Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is why you make your Mark in pencil

Even though they may not have realized it until today, the Yankees have got their man. The Yankees came into today having already committed $243 million dollars to 2 pitchers this offseason. They had filled the holes in the rotation that have long haunted them by landing a true ACE in CC Sabathia and a second top of the rotation starter with A.J. Burnett. The question for a while now has not been if they had enough offensive power, but rather if they had the pitching to get to the promise land. Once the Yankees filled out their rotation with their two new Christmas presents, it left the line-up in an unknown position, looking up at the pitching.

The Yankees entered this offseason fully aware that they were going to lose big part of their offensive attack in Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu. Those two players combined drive in close to 200 runs last year. To help fill the void, the Yankees acquired OF/1B Nick Swisher from the White Sox for several spare parts. Swisher, made famous from Billy Beane's 'Moneyball' book, when on top of his game is a very solid hitter. However, last year he failed to live up to expectations, hitting only .219 in a hitters park. He still clubbed 24 homers and kept his patient eye, drawing 82 walks. While Swisher was a very solid pickup, the Yankees were already counting on Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui all to have rebound years. There are several interesting names out there, but very few who are the complete package and that fill exactly what the Yankees need. Manny Ramirez is a fantastic hitter, but lacks defensive skills and would create a distraction and a DH/OF logjam. Adam Dunn has light-tower power, but lacks pretty much every other skill. Bobby Abreu did a great job as the hitter in front of A-Rod the last couple years, but isn't the type who can carry a club on his back. So who is the guy who will fit the void at first, provide a bat to protect Rodriguez and is marketable to the fans?

Enter Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees have lacked a first basemen since the days of Tino Martinez. Tino was the guy who carried the team with his bat in the glory days, while also providing amazing defense at first. The Yankees gave Jason Giambi a huge contract to come replace Tino and hopefully bring along his MVP numbers from Oakland. Giambi didn't do a terrible job, but he wasn't the wizard at first Martinez was. For years, the Yankees have penciled in many guys at first, trying to find the one who would be 'that guy'. They wrote and erased the name of many players, many who you never heard from again after their time with the Yankees.

Over the last several years we've seen Andy Phillips win and lose the starting first basemen's job a couple times. Phillips spent most of last season in the minors with the Reds, batting .315 and smacking .231 with the big club. In 2007, Miguel Cairo started for a long stretch at first base. Miguel spent last year with the Mariners, hitting .249 and failing to a homer for the third straight season. After Cairo was Doug Mientkiewicz. Minky spent last year with the Pirates, hitting a reasonable .277 but going yard only twice. Other guys who have manned first are Wilson Betemit, Josh Phelps, Shelley Duncan, Craig Wilson, Trevor Lee, Tony Clark, John Olerud and they even tried the ghost of Tino Martinez. I am sure I am missing a couple others. All of these guys have been penciled in at first for the Yankees at one point or another. Not to knock any of the guys I mentioned, I will never have a fraction of the talent they have, but the point is not a single one of them is a face of the franchise type guy who can start at first every day. Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that he was more than OK with opening the season with Nick Swisher at first. Remember when he said this about Bubba Crosby starting in center, and weeks later Johnny Damon was the center fielder. I wasn't buying it for a second.

Swisher was simply penciled in for the start of the '09 season. The Yankees were prepared to go to war with Swish at first, and possibly Jorge Posada splitting time there as well. Going in the offseason the plan was to upgrade the pitching, and rightfully it should have been. Once that was taken care of, all the big bats were still out there. Cashman knew darn well of Teixeira's talents, I mean who doesn't? The guys a fantastic player. Many thought the Yankees couldn't afford another big ticket guy after CC and A.J. They turned out wrong. For weeks, rumors floated of the Red Sox being in the lead for Teix's services, with the Angels in second and the small market Orioles and Nationals trying to convince Teix to be the face of their franchise. Every report warned of the Yankees lurking in the shadows, but they were never taken seriously.

Then Red Sox owner said "we won't be a factor" in the Teixeira sweepstakes and the Angles took their offer off the table. It was the Yankees time to pounce. Once the Angles took back their offer, I had a funny feeling that the Yankees were going to push hard. They knew darn well the Red Sox didn't need Teixeira and weren't likely to get into a bidding war for a luxury player. Word came out early Tuesday morning that Teixeira was going to make his decision today and the Red Sox were the odds on favorites to land the slugger. Thats when the Yankees stepped up their efforts