The Blue Jays, Phillies and Mariners are close to agreeing to a three-team deal that has Roy Halladay heading to the Philadelphia, Cliff Lee going to Seattle and a boatload of prospects suddenly in need of the Dollars-to-Loonies exchange rate. No one seems entirely clear on just who all is included in this deal, but the main players are obviously Lee and Halladay. On the surface this deal seems rather pointless to me -- Halladay may be a slight upgrade over Lee, but replacing Lee with Halladay instead of pairing the two up doesn't seem particularly threatening. J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels' names have all been bandied about as potential trade bait, which means the Phillies' rotation as presently constituted is as follows: Halladay/?/?/?/?. I know Doc is great and all, but I'm not sure this brings the Phils any closer to their ultimate goal.
Meanwhile, Seattle -- who led the American League in ERA in 2009 without Lee -- managed to land a bona fide ace to pair with one of the top three pitchers in the game. Lee had an FIP of 3.11 last year. Felix Hernandez notched a 3.09. Gulp. Good thing the M's still don't have anyone who can hit the ball, but man will that team prevent runs. The Yankees play Seattle 10 times in 2010 -- though 6 of those are at home -- and I'm sure Hernandez/Lee will be starting 60% of those games.
The Red Sox had a fast and furious day, highlighted by the signing of John Lackey to a five-year pact estimated to be worth slightly more than the $82.5 million the Yankees gave A.J. Burnett last winter. This makes sense, given that Lackey is a slightly better pitcher than Burnett, as previously discussed. While I don't have a problem with someone else other than the Yankees tying up too many dollars and years for Lackey, adding him to an already quite strong Boston rotation hurts. Let's take a quick look at the Red Sox's new projected starting pitching staff for 2010:
|2009 FIP||2010 Projected FIP|
Of course, before we go anointing Beantown as having the best rotation in baseball, here are the Yankees's Bill James projections from last week's discussion:
|2009 FIP||2010 Projected FIP|
Don't get me wrong, Lackey is clearly a big get for the Sox, but the Yankees' rotation isn't exactly Beast Light. Boston also signed oft-mentioned potential Yankee left field solution Mike Cameron to a two-year deal. Cameron's a decent solution for Boston, although will represent an offensive downgrade after the year Jason Bay just gave them. More importantly, it removes Cameron as a possibility for the Yankees and also takes the Red Sox officially out of the Bay/Matt Holliday sweepstakes.
These are all significant moves from significant Yankee foes, although none of them sting on a personal level quite as much as Hideki Matsui signing with the Angels for one year and $6.5 million. I know Brian Cashman said he was prioritizing the left field situation and pitching ahead of designated hitter, but surely the Yankees could've topped that offer for Godzilla? Hell, I assumed Matsui was going to end up going for closer to $10 million. I imagine the Yankees expect Matsui is close to breaking down, and didn't see him approaching his .378 wOBA. Still, I 'd have thought it'd be worth the risk, especially on a one-year deal.
I've certainly given Matsui my share of crap over the years -- I'm pretty sure I lead the league in rolling my eyes in disgust at Matsui rolling his wrists and producing yet another weak dribbler to second -- but it was always all in good fun, and it's a bitter pill to see him leave, especially after raking in the World Series and providing a lot of great memories during his seven year Yankee tenure. He always seemed to go about his business in the most professional manner possible and was very easy to cheer for. It'll be especially tough having to root against him while he wears an Angels uniform.
So what does all this mean for the Yankees? Two of their potential pitching acquisitions are now off the market, which may have just boosted the price for Ben Sheets. The Sox signing Cameron also helped out Johnny Damon -- and possibly Matt Holliday -- as the Yankees now have one less option for left field. The upshot to Matsui leaving? DH is now wide open for my boy Nick the Stick.
My dream scenario for the Yankees for the remainder of the offseason is now as follows: Give Ben Sheets $8 to $10 million plus incentives boosting it to $12M for starting rotation depth; sign Matt Holliday to a five-year, $100 million deal; and ink Nick Johnson on a two-year deal, perhaps around $15 million. Honestly, I'm not really sure what N the S is worth on the open market, but just give him whatever we wants so we can insert Mr. OBP into the #2 hole.
As for Holliday, it seems many are loathe to give the outfielder the number of years and dollar amount he's likely looking for, and while I don't endorse a Big Tex contract for Holliday, there's also no way anyone is going to offer that kind of money. If the price tag comes down to the neighborhood of $100 million the Yankees should be all over it -- even if it ends up a bit higher, around a Beltran-esque $119M, I say go for it. I wouldn't have minded bringing Damon back, but Scott Boras and Johnny are out of their minds if they think he's still a $13 million-per-year player and that anyone would sign a 36-year-old with negative defensive ability to a four-year contract.
I also don't think waiting for Carl Crawford to hit free agency next year is the left field answer. Crawford's (career OPS+: 103) always been an exciting player, but he's not better than Holliday (career OPS+: 133), and Carl won't exactly come cheap either. While not quite as similar as the Teixeira situation last winter given how perfectly Tex fit the Yankees' needs, Holliday is still one of the best outfielders in baseball (4th-best OPS among all MLB outfielders last year) and will be entering his age 30 season in 2010. It's not often an elite player makes it to free agency in the prime of his career, and if the Yankees are serious about defending their trophy, they need to be in on Holliday.
These three signings would add almost $40 million to next year's payroll, and given that the Yankees are supposedly working with a $200 million budget and are somewhere in the high $180s right now, it's probably unlikely that the team will about-face and hike the payroll up to $230 million.
Regardless, these three signings would ensure the Yankees remain the favorites to repeat as World Series champions. And honestly, who cares how much money the Yankees are spending on their roster as long as they're spending it on the right players? It's not like any savings the Steinbrenner family accumulates winds up in the fans' pockets.
Just in case you'd like to see it again (and why wouldn't you, as it's truly a thing of beauty), here's the Yankees' 2010 lineup with Matt Holliday and Nick Johnson:
|2009 wOBA||2010 Projected wOBA|
As per The Fowl Balls, one projection system for this hypothetical lineup has it scoring 6.269 runs per game. I say bring the bludgeoning on.