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Yankee Panky: CC, LeBron, and a Hot Stove that’s pre-heated

Separating truth from rumor during the baseball season is difficult enough, but during the hot stove season, it’s easy to get burned if you don’t view everything you read with a skeptical eye. We know the deal: the rumor-mongering is intended to sell papers, conjure arguments on talk radio, and stir conversation and commentary on blogs like this to keep baseball relevant in a town where both NFL teams are in first place and the Knicks look like an actual professional basketball team for the first time in six years.

Speaking of rumors, we knew the Yankees, with their financial clout and now $32 million to work with (I like Cliff Corcoran’s conservative accounting), would be big players in this winter’s free agent market. The past 30 hours or so have seen one constant in the CC Sabathia Sweepstakes: the Yankees are the highest — and only — bidder to date.

Not long after our Diane Firstman gave the skinny on the landscape’s analysis of the record offer made to the 6-foot-7, 290-pound southpaw, which included a quote from a Yankees official who welcomed the Mets’ inclusion in the mix, Newsday’s David Lennon reported that the Mets put the XX on CC. Joel Sherman wasn’t as definitive in this blog post, but he did not discount the Mets as a player, if for no other reason than to jack up the price for the Yankees.

What no one needs to see as it relates to CC Sabathia are stories like this. LeBron James is a Yankee fan. He’s friends with Sabathia, who until mid-summer spent his entire career in Cleveland. But do we, and should we, care what James has to say on this issue? In James’ defense, I believe this is more of an indictment of the Cleveland reporter who felt compelled to ask the question more than it is on James, who could face a similar free-agent dilemma next summer. James could opt out of the remaining two years of his contract in July and go to the highest bidder, which according to the aforementioned report, is expected to be either the Knicks or the New Jersey Nets. But if you’re the Cleveland scribe, why create a mess now? Haven’t those fans suffered for long enough? As a former reporter, I’m embarrassed. Maybe I’d have used that question as an icebreaker for an off-the-record situation, but that’s it. No way do you go to press with that.

As for additional reporting, some interesting notes from Yankees Hot Stove, which aired Thursday night on YES (video clips available at YESNetwork.com):

• On the topic of Sabathia, Times beat man Tyler Kepner intimated that CC would be leaving tens of millions on the table if he rejected the Yankees to sign with either the Angels or Giants. The Post’s Kevin Kernan countered that if Sabathia does shun the extra cash, he wouldn’t be making too many friends within the MLBPA.

My take: I can’t see the union blocking a deal based on money unless it involves Alex Rodriguez.

• Kernan praised the fact that Sabathia talks to the media on the day he pitches.

My take: The Yankees have had a long-standing rule preventing starting pitchers from speaking to the press on the day before their scheduled starts and before the game on the day of, so I don’t know if he’d be able to continue this practice if he signed with the Yanks.

• Kepner suggested that the acquisition of Nick Swisher does not prevent the Yankees from being players in the Mark Teixeira bonanza. Unlike Sherman, who in the blog linked above opined that in order to protect payroll, the Yankees would not sign both Sabathia and Teixeira this offseason, Kepner said deep pockets could, and should, put the Yankees in the lead for Teixeira.

“They (the Yankees) gave a seven-year deal to Jason Giambi, who had a lot more negatives going into that deal than Teixeira … and Giambi was very productive in five of those seven years,” Kepner said.

Kepner thinks big bucks (no whammys), and seven or eight years, will do it. A 10-year, $200 million offer, “I wouldn’t do it,” Kepner said.

My take: I’ve liked Big Tex ever since I saw him as a freshman third baseman at Georgia Tech. Signing him allows the Yankees to deal Xavier Nady, Johnny Damon, or Hideki Matsui, leave Bob K. Abreu alone, and make Nick Swisher the everyday right or left fielder. Oh by the way, doing that makes the Yankees younger in the outfield also. With Jeter turning 35 next year, A-Rod turning 34, and Jorge Posada turning 38, it’s time for the Yankees to consider who can and will be the building blocks of the franchise for the next several years. Teixeira is worth it, and so is Sabathia.

• Kepner and Kernan agreed that Brett Gardner should be the starting center fielder next year.

My take: Four years ago, a similar discussion involving a young, scrappy, light-hitting potential starting center fielder was had. For several weeks, Brian Cashman said Bubba Crosby would be the starting center fielder in 2005. What did the Yankees do? They signed Johnny Damon, then 32 years old, to a four-year, $52 million deal shortly before Christmas. With all the talk surrounding Mike Cameron and the strange support in the local media regarding his possible acquisition — it’s mainly because of his .986 career fielding in center — I don’t see Gardner being anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder in ’09. An archived piece from Filip Bondy of the Daily News, written as a reaction to Brian Cashman’s contract extension, provides more insight.

• A consensus between Kepner and Kernan: Phil Coke should be in the bullpen, giving the Yankees a formidable lefty duo with Damaso Marte.

My take: It’s the smart thing to do. Now if only there were some righties not named Rivera who could reliably get batters out.

Some other notes …

Ken Rosenthal reports that with the Braves now out of the mix for Jake Peavy, the Yankees could be a possibility. MLB.com picked up on the story as well.

“I look back at those four years with the Yankees, it was exhausting. But if I was healthy, no doubt about it, the team would have benefited and I would have benefited.”
— Carl Pavano, from the 11/12 edition of the Palm Beach Post

Awfully tough to follow that. Until next week …


1 Max   ~  Nov 16, 2008 12:07 pm

The LeBron story was a bit goofy, but I don't blame the reporter from running with it once he had a mildly juicy quote. I think LeBron at this point doesn't feel like he needs to filter what he says regarding his Yankees fan status -- maybe he even has some fun with it knowing it gets the locals all worked up.

This kind of story runs -- just as it does in other markets filled with neurotic fans like Boston, Philly, etc -- because it gets a reaction. Playing to the extreme insecurities of Cleveland fans with an angle involving two great players (one currently in a Cleveland uniform, the other recently departed) with money talk constantly surrounding them would be hard to resist for any media outlet, as superficial as the story is.

2 Will Weiss   ~  Nov 16, 2008 12:36 pm

[1] You're absolutely right in your assessment, Max. I just dislike that whole line of reporting, etc., in the same way I dislike all the attention paid to A-Rod and Madonna hooking up.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 16, 2008 2:24 pm

Agreed. Stories like that annoy me a lot, but given the state of affairs for teams in Cleveland, it's not unexpected; the economics of journalism prevail.

I am a little less supportive of a Tex signing when I consider the possible convergence of aging players and arriving talent at 1B may be closer than the end of Tex's contract. I said before that Tex would have better options than what the Yanks' needs could reasonably justify; if Jesus Montero is being projected at 1B and Austin Romaine at catcher, while you also have Posada, Jeter (and maybe Alex) coming closer to moving over, landing Tex for more than 4 years would bring us right back to where we started. I doubt Tex signs for four years under any circumstances. Would be nice as I implied in an earlier comment, but realistically, he's probably signing back with the Angels.

4 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 16, 2008 2:59 pm

Tex is 29? How about 4/$100m, making him the highest AAV aside from ARod. Or 5/$120m?

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