Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Former Yankees Moving On

Three huge acquisitions of this offseason are officially Yankees, following the announcement of Mark Teixeira's signing today. The event is likely to be one of the final shindigs for the good old ballpark in the Bronx.

Paralleling the move away from the past, word came today about three other big Yankees signings from recent winters. Jason Giambi is on the verge of a deal that will return him to Oakland for his twilight. Carl Pavano has reached agreement with Cleveland on an incentive-laden one-year deal. And Andy Pettitte has apparently formally rejected the Yankees $10 million one-year offer.

Oakland is looking formidable in the AL West with this announcement. Giambi was extraordinarily unlucky last season, based on typical rates of expected batting average on balls in play (xBABIP) and hit .247 in the process. A jump in average seems in order, and he did hit 32 home runs and knock in 96 runs for the Pinstripers last season. Along with right-handed slugger Matt Holliday, Giambi and the A's have the foundations of a formidable offense should this deal go through. Last year, hitting was their Achilles' heel, and despite my belief that Holliday's numbers are in line to sharply decline this season after leaving Denver, their pitchers should have more support. With the Angels weakened by the departures of Teixeira and Garret Anderson, and Brian Fuentes' replacement of Francisco Rodriguez, the A's will have a good chance to challenge for the crown.

With a rotation starting with Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook and now Pavano, the Indians have accumulated a serviceable front four. I would be shocked to see Lee repeat his numbers from last year, but he is a very good pitcher and I wouldn't be surprised to see a better season out of Carmona. The signings of Pavano and closer Kerry Wood, however, both scream injury. We shall see how Chief Wahoo's faithful feel about these moves when the contracts are finished. But Pavano's contract is relatively affordable, and forces him to pitch for the one thing he really seems to care about: cash. How good they will be hinges on Travis Hafner's and Victor Martinez's shoulders, as they simply can not hit without the presence of the two sluggers to support Grady Sizemore, one of the game's best.

Whether or not Pettitte is done in the Bronx will only be known when he signs his next deal or retires. Without him, the Yankees have plenty of eager youngsters who should produce at least one serviceable starter for next season and the future. Although one of them, Sergio Mitre, who I recently blogged about, is facing a 50-game drug suspension. It sounds like this case, and J.C. Romero's suspension, may largely be the fault of the players' union. They had informed the players that over-the-counter supplements bought in the US of A shouldn't give them any problems come pee time. Too bad, because this will give a lot of people the wrong idea about the two of them. Let's be honest, all professional athletes gobble down whatever supplements they can get their hands on without being burned. Telling them something is OK should absolve them of responsibility, on a basic logical level. But baseball wants to be tough to keep our Congress happy, so let them throw out the baby with the bath water and ignore circumstance, knowledge and intention.

It won't set Mitre back, really, because he was already going to miss the time with an injury. But the principle of the thing still stings.

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