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Observations From Cooperstown: Beltran, Marte, and Game Six

Posted By Bruce Markusen On October 28, 2011 @ 2:24 pm In 1: Featured,Bruce Markusen,Hot Stove,Observations From Cooperstown,Staff,Yankees | Comments Disabled

[1]It’s been a quiet off-season so far for the Yankees, and for good reason. Teams are discouraged from making major announcements during the World Series. Free agents cannot declare until after the World Series. CC Sabathia has not yet exercised the opt-out clause in his contract, though he is expected to do so at some point.

It wasn’t until Thursday that I saw the first major rumor pop up, courtesy of ESPN’s Wally Matthews, who reports that the Yankees may replace Nick Swisher with free agent Carlos Beltran. If the Yankees sign Beltran, they’ll either decide not to pick up Swisher’s option (a bad idea) or they’ll pick up the option and then trade Swisher for some pitching help.

I’ve already made it clear that the Yankees should explore the possibility of trading Swisher, but I don’t agree with any plan to sign Beltran. That’s because Beltran is a Scot Boras client, and Boras is going to demand a three-year contract for his aging outfielder. Beltran is 34, running on surgically repaired legs, and will probably have to DH within the next season or two. The Yankees need to get younger, not older, and they need to commit as many DH at-bats as they can to Jesus Montero.

Beltran is a name brand player, possibly a Hall of Famer, but the Yankees should pursue someone who is younger and more versatile. Michael Cuddyer might be that player. He is three years younger than Beltran, can play the outfield and infield corners, and has a history of hitting in the postseason. He’s not as famous as Beltran, but he would be a much better fit for the 2012 Yankees.

If the Yankees don’t like Cuddyer, they will have other free agent options for right field. There’s Cuddyer’s Minnesota teammate, the lefty-swinging Jason Kubel, who is limited defensively but is only 29 and has more power than his 12 home runs indicate. (He’d also find Yankee Stadium to his liking.) Veterans David DeJesus, Cody Ross, and Josh Willingham will also be available, and at prices considerably cheaper than Beltran. I‘d explore all of them before committing three years and millions of dollars to a fragile Beltran…

***

The Yankees did make their first transaction of the off-season last week, though it was hardly of the blockbuster variety. As expected, the Yankees declined their $4 million option on lefty Damaso Marte, instead buying out his contract for $250,000. (It must be wonderful to be a major leaguer, receiving a quarter of a million dollars to do nothing.) Marte hardly pitched for the Yankees over the last two seasons–in fact, he didn’t pitch at all this season because of labrum surgery–so it’s hardly the same as losing Andy Pettitte to retirement.

Yet, I’ll always have good memories of Marte, if only because of what he did during the 2009 postseason. He faced 12 batters during that championship run, retiring all of them. Two of those batters came in the clinching Game Six of the World Series, when Marte struck out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on six pitches. That set the stage for Mariano Rivera to pitch the final two innings and finish off the Yankees’ 27th world championship.

For the most part, Marte was a bust as a Yankee. He made $12 million over the last three years, despite injury and ineffectiveness. But what he contributed in October of 2009 made it all worthwhile…

***

Last night’s Game Six was so reminiscent of the sixth game of the 1975 Fall Classic that the similarities are eerie. The Cardinals successfully played the role of the Red Sox, facing elimination on their home field. Like the Red Sox, the Cardinals had to come back from a late three-run deficit to earn the right to play a Game Seven.

David Freese decided to combine the roles of both Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk, first tying the game with an unlikely triple against the blazing Neftali Feliz and then ending the 11-inning marathon affair with a monstrous home run to center field. That put Mark Lowe in the unenviable role of Pat Darcy, a somewhat unfair predicament given that Ron Washington should never have pinch-hit for Scott Feldman in the top half of the 11th.

On two different occasions, the Rangers came within a strike of winning the first world championship in the history of the franchise. On both occasions, the lead slipped out of their pitchers’ hands, thanks in part to ex-Yankee Lance Berkman, who stalled the celebration with a clutch two-strike single to center field.

Rangers fans have had to wait 39 years to win a World Series. Now they will have to wait at least one more day.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.


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