Is The Stove On?

So far the Hot Stove has been nothing like its name. We are three weeks into the offseason and apart from a couple of free agent signings, we have very, very little to get excited about. The newspapers seem intent on creating/reporting a Jeter-Yankees feud, but other than that, crickets.

Well, part of that will change a bit tomorrow when teams have to make their arbitration decisions. Once players can no longer be offered arbitration, it should get some free agents signing deals. For the Yankees, six players qualify. Three are obviously not going to be offered arbitration- Kerry Wood, Javier Vazquez and Lance Berkman. The other three should be locks to receive offers, but with the Yankees you never know. Those three are the “Big 3″, Pettitte, Jeter and Rivera.

Of those three, offering arbitration to Jeter makes the most sense. If he accepted, and there is little reason to think he would, he would be “signed” to a one-year deal. Yes, he would earn at least as much and possibly more than he did in 2010, but the Yankees would not have to lay out a three-year deal and that is worth the risk of acceptance. Plus, by offering it to Jeter, you would force another team interested in him to surrender draft picks if they did.

With Rivera, I think the thinking should be the same. Mo reportedly wants two years, but the Yankees would be much better served getting him for one year. Arbitration would do that, so why not offer it to Mo?

Now Andy Pettitte swears he is either retiring or playing for the Yankees. I guess you can take him at his word, but the Yankees were certainly burned by Roger Clemens after the 2003 season. Perhaps they should consider that and offer him arbitration, but I bet they don’t.

Beyond the arbitration decisions, the Yankees have made a couple of minor moves. They traded Juan Miranda for Scott Allen and they added Betances, Pope and Laird to their 40-man roster.

The Miranda trade seems to me to be a case of waiting too long. Miranda put up almost the same numbers in AAA in 2010 as he did in 2009. The problem is, he didn’t do much in his brief stints in the bigs and that hurt his value. Once the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, Miranda became a luxury and they should have traded him. Kudos for getting an arm who might develop, but I bet they would have received a lot more if they had acted sooner.

As for the 40-man additions, nothing too surprising there, but the Yankees are making a HUGE mistake if they think Brandon Laird is the answer to their utility needs in 2011. Laird had a great year in AA in 2010, but he struggled in AAA and he really struggled in the Arizona League where everyone hits. But, the fact that he hit .291/.355/.523 in AA, playing 1/2 his games in Trenton makes him a legitimate prospect. The Yankees would be smart to let him start the year in AAA and get at least 1/2 a season of AB’s down there. If he can find his bat again and play a passable corner outfield to go with his abilities at first and third, the Yankees will really have something.

I’ll check in tomorrow as we hear the arbitration decisions and of course if other news breaks. Just a reminder, I call Brian Cashman “The Silent Assassin” because of his penchant for making moves no one is talking about. Perhaps a surprise in our future?