"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 12/31/08

Last post of 2008 …. let’s go out with a bang!

  • Bob Klapisch wonders where the slowly declining Derek Jeter will end up once his current contract expires, especially now that Teixeira’s signing precludes the Captain’s shift to first:

Even while hitting an even .300 last year, Jeter’s power numbers plummeted toward career-lows. He bounced into 24 double plays last year, tops on the Yankees, and tied for fourth in the American League.

It’s possible he is about to enter his decline phase, which is the crux of the Yankees’ dilemma.

Until they signed Teixeira, it was a given that Jeter would get another deal in 2011 and that, as he pushed closer to 40, would shift to another position. First base would’ve been the most logical choice, given his sure hands.

But Teixeira now blocks Jeter’s transition, as does Jorge Posada’s inevitable conversion from catcher to DH. A-Rod has nine more years at third base. The Yankees seem committed to resurrecting Robinson Cano at second. If Jeter goes anywhere, it would have to be center field after Johnny Damon has moved on.

The easiest way out, of course, is if Jeter’s production stalls altogether; if he were to shrink to .265 or lower in his last two seasons, the Yankees could conceivably take the public relations hit and let the captain’s contract expire.

But Jeter isn’t likely to atrophy like that. Even without gap power, the captain will likely range between .275-.300, which will be enough for the Steinbrenner family to rationalize keeping him around.

Don’t forget, Jeter is 465 hits (approximately three seasons) shy of 3,000 for his career. It’s impossible to think the Yankees would let him achieve that historic goal anywhere else.

[My take: I believe I’ve asked this question around here before, but would Jeter volunteer to move to a different position, or would the Yanks have to pry shortstop from his cold, pastadiving hands?  I often wondered if, during the Tino Martinez (aka good-fielding 1B) years, if Jeter would be able to handle second base.  If the Yanks DO decide to deal Cano in the next year or so, would Jeter slide over?”]

  • Over at LoHud, Pete Abe does some math, and thinks the Yanks are still short in terms of starting pitchers innings  (targeting a minimum of 950 IP):

Put down CC Sabathia for 225 innings. It’s unreasonable to expect more than that. Put down A.J. Burnett for 190. Given his history, it’s hard to expect more. Figure Wang for 200. Chamberlain will be limited to around 140 or so.

That’s 755. So where are those extra 200 innings coming from? Team officials have said they’re ready to draw the line on spending and that Andy Pettite missed his chance. But the rotation is no place to suddenly get a financial conscience.

In theory, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Alfredo Aceves could give you those 200 innings. But that assumes the other four starters stay healthy and do what is expected. That’s a big assumption.

The Yankees don’t just need a No. 5 starter. They need a No. 6 and No. 7 starter. Joba will need a break. You don’t want to abuse Sabathia. Burnett is Burnett. Wang is coming off a serious injury.

  • At MLB.com, Fred Claire (yes, the former GM and executive VP of the Dodgers) writes that the Yanks were smart in going after the cream of this year’s crop of free agents, cause next year’s harvest is very thin:

It is a factor that the New York Yankees had to have in mind with they placed first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher CC Sabathia in the rather exclusive $100 million-plus club.

If you are looking for a star slugger or pitcher and planning on making your purchase after next season, you will not find a Teixeira or Sabathia on the list.

The only notable slugger on the list of players who figure to be free agents in one year, assuming they don’t sign long-term contracts prior to that time, is A’s outfielder Matt Holliday….

“I do think next year’s class of free agents is weaker,” says one general manager. “For that reason, I believe the Yankees and Red Sox pursued Teixeira with such a sense of purpose.”

  • Tom Verducci of SI.com has a nice remembrance of the night Josh Hamilton made Yankee Stadium his own little batting cage.
  • Verducci also gets his own Q&A on the impact of the Teixeira signing.  Here’s an excerpt:

Q. Can anyone beat them in 2009?

A. There’s one thing that would happen that would make them completely unbeatable and that would be if they ever got their act together with player development. If they could supplement their ability to develop players with their ability to buy players no one could touch them. They got Teixeira because they needed position players and part of the reason they got CC Sabathia is that in New York you can’t wait more than one year to find out if guys like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are answers. That would be really scary for the rest of baseball. They’ve tried to use their resources on the amateur market as well in terms of giving huge bonuses to guys like Andrew Brackman, who head right for surgery. Those risks haven’t really paid off, even on the international market. Everybody misses; no one’s really solved the eternal mystery of being able to project amateur players into being stars.

  • Looks like Bernie Williams might not be making the the Puerto Rican WBC team, after injuring a quad muscle while playing for the Carolina team down in Puerto Rico.
  • Headline of the Day, courtesy of Deadspin.
  • Esteban Loaiza turns 37 today.  The Yanks gave him 42.3 innings of work in 2004, and he allowed 87 baserunners, 9 homers, and served up an 8.50 ERA.

[My take: Take a look at the statistical aberration that was his 2003 season with the White Sox.  He had done nothing close to that prior to that point, and he’s doing nothing like it since.  Very odd.]

  • On this date in 1974, free agent Catfish Hunter, who posted a 25-12 record with the Oakland A’s, signs with the Yankees.  It ends an unprecedented bidding war.  He inks a five-year, $3.75 million dollar contract. This is triple the salary of any other major league player.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 Raf   ~  Dec 31, 2008 10:18 am

I think the Yanks have to pry Jeter off SS. If he didn't move for Rodriguez, a better shortstop in all aspects of the game, he isn't going to move for anyone.

