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Short Order Sheff

The Yankees have until midnight on Sunday to make a decision on Gary Sheffield’s $13 million option for 2007. As Alex previously reported, Brian Cashman’s plan has been to pick up Sheffield’s option, but only after finding a team willing to trade for Sheffield and assume his entire salary. Sheffield caught wind of this plan last week and was predictably upset (if there’s one thing Gary won’t stand for it’s the lack of a long-term contract).

Sheffield’s public outburst, in which he said “there’s going to be a problem” if the Yankees pick up his option and then trade him, appeared to endanger Cashman’s plans. But, as the final paragraph of this extended version of the AP story above indicates, the possibility of obtaining Gary Sheffield at one year/$13 million in lieu of shelling out a Beltran-like nine figures over seven years for an over-30 Alfonso Soriano has generated a great deal of interest around the league. According to today’s Newsday, a trade is still the most likely scenario to result from Sunday’s deadline. That Newsday story cited an unnamed AL official as saying that Cashman is looking for “a package of prospects, bullpen help or a starting pitcher” in return for the surly 38-year-old right fielder who is coming off a soft tissue injury to the left wrist which generates a great deal of the power in his swing.

Here’s hoping it works out. The Yankees already have outfielders Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and the major league-ready Kevin Thompson and Kevin Reese under contract for 2007. What’s more, they will likely need that $13 million to help improve their starting pitching. They have no need for Sheffield, who in addition to his age, injury and attitude, proved to be an awful defensive first baseman (though his transition did occur under far from optimal conditions). Despite all of that, Sheffield remains a valuable asset. Cashman’s plan, if successful, will turn Sheffield’s redundant value into more beneficial assets for the ballclub, yet another sign that the Yankees’ decision making is headed in the right direction.

As for the other two option decisions the Yankees have to make, they’ll have until a week from Sunday (Nov. 12) to decide whether or not it’s worth an extra $3 million to keep Jaret Wright around (his buyout is a whopping $4 million). The deadline on Mike Mussina’s $17 million option is the following Wednesday (Nov. 15). I assume the Yanks will opt to buyout Mussina for $1.5 million. The only suspense there is whether or not they’ll work out a new, less expensive two-year deal with Moose by that deadline, or if they’ll wait and bid on him along with the other 29 teams as the offseason progresses. My guess is the former, given their failure to retain Jon Leiber under similar circumstances two years ago. That is, of course, if Moose is amenable to their offer.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver