AL East Hot Stove Preview (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday October 31, 2007 10:58AM; Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2007 11:00AM
I would still term this a "weak sell," because it implies that we're going to be cutting payroll back down to the $150 million range (see table below). But we're still going to have something between a very good team and a great team, and there will be plenty of personalities to keep fans and media engaged all season.
What They Will Do: Hold. This question is no easier to answer than the previous one. By "hold" I mean that the Yankees will not be willing to tolerate a rebuilding year -- they will set a target of about 95 wins, as they usually do. I do not mean that the Yankees will stand still, since they will necessarily need to shell out some money (or prospects) to replace A-Rod and company. But this is at best a speculative conclusion, which raises several related questions:
1) What will Hank & Hal Steinbrenner do, if they dictate the strategy?
The mishandling of the Joe Torre situation has Hank & Hal's fingerprints all over it, and it could lead one to a couple of different conclusions about their way of doing business. In particular, they are impatient, penny wise and pound foolish, and not particularly competent baseball men. That would imply the Yankees running around like headless chickens, in on the bidding on just about everyone, and sort of reverse-arbitraging their way to some bad decisions where the Winner's Curse kicks in.
2) What will Brian Cashman do, if he dictates the strategy?
In contrast to the "firing" of Joe Torre, the hiring of Joe Girardi looks more like Cashman's work. Don Mattingly's calling card was the continuity he implied. He was an internal hire with nearly as much stature within the organization as Torre, and he has a more deferential personality than Girardi. Mattingly was the business-as-usual hire. On the other hand, one could imagine him becoming crestfallen if the Yankees failed to meet expectations. Girardi, by contrast, has a reputation for working with young players, and under ambiguous objectives from the front office. That is more the hire to make if you're prepared to move on to Yankees v2.0, perhaps with 2008 serving as the beta test. This would imply that Cashman would prefer something more along the lines of my strategy.
3) Who is actually dictating the strategy?
I don't know, and since the situation has been so fluid, I don't know that anyone else does either. But one noteworthy factor is that Cashman is on the last year of his contract, which would suggest that he might need to be more concerned about keeping Hank & Hal happy than the long-term fitness of the organization.
4) Would the Hank & Hal strategy actually make the Yankees a better ballclub in 2008 than the Lies, Damned Lies strategy?
Perhaps not. Even with all the talent the Yankees have lost, the talent they still have on hand is relatively efficiently configured -- there are few redundant assets, and there are capable young players at the positions where they need them the most. So the risk is that Hank & Hal adopt a number of inefficient solutions, like re-upping Abreu when they could have Bonds or perhaps Adam Dunn for the same money, or signing Carlos Silva when he's actually a downgrade versus Ian Kennedy, or letting Rivera go, but replacing him with some mediocrity like Todd Jones. Even worse, they could trade away some premium young talent. With A-Rod crossed off their list, and Mike Lowell quite possibly not being available, talent at third base is very thin, and the Yankees will either have to be willing to go with a solution like Lamb/Betemit or will have to make some sort of trade. If Billy Beane pulls off some monster heist like Kennedy, Ramirez and Duncan for Eric Chavez, I would not be entirely surprised.