30 Dec 2008
As we head into 2009, the Yankees have done the heavy lifting of their offseason, but they have some remaining concerns to address. Here are the reamining items on my "To Do" list.
1- Settle on a fifth starter. The key ingredient to me is innings, a guy who can pitch 180 innings would be perfect for this role. Is that Phil Hughes? Based on his history, absolutely not. Maybe it’s Randy Wolf, but he probably costs more than Pettitte. It could simply be a combination of Hughes, Aceves and Kennedy, that would be ok with me too. But, let’s pretend A.J. Burnett gets hurt (hard to do, I know) and Hughes is in the rotation already. Do you have enough depth when you consider that Hughes/Joba may need some rest along the way?
2- Find a real backup catcher. We can continually sing Jose Molina’s praises for defense, but he is an absolute zero with the bat. Let me rephrase that, in 2008 AL catchers hit .258/.322/.393 so Molina’s line of .216/.263/.313 is actually less than zero and the Yankees suffered through 268 AB’s of it. The Yankees can say that Posada’s shoulder is better all they want, but do they really know for sure until he plays in games? If you want to know why the Yankees were so bad on offense last year consider that 20% of their AB’s went to Molina, Melky, Moeller, I-Rod, Gardner, Ensberg and Duncan. Of those seven, Melky had the highest slugging % at .341 while Moeller took the OBP crown with a .311 mark. Which leads me to my last point…
3- Upgrade the bench. The Yankees have spent too many years neglecting the guys riding the pine. That has to stop now. Ideally, the Yankees will use the same lineup every day, but I would peg the chances of that happening at about 0%. Players are going to get hurt. Posada, as I mentioned above, is my chief worry, but Jeter is older. Matsui is coming off of an injury and most of the guys in the lineup are on the wrong side of 30. Other than Teixeira, Cano and whoever gets the nod in center, how many guys can the Yankees expect to play 155 games in the field? Not many at all and that is one of the reasons I would not quickly trade Swisher or Nady just yet. Having those guys on the team provides depth, now the Yankees need to find someone who can step in and play the middle infield. (And no, I just don’t but Cody Ransom as that guy)
4- Work on translating pitching depth in the minors into a more balanced approach. The Yankees have a lot of valuable arms at the top of their minor leagues, but apart from Austin Jackson, very few bats. Trading pitchers for hitters is usually a winning move, the Yankees should look into it.