Free Agency Report, American League, Part VI
We’re back, with the next leg of our free agent Odyssey, today checking out the situation of one of baseball biggest disappointments in 2008 — the Yanks. Previous parts can be found here: Part I, II, III, IV and V.
New York Yankees
Most teams would be ecstatic over an 89-win season, but the Yankees are not most teams. In fact, that represents the Pinstripers’ lowest win total since 2000, but more disturbingly spelled the end of a streak of playoff appearances that began way back in 1995.
On that note, a season of change is upon New York. There are plenty of strengths to build on – led by stalwarts Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon, this lineup remains among the most patient in the game.
But the Yanks are in serious need of a retooling of their pitching staff after a season in which they ranked eighth in the AL in ERA, BAA, WHIP and quality starts. Ian Kennedy was a disaster, Kei Igawa obviously is not a major league pitcher and Carl Pavano was a joke. The fact that steady Mike Mussina is calling it a career hurts even more, making the targeted acquisition of C.C. Sabathia all the more important for the Bronx Bombers.
One thing is certain – with eight free agents (the Yanks have already re-signed reliever Damaso Marte), including several key players, this team will have a very different feel come 2009.
Bobby Abreu, OF: Abreu enjoyed a solid bounce back season after his numbers slipped in his first full season in New York in 2007. His pop returned somewhat, and he remains an extremely productive player who should generate plenty of interest, especially given that beyond Manny Ramirez, there are no elite outfielders on the market. Abreu is definitely among the top 10 free agents of this year’s class, but one possible destination we can cross off his list is Philly – can you see him wanting to go back or the Phils wanting to bring him back, assuming they don’t re-sign Pat Burrell? Abreu would like to stay in the Big Apple, but unless he accepts arbitration, he’ll probably be headed elsewhere. The Mets and Cubs would among the top suitors if Abreu cuts his ties with the Yanks.
Jason Giambi, 1B: Not only did Giambi stay relatively healthy for the first time in a half decade, he bounced back very nicely after a disastrous 2007 season. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a defensive liability, and now that the Yanks have added Nick Swisher and declined their 2009 option on Giambi, he will likely have to find a new home. He remains an extremely patient hitter, and could draw interest from a team like Toronto that needs to add some pop to its lineup.
Chad Moeller, C: Moeller enjoyed his finest season since 2003, but with less than 100 at bats to his credit, who cares? No doubt he’ll wind up yet again as someone’s number two or three catcher. Yawn.
Mike Mussina, RHP: Assuming the Moose is done, and all indications are that he won’t pull a Roger Clemens or Andy Pettitte here, then what a great way to go out, on the heels of his first ever 20-win season. The final tally for Mussina is 270 wins, 2,813 strikeouts and a 3.68 ERA. He currently ranks 19th all-time in strikeouts, 22nd in K/9, 33rd in starts and is tied for 33rd in wins. Hall of Fame-worthy? Let the debate begin.
Carl Pavano, RHP: Pavano again showed no hint that he’s past the litany of injuries that have turned his Yankee tenure into a ridiculously overpriced farce. Nine wins for over $40 million? Yikes! Still, you know some team will throw an incentive-rich deal at him in the hopes he can rediscover the form that made him an 18-game winner in 2004. Toronto could make a bid; so could Milwaukee. Cleveland will also be looking to add an inexpensive veteran starter and there’s talk that Pavano would like to return to Florida, where he enjoyed more success than anywhere.
Andy Pettitte, LHP: Despite improving his control and upping his Ks, Pettitte is coming off one of his worst seasons. The reason? The veteran southpaw allowed opposing batters to hit a career-worst .290. The result was a career-high 14 losses. Pettitte, a Type A free agent, will assumedly re-sign with the Yanks, but it’s not carved in stone. Certainly, the retirement of Mussina would force the Yankees’ hands, but New York still wants Pettitte to take a cut in pay. Will he be amenable to that? Of course, with the Moose gone, GM Brian Cashman may be forced to back down from that stance. I suspect there will be some drama here before it’s all said and done.
Sidney Ponson, RHP: Ponson actually pitched well with the Rangers to start the season, but he wore out his welcome and was waived. The Yanks, desperate for starting pitching, inked him, and he was awful in 15 starts in Pinstripes. Scary concept: Ponson allowed opponents to hit .311 against him last season, which actually represented an improvement of 24 points from 2007. Don’t look for the Yankees to re-sign him; maybe Texas will? Ya….riiiiiiiiiiight.
Ivan Rodriguez, C: I-Rod is another veteran that looked like he was enjoying a renaissance – until the Yankees acquired him that is. When Jorge Posada underwent season-ending surgery, New York brought in Pudge, who had been hitting very with the Tigers, even if his power had continued to wane. Once in the Big Apple, Rodriguez never looked worse offensively. A Type B free agent, I-Rod could draw interest from New York’s other team, and if Boston and Jason Varitek part ways, the BoSox could look to bring in another Pudge.
Next: We’ll head out West and check out the free agent situation in Oakland and Seattle.