Monday, July 31, 2006

Smart Move: Picking Up Sheff's Option

From the mouth of Buster Olney, via MLB Trade Rumors: would the Yankees be wise to exercise Sheffield's $13 million 2007 option?

The basic logic would say no. With the addition of Abreu and the increasing need for Jason Giambi to DH, there doesn't seem to be much of a spot for Sheffield. However, there have been notions flying that Sheff could learn first base, which would exponentially increase his value to the 2007 Yankees.

Remember, too, that the option is one year for $13 million. On a team that has no problem taking on salary, why not exercise this? At very worst, you're forced to have Sheffield on the roster next year (no! Anything but that!). The free agent market for corner outfielders isn't thick beyond Alfonso Soriano (Carlos Lee is expected to sign an extension with the Rangers), so the Yankees would be wise to keep Sheff of the market. And who knows, maybe they'll find a trade partner. It will be, after all, a seller's market.

The exercising of Sheff's option will also keep him happy during this playoff run. Of course, there would no longer be the competitive motivator of playing in a contract year, but I don't think that will make too large a difference. I'd much rather have a happy Sheff than a complaining Sheff. When Matsui comes back, I think Cashman would be wise to sit down with Sheffield and tell him that if he works as hard as Matsui and comes back on schedule, his 2007 option will be exercised.

In essence, this is a low-risk, high-reward move, so long as the Yankees can in fact afford the additional $13 million. In all likelihood, Mike Mussina will sign a three-year extension this winter, probably in the $12 mil per year range. This will significantly reduce his $19 million number from this year.

This also allows the Yankees to focus on pitching during the off-season.

And, most importantly, it will keep Sheffield away from the Red Sox, who would surely sign him should he leave New York.