As for Pete Abe, does he know about the arms in the minors? Anyway, whatever innings the starters don't throw will be made up by the bullpen. Don't discount the Yanks picking up a starter during the season either. Things really can't get worse than the past few years regarding SP innings, can they?

2 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 31, 2008 10:42 am

[1] Right on all counts. When the Yankees got A-Rod, Bernie was on the decline and it was the season before the Yankees picked up Johnny Damon. There was a movement in the blogosphere -- and Steven Goldman advocated this in his many posts at YES -- to have Jeter pull a Robin Yount and move to CF. We know how that turned out.

3 monkeypants   ~  Dec 31, 2008 10:45 am

[1] "If he didn’t move for Rodriguez, a better shortstop in all aspects of the game, he isn’t going to move for anyone."

Was he ever asked? Or is this simply a perpetuation of the unsubstantiated charge that Jeter was "too selfish" to move?

[0] Declaring the decline and fall of Jeter based on last year's numbers may be premature. He was hurt and yet still posted reasonable numbers (indeed, River Ave Blues ran a post yesterday pointing out that Jeter's relative value/cost was among the highest on the team). Last season may be the anomaly, and this year may see a return to something more along the lines of 2007.

On the other hand, if his numbers continue to dip, or even just remain the same, the we are probably looking at the end game.

This year is the important one for deciding what to do with Jeter, not last season.

4 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 31, 2008 10:47 am

Things really can’t get worse than the past few years regarding SP innings, can they?

Nothing good will come from... thaaat! >;)

5 ChrisS   ~  Dec 31, 2008 10:57 am

Declaring the decline and fall of Jeter based on last year’s numbers may be premature.

Yes, but speculating on what to do with a 35 yo SS and captain of the team when the inevitable happens is justifiable. Particularly after watching Bernie nose-dive and have to be pulled off the field.

I don't think anything will happen during this contract, but if the slow erosion of Jeter's skills continues or speeds up, that next contract negotiation could be, uh, interesting. I have no doubt the Yankees will reward Jeter for being the trouble-free face of the Yankees for 14 years, but I'm not sure they're going to roll over for him either. If he wants 4-5 years/$100 million, Cashman might balk. He could always get the George Brett treatment and just sign a "life-time" contract after this one expires. Then he slides into either management or vice-presidency of something.

6 monkeypants   ~  Dec 31, 2008 11:01 am

[5] Agreed.

7 Raf   ~  Dec 31, 2008 11:04 am

Was he ever asked? Or is this simply a perpetuation of the unsubstantiated charge that Jeter was “too selfish” to move?

The trade was made after Rodriguez agreed to move to 3b.

8 Joseph   ~  Dec 31, 2008 11:25 am

Meanwhile, it's a little early to speculate, but any ideas on who would replace Derek at ss? Free agents to be, trade possibilities, up and coming whiz kids in the minors?

9 Joseph   ~  Dec 31, 2008 11:30 am

Quick thought. We could make Florida an offer they couldn't refuse for Hanley Ramirez and snatch another player away that Boston covets. Heh.

10 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 31, 2008 11:43 am

[1] Exactly right on the young arms, Raf. The Yanks have boatloads of them, and more on the way. I'm not worried about the SP innings.

Since Jeter never did move to CF (sigh), I think he's a SS for life. Moving him to 1B was never an option, "sure hands" or no, because in his decline, he'll never hit enough to carry the position. Right now he won't hit enough to carry it, much less in 3 or 4 years.

On a related note, you know when a poor fielding SS doesn't matter much? When all your pitchers have great strikeout rates - or are extreme flyball pitchers - or both. And as of right now, I find only one guy on the staff who doesn't fall into either category (or both) - CM Wang. (I'm presuming Steven Jackson can keep getting Ks like he did last year, otherwise he's #2.)

Perhaps this is why the Yanks are not showing Wang more love? If they expect Jeter to still play SS regularly in 2013, I can't imagine having an extreme groundball/low K pitcher for tens of millions on the staff is a good idea.

11 Rich   ~  Dec 31, 2008 2:14 pm

I would suggest that the Yankees condition a new contract on Jeter's willingness to vacate the SS position to move to the OF. The discussion needs to take place after the upcoming season because it could affect how the Yankees configure their OF going forward as Damon, Matsui, and Nady's contracts (although I hope he is moved now) come off the books.

If Jeter continues to put up 102 OPS+ seasons like he did in 2008, I would only offer him a one year extension and go year to year from there. If he returns to being a 120 OPS+ hitter, I would give him a three year extension at the expiration of his current contract.

Of course, all of the foregoing is dependent on the Yankees acquiring a top defensive SS, one who could mitigate A-Rod's loss of range at 3B as he ages.

12 rbj   ~  Dec 31, 2008 2:33 pm

Wold Derek still have the legs for CF, or maybe put him in a corner spot.

Anyway, Happy New Year!

And let's get #27 in 2009.

13 Joel   ~  Dec 31, 2008 5:53 pm

This is what we're worrying about now,? Jeter in 2011? How about Cano's declining range in 2018?


14 jimmyh   ~  Dec 31, 2008 6:47 pm

I have to agree with Monkeypants. The way I heard it, Management made third base a condition
during A-Rod talks without consulting with Jetes. And regarding Jeter's decline, don't forget he was
off to a great start in 2008 until being hit in the hand, an injury which stayed with him most of the
season. Let's watch the Captain perform in 2009 before writing him off. You know he always gives
you his best.

15 Rich   ~  Dec 31, 2008 8:22 pm

[13] Jeter's declining range has been a problem that should have been addressed years ago (because winning should trump sensibilities). 2011 (or perhaps even 2010) merely offers the Yankees the leverage to finally address the issue.

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