The Yankees have been slipping and sliding for the last week and a half and just completed a brutal road trip that saw them lose seven of 10 games, including two of three against the Twins, a team they trail in the wild card race. On top of all that their injury woes got even worse, and now country boy phenom, Joba Chamberlain, who had been pitching pretty, pretty good as of late, is on the disabled list. He joins the ranks with Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Chien Ming-Wang. To say the least, the road trip was a discouraging stretch for a team that had just come off winning two out of three over the Angels at home, and looked positioned to make their familiar push into the playoffs. Seriously, the playoffs and the Yankees have become synonomous in this decade. The team hasn't missed postseason play since 1993.
But if the Yankees shrug this season off as an anomaly that was simply caused by a rash of injuries, they are sorely mistaken. Quite frankly, the team as it is constituted now is no longer a pennant contending squad. Almost every regular in the lineup is past his prime or underperforming to a certain degree. And it isn't like the other teams in the AL East haven't suffered injuries of their own. The Rays recently lost Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria from a lineup that was already lacking some pop to it. Hell, the Rays are so desperate right now, Rocco Baldelli, who may be the unluckiest and therefore unhealhiest man alive, is getting regular playing time and even batting cleanup on some nights. The Red Sox have been without Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Mike Lowell, and Julio Lugo for extended periods of time as well.
The powers that be in the Yankee organization are likely pointing to the $75 million that comes off its payroll after the season since the contracts of Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Rodriguez, and Latroy Hawkins come off the books once this season ends.
Brian Cashman (who by the way should have entrance music. I think it would be perfect to just use that Beatles song "Taxman" and just superimpose someone going "Cashman" instead)
This works out pretty nicely with players like C.C. Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, and Adam Dunn entering the free agent market this winter. Still, though, look at the laundry list of players the Yankees will need to replace. In today's New York Sun, Tim Marchman says the Yanks may not be able to improve themselves as much as they may think:
As much money as ($75 million) is, it has to replace a lot — no. 3 and no. 5 hitters, no. 2 and no. 3 starters, and a guy who once spent several months on the disabled list with a strained butt (Pavano). Say the Yankees signed Sabathia for $25 million and Teixeira for $20 million. Say they also picked up Damaso Marte's $6 million option and signed Chicago reliever Bob Howry or some equivalent pitcher for $6 million to help stabilize the young bullpen, and finagled Mussina into coming back for $11 million. That would leave the team short an outfielder, with no regular designated hitter, and just $8 million left to spend on the bench — none of which takes into account the chance that Jorge Posada may not be able to catch next year.
You can play these scenarios out any way you like, but any way you do it, you bump up against limits quickly. Signing Sabathia, Mussina, Abreu, Marte, Howry, and Frank Thomas, for instance, would fill all the holes, at least if you moved an outfielder to first base. It would also come to something like $72 million, leave nearly nothing for the bench or contingencies, and leave the team worse off than they are this year, given the effects of aging.
The simple solution to all of this is for the Yankees disappointing young guns (Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano to a lesser extent) stepped up and became inexpensive void fillers. But none of them, especially Kennedy, Hughes, and Cabrera, have shown anything remotely close to the skills necessary to become big time contributors to this team. The bottom line is that the 2008 Yanks aren't going to be able to right themselves simply by shoving money in people's faces.
Now, if they would like to hire me as an outside consultant or better yet, their cleanup hitter, I respond very positively to money being put in front of my face.