Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Crazy Fantasy GM

It seems everyone is qualified to be a GM, and has “the solution” to the Yankees woes. Ship Player A and Prospect B to non-contending Team C for Player D, who will surely shore up our defense/bullpen/starting rotation.

Of course, the glaring problem with these fantasy GM moves are that a) certain teams (Marlins, Giants) are very ambiguous at this point as to their players’ availability, b) no one knows exactly who the Yanks are willing to dish and c) other teams may want to pounce on the same player.

ESPN’s Peter Gammons penned an interesting piece about the lack of willingness of teams to part ways with players who in other years would surely be available. This is due to the sound financial status of most Major League teams. Now, let’s just think about this for a second.

Most teams – i.e. the Pirates, Royals – are perpetual sellers because they play in a small market and therefore don’t have the resources to lock up star players long term. Once a star comes along, the team is almost always willing to dish him near the end of his contract to avoid letting him go for a mere draft pick. The team normally gets two or three prospects in return, and it’s a crapshoot as to whether they work out or not.

But it seems that these perpetual sellers are in much more sound financial shape now, mainly due to revenue sharing/luxury tax. Where does the bulk of this revenue sharing/luxury tax fund come from? Duh, George Steinbrenner’s fat pockets. So it comes full circle: George is going to have a dickens of a time dealing prospects for Major League talent this year because his payroll is so inflated that he has to pay other teams for compensation, allowing to keep the players he covets.

So maybe the Bucs will hang on to Oliver Perez. Maybe Zack Greinke won’t become available within the next few years. And I know it’s still a distant shot at this point, but maybe we’ll see Rich Harden pitching in Oakland in 2010.

So this means a depleted market this year, and with so many teams still in contention, teams are really going to have to up the bids for these few players that have become available. This gives young teams like the Orioles an edge, since they have more valuable pieces to dish than the Yankees, who have plenty of low-level minor league talent, but really aren’t holding on to a sure thing.

The media has been whispering in recent days about the Yanks pursuing Mark Kotsay and Jason Schmidt, and I have to admit, hearing those names under normal circumstances has most teams jumping for joy. Buyt not the Yanks. The absolute last thing we need at this point is another National League pitcher making the jump to the American League East, where the hitting is just superb. True, Matt Clement didn’t have a difficult time acclimating himself, but when it comes to the Yanks, they just don’t have a good track record in this department.

As a quick side note: could Mel Stottlemyer be losing his touch? Could the pitching woes be in some way his fault? Old time Yankees fans would want my head on a stake for suggesting such an unthinkable idea. But hey, there has to be a reason that every incoming pitcher over the past four or so years has been a disappointment. Some of them aren’t bad by any means – Mike Mussina – but no one has really played to the level they were pre-pinstripes – Randy, Pavano, Vazquez, Weaver, Wright, Brownie, etc.

So now it’s my turn to play fantasy GM. I know I had Kotsay in my crosshairs long before it was thought he’d become available. The talk in the Oakland media was how he’s coveted by Billy Beane, and the GM’s first priority was going to be to sign Kotsay to an extension. Still, I thought that since this Oakland team had pretty much played itself out of serious contention in a division with the Rangers and Angels, Beane might change his tune and try to get value for a player that might not even want to sign over the offseason.

But is Kotsay the best option out there? Is the addition of him really going to help this team surge? In and of itself, a deal for Kotsay most likely won’t reanimate a tired, tired franchise. In fact, there doesn’t look to be a player available that can deliver the much-needed cattle prod to the Yanks. So what is the Boss to do?

I’ll open up this theory with precedent. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox dealt the centerpiece of their franchise, Nomar Garciaparra, for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewcz. It’s not even like Nomah was having an off year. True, he had been dogging it through an injury, but in the 38 games he played, he was batting .321/.367/.500. But, it was decided that his clubhouse presence was a burden to the team, and they decided to get rid of him while a) they could still get value for him and b) while the season was still salvageable.

And we all know what happened once Nomar was exiled. The team found it’s groove, surged back into the Wild Card spot, and yadda yadda yadda, they became World Series Champs.

This year, the Yanks are in a similar situation. They’re playing as flatly as the Sox were at this point last year, and given the grumblings in the media, the atmosphere in the dressing room has to be categorized as something below peachy cream.

What I’m about to propose here will surely prompt many, “oh, you’re a [bleeping] idiot!” comments, but it makes perfect sense. I have to give some credit to my father here, who came up with this initial proposal. So without further ado:

A-Rod to the Marlins for A.J. Burnett, Juan Pierre, and a top prospect.

Of course, we’d have to eat roughly half of A-Rod’s deal, but since we’re only responsible for 15 mil of it, we’d be eating 7.5 mil, which isn’t something you brag about, but it’s certainly doable.

Obviously, this leaves a hole at third base. Now, considering we don’t dish him, the Yanks have Eric Duncan waiting in the wings in the minors. He’s anything but a sure thing now, but the Yanks are high on him, and it would be nice to see them allow a player with such potential make his way all the way through the minors and end up playing for the big dogs, a la Jeter. So you’re looking more for a short-term solution at the hot corner.

Enter the Reds, who will more than likely be sellers at this point. Enter Joe Randa, who could be the next Scott Brosius. He’s hitting a solid .293/.364/.500 this year, and would be the perfect solution at third base. He’s not a big name, just a solid player with experience (in general, not playoff experience. But it’s not like Brosius had deep playoff experience before he came to the Yanks in ’98).

Yes, I know I sound as crazy as the guys who call into WFAN nightly and propose their, “okay, we’ll just dish anonymous prospects A and B for Barry Zito.” But if you really sit down and think about it, this just might be what the Yanks need to shed this me-first attitude and return to late 90s form.