The Yanks are in no hurry to close out the Mike Cameron deal. Ed Price writes:
The question for the Yankees is whether to spend $10 million on
Cameron — his salary in 2009 — or put that money to use for a better
hitter. If Andy Pettitte takes much longer to decide on the Yankees'
$10 million offer to return, that's $20 million the Yankees could spend
somewhere else — some on a lower-tier free-agent starting pitcher and
most on a hitter.
Mark Teixeira would be one choice, but according to the first person
above (who asked not to be named since he is not authorized to speak
for the Yankees), "They're throwing themselves into (that) sweepstakes,
but I don't think they're that into it."
Instead, the Pettitte/Cameron money could go toward Manny Ramirez.
That would strengthen the middle of the lineup enough that the Yankees
could afford to play Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera in center field.
And the Yankees could trade Hideki Matsui (who has no-trade protection)
or Xavier Nady to make room.
One other attraction in Ramirez is that his would be a shorter-term
contract that Teixeira's. And Ramirez, as of now, has a less
competitive market, so his price could be dropping.
There's a lot to talk about here. I am starting to wonder if there is even a compelling reason to actually bring Andy Pettitte back. He obviously is valuable, as Steve Lombardi expertly outlines in a post at WasWatching, but do the Yanks need him as a fifth starter? Should a number five be paid $10 million? Aren't there players in the system or on the scrap heap who can do a serviceable job for much cheaper? If he's supposed to be insurance against the innings that Burnett will not pitch in 2009, then why sign AJ to such a huge deal.
Meanwhile, the Yanks' current offense is dependent on come-backs from aging hitters and one free-swinging enigma. So I'm all for the Yanks going for one big bat, and if that means redirecting the $20 million they were planning on using on Cameron (who is an incremental improvement on Melky/Gardner) and Pettitte to picking up Teixeira or Manny, then so be it. Of course, it should come as no surprise that I think the Yanks should go for Mark Teixeira (whose nickname, by the way, should be "Tesh", not "Tex" as he will never play in Texas again and it is phonetically more appropriate and evokes the ultra-brilliant jingle for the NBA on NBC. Oh how I miss Charles Oakley's inscrutable face, Pat Riley's incessant gum-chewing, etc etc). The market for Manny isn't what it is for Teixeira for obvious reasons. Teixeira is more valuable. One of the main reasons for that is that Teixeira can actually field. Another reason are their relative ages. Finally, there's the whole thing that Manny should be a DH, so a team like the Yanks might want to avoid putting another DH on its team. But then again, Manny is a ridiculous hitter. Here's a list of his OPS+ for the last 5 years:
That 126 occurred during a season when Manny had issues with his fribullator meniscus exoskelitus in the knee or whatever it was. Maybe it was mental. Maybe his skills were in decline and then they stopped declining or what have you this season. Maybe he's not declining at all, although most 36 and 37 year-old decline. In any case, Manny is valuable. He can hit a ton. It wouldn't surprise me if he outhit Tesh for the next three years, and that is not meant as a knock on the future Oriole (fingers crossed!). It's also not meant to be part of some hypothetical future argument on this site about the relative values of the Yanks' signing of Manny versus Boston's signing of Teixeira (please, dear God, please do not let this happen!).
Additionally, one of the big knocks against signing Manny is that he is awful in the field. But fielding becomes less important for a team with a pitching staff that is designed to miss a lot of bats. By adding dominant strike-out guys this off-season, Cashman and company have made their team's crappy defense less of an issue. I think FIP, which we've heard a lot about recently in connection to AJ Burnett, starts out with the words "Fielding Independent". This pitching staff is all about fielding independence. Heck, throw Dave Kingman in left field. Make Steve Balboni and Ruben Sierra your keystone combo. Watch this pitching staff do its magic!
So maybe signing Manny isn't such a bad idea, especially if the years are limited to three.
But the big catch would be Mark Teixeira. Price writes that the Yanks are worried about the length of the committment and the added price. The difference in annual salary between a Manny and Teixeira contract probably won't be that big. What's a couple of million dollars per year to the Yanks? It's the length of the committment that's the issue for the Yanks. So this is what the Yanks should do. If the Yanks are cool with spending upwards of $60 million for Manny for the next three years (and, of course, who knows if this is the case. It's been heavily implied by professional speculators recently, such as Ed Price. As an amateur speculator, I might as well follow.), why not spend that money on Teixeira, who is more likely to be valuable to the Yanks than Manny, and then let him opt out at the end of three years? This is what I imagine Boras is whispering in Teixeira's ear right before they go to sleep at Boras Headquarters: "We need a player opt out. You think you can get a lot of money now, but think about in three years when the economy is out of the tank and even more teams are willing to spend."(Scott is not always honest, or maybe he's just always optimistic.)
The Yanks should swoop in and piss on the other teams' parades and offer the opt out that Boras yearns for. I only write this because the speculators seem to think that the Yanks are willing to go for Manny for a lot of money for short-term. If Teixeira plays according to his abilities for the next three years, he will opt out and the Yanks will have gotten the short-term contract they wanted. Of course, he could pull a Pavano and then…well that's why the Yanks won't do this. But for a team willing to gamble so much on Burnett, why not go for it again? Then again, maybe the team that is going to sign him not named the Yanks has already offered the opt out.
And now back to lesson-planning.