Diss Mantle? You don’t do that in Yankeeland!

Steve Goldman, writing for the New York Sun, is not sanguine about the Yanks in 2009. He thinks it’s time to dismantle the Bombers sooner than later:

The Yankees also have their trio of 34-year-olds who, to paraphrase
Casey Stengel, have a good chance of being 35 next year. Therein lies
the problem. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon have hit well when healthy,
while Derek Jeter
has had a season that has so far been disappointing by his own
standards, while falling short of outright disaster given the general
weakness of the shortstop position; AL
shortstops are hitting just .264/.316/.371, so Jeter is still an
offensive plus relative to the competition, even if he isn’t the MVP
candidate of old. The problem is that another year older means an even
greater likelihood of one, two, or all of these players disappointing
due to age-induced decline, injury, or both. Just ask Jorge Posada,
also under contract, about that. Nor will the defensive skills of these
three players, which currently range from questionable (Damon) to
tolerable (Jeter) to excused with a doctor’s note (Matsui), get any
sharper. The Yankees and top-flight defense have been estranged for a
long time, with the club currently ranking toward the bottom of the
majors (tied for 24th) in turning balls in play into outs. There won’t
be a reconciliation next year…

With next year’s pitching staff likely to be at least as unsettled as
the current edition, the Yankees are in a difficult spot. If baseball
teams don’t decide when to rebuild, the gods of baseball tend to decide
for them. There’s a penalty to holding on too long, to having the issue
forced: Your team might turn into the Baltimore Orioles (in the
Yankees’ case, Jeter standing in for the aging Cal Ripken). Hence, the
Yankees should be broken up now, by Brian Cashman, with the veterans
sent out of town by August 31 for the best offers available.

I can’t imagine that Goldman seriously thinks the Yanks can or will trade Derek Jeter. This probably deserves it own post, but the political (for lack of a better word) conditions for such a deal are not there. You might argue that this shows the Yanks lack the boldness of the Sox, who first sent Nomar packing and then Manny, but I’d argue there are differences in each player’s situation. Again, that’s a whole other discussion.

But Goldman’s point, which he doesn’t flesh out due probably to column-space issues, is interesting. If the Yanks sign Teixeira and Sabathia, and keep vets like Matsui and Damon on board, is the resulting team good enough to make the post-season? I’m not so optimistic. This is because there is a team called the Rays, and they’re probably going to be better next year. That’s scary because there’s also a team called the Red Sox, who will probably remain elite in 2009. In other words, to be good, even very good, might not be enough next season. That’s not to say the Yanks shouldn’t sign Sabathia and Teixeira. Those players actually will help the team in the long run. But Damon and Hideki are likely gone after 2009 (or, at least, they should be). Shouldn’t Cashman try to get young talent for those types of players, if indeed 2009 is going to be another 2008?

27 comments… add one
  • I’d keep Jeter–he’s having a poor year by his standards, but he’s still better than most alternatives that are available. Damon and Matsui have to go though.

    Atheose August 21, 2008, 10:48 am
  • Keeping or trading Jeter is not even up for discussion because he’s Derek Jeter. But, yes, I do think it might be a good idea to trade Damon and Matsui sooner than later.

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 10:49 am
  • The issue with Jeter (or any aging player) isn’t that they can’t play up to their old standards, it’s the extent of time over which they can do this, which usually regresses. Injury and age might mean that Jeter can only play up to his previous abilities for a shorter portion of the season. His recovery time may lag, his injuries may have cascading effects. So for periods (or in a big picture) he may look like the same player, but he may be doing it for .8, .7 (or whatever percentage) of the number of games that he used to do it for. The issue for Jeter, like this year, will primarily be durability. I am not sure the Yankees can contingency plan the SS position around speculation about how many games Derek may or may not play at full strength over the next couple of years. He’s an icon, he’s an above-average shortstop overall, and he’s staying, no matter the cost and no matter the decline.

    SF August 21, 2008, 11:17 am
  • at least it was good to see someone actually utilize newer fielding metrics (turning batted balls into outs) vs. errors. Would be nice to start looking at defensive efficiency instead of errors (I’m looking at you Remdog).

    dw (sf) August 21, 2008, 11:21 am
  • Wouldn’t the best contingency plan for Jeter be (1) get a strong backup corner-infielder, and then (2) have A-Rod sub at short when Jeter needs a break?
    It makes no sense to bring in a lame-hitting backup SS, when the Yankees have the best-hitting shortstop in major league history … playing at 3B.
    The Sox have played a similar strategy to excellent effect: Rather than backing Lowell up with what would have been a weak-hitting 3B, they essentially backed him up with Youk and a heavy-hitting dedicated 1B, Sean Casey.

    Adam (SF) August 21, 2008, 11:25 am
  • the problem, Adam, is that converting A-Rod back to SS will be a difficult process. He’s aging as well, not as quick in the field, and likely not going to be very strong out there. Plus, the media shit storm that would ensure is probably something Yanks management wants to avoid.

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 11:28 am
  • Adam, A-Rod hasn’t played SS in four years, by next year it will be five, and if Jeter doesn’t really decline until 2010 it will be six. It’s not realistic to think he can just slide back to the more demanding position, and remember that A-Rod isn’t getting younger either. An important factor in A-Rod’s ten year deal has to have been the fact that he isn’t playing shortstop any longer. I can’t imagine the Yankees would risk playing A-Rod at short for any games beyond an absolute emergency at this point.

    SF August 21, 2008, 11:31 am
  • I love that article. Amen brother! Time to blow it up…worked pretty well for the Sox in ’05, right?
    It seems that management has been holding onto all these minor leaguers for the last few years and bragging about how deep we are…well, lets see it!

    krueg August 21, 2008, 11:31 am
  • A few quick responses on the “A-Rod hasn’t played SS in four years” thought:
    1. Actually it looks more like three years, as he played it as recently as 2005.
    2. I dare say that a rusty A-Rod at shortstop would not likely be any less competent in the field than Jeter is.
    3. A-Rod’s got all winter to work on it. What’s he going to do, practice hitting? I dare say he could skip some BP and still maintain his pace.
    4. Again, keep in mind the opportunity cost: If Jeter’s goes done, what’s better for the team: A-Rod at short and an average 3B backup, or A-Rod at 3B and an average SS backup? I’d say that the call’s not even close.

    Adam August 21, 2008, 12:42 pm
  • Also keep in mind that if wear-and-tear on A-Rod is the worry, a post-Giambi/Matsui Yanks team would have much more flexibility at the DH slot. A-Rod needn’t play every day in the field — especially if the Yanks were to focus on finding a backup 3B instead of a backup SS.

    Adam August 21, 2008, 12:44 pm
  • “Damon and Matsui have to go though.”
    I really dont think this is true at all. These guys have both hit when they’ve been healthy and Damon has been one of the most productive guys on the team. The options for replacing them this off-season are very limited and the yankees have their hands full filling the many other holes that free agent turn over will create this season. Its nice to have some returning players who can produce. I could see trading one of them for something that helps next year’s team but certainly not both….

    Sam-YF August 21, 2008, 1:00 pm
  • “1. Actually it looks more like three years, as he played it as recently as 2005.”
    In 2005, ARod played in 3 games at SS making 1 putout and 2 assists
    In 2004, he played in 2 games at SS making 1 putout and 1 assist.
    I think its safe to say that ARod hasnt played SS in 5 years.

    Sam-YF August 21, 2008, 1:04 pm
  • “Your team might turn into the Baltimore Orioles (in the Yankees’ case, Jeter standing in for the aging Cal Ripken). Hence, the Yankees should be broken up now, by Brian Cashman, with the veterans sent out of town by August 31 for the best offers available.”
    With all of the Yankees issues, why is everyone (no, not you Nick) focused on the play of Jeter? He is not teflon by any means so don’t give me that nonsense, but is Jeter really the reason why the Yankees are in 3rd place?

    John - YF August 21, 2008, 1:13 pm
  • with the veterans sent out of town by August 31 for the best offers available.
    Is this really what’s best for the team, to dump guys in waiver deals where you get less on the dollar than even at the non-waiver trading deadline? How is this wise business practice, to unload assets (and despite the players’ age and potential downside they are, in the end, assets) in a disadvantageous position? I think this is a foolish recommendation, to trade these guys post-nonwaiver trade deadline en masse.
    As a matter of opinion, I hardly think that the Orioles holding on to Ripken is what has doomed the Orioles.

    SF August 21, 2008, 1:25 pm
  • The biggest issue if you tried to trade Jeter – which you won’t – would be his contract. He’s still owed $20M in 2009 and $21M in 2010, and whatever you may think of him, he’s not worth that kind of money anymore. I can’t imagine the Yankees would ship him out of town at all, but it becomes even more implausible when you think of the amount of the contract they’d have to eat.
    The bigger question for me is what happens when Jeter’s contract runs out. At that point, he’ll be 36 going on 37 and coming off a year in which he made $21M – how much of a pay cut is he going to be willing to take? On the other hand, the Yankees will be well established in their new stadium and probably sitting on chairs made of $100 bills, so it may not matter.

    Micah-SF August 21, 2008, 1:46 pm
  • What about this off-season, SF? I do agree with waiver wire deals by their very nature are basically salary dumps which yield little talent in return, but there are probably a few teams that wouldn’t mind adding a Damon or Matsui in the last years of their contract if they felt they needed a corner outfield bat. Take the Mets for instance.

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 1:48 pm
  • I could see the Mets make a push for Abreu. They could get him for $ rather than have to part with picks. I think the Mets would be an ideal fit for Abreu.
    SF, I agree with what you said above about the Orioles. Their issues were much deeper than Cal Ripken. Their poor farm system and oddball owner could have had a much bigger role than Ripken.

    John - YF August 21, 2008, 1:55 pm
  • Obviously there is no harm in the Yankees putting these guys on waivers, seeing what they can get. Is there any way to know they haven’t done this? But I can’t imagine the Yankees helping the Mets to a title, forget what the return might be. That, conversely, would be bad business by the Yankees, to exclude the Mets simply because of geography — if the Mets want to overpay the Yankees should be willing to get paid. It would be a ballsy, creative move, if the offers were good, but I don’t see it ever happening because of the potential fallout locally.
    As for the offseason? Why not put these guys out on the market? I am of the opinion that teams should listen to offers for any player on their roster, regardless of who it might be.

    SF August 21, 2008, 1:57 pm
  • The above was cross-posted with John, and my skepticism about the Mets and Yankees dealing remains (nothing is impossible, of course) but I have a question for the YFs at this site:
    What would happen if the Mets acquired Abreu from the Yanks for very little but money, and that brought the Mets a championship? What would the feelings be? What would the Yankee front office face from the fanbase?
    I can only assume it would be dissonant, but I am curious to know what you all think.

    SF August 21, 2008, 1:59 pm
  • re: Jeter at the end of his contract – isn’t that a similar situation the sox are facing with Varitek at the end of this season?

    dw (sf) August 21, 2008, 2:01 pm
  • myself? I’m not a fan of salary dumping on the part of the Yanks. In this case, Abreu is a free agent at the end of the season who might yield the team a draft pick. But an end-of-the-year salary dump by a team that charges as much as it does for tix? Not acceptable.

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 2:03 pm
  • The Mets thing, however, wouldn’t bother me, but that’s partly because I like the Mets for the most part.

    Nick-YF August 21, 2008, 2:05 pm
  • “re: Jeter at the end of his contract – isn’t that a similar situation the sox are facing with Varitek at the end of this season?”
    Let’s not get carried away here!

    John - YF August 21, 2008, 2:14 pm
  • I could care less if the Mets win a ring…as long as Fat Bobby is gone, color krueg happy.

    krueg August 21, 2008, 2:14 pm
  • re: Jeter at the end of his contract – isn’t that a similar situation the sox are facing with Varitek at the end of this season?
    one can only dream that this will be the case…

    SF August 21, 2008, 2:29 pm
  • Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon have hit well when healthy, while Derek Jeter has had a season that has so far been disappointing by his own standards, while falling short of outright disaster given the general weakness of the shortstop position; AL shortstops are hitting just .264/.316/.371, so Jeter is still an offensive plus relative to the competition, even if he isn’t the MVP candidate of old.
    Rule of thumb: The longer the sentence, the less sure the writer is of what he’s writing. And that is one long sentence. Four clauses set off by commas, a semicolon AND a colon. Impressive!

    Paul SF August 21, 2008, 11:22 pm
  • i guess you’re joking/being sarcastic paul, but just in case, i don’t agree completely with your “rule of thumb”…i assume it’s yours, because over time we’ve certainly seen more fluid, well constructed, and grammatically sound writings from folks who weren’t sure of what they were writing, some of it right here at yfsf……hard to argue with his opinion of jeter, but his comment that matsui and damon “have hit well when healthy” seems like a classic “no-duh”-moment…

    dc August 22, 2008, 8:38 am

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