaps another young arm.  This will be the most interesting thing to watch.  The Yankees are at a crossroads here.  They can rebuild from within and let young pitchers like Hughes, Kennedy, Tyler Clippard and Matt DeSalvo.  If they do that, it might mean a year off from contention, but this strategy has been known to surprise.  Giving your young guys pt is sometimes the best medicine.  The problem with that idea is that George Steinbrenner might not allow it.

I think the most excitement the Yankees will offer in 2008 will be Joba Chamberlain.  He came up and dominated major league hitters.  He can step in the role of closer, or if Rivera returns, he can be the primary set-up guy, or he can start as he only relieved full time once he was called up the majors.  Only his workload will hold him back in 2008.

The Yankees have clearly shown a willingness and desire to produce home grown talent.  But they’ve also spent freely in the free agent market in recent years.  I expect NY to try to bring along more talent, but probably continue to spend big on the free agent market.  Gammons also mentioned the Yankees immediately discussed (like 2 hours after they were eliminated) what they could send along with Wang to the Twins in exchange for Johan Santana, who would immediately become the highest paid pitcher in baseball.  So things will change a bit, but with the pressure from above, don’t expect the Yankees to become cheap.

Having talked about the Yankees so much, I’m now going to shower.  Unclean, unclean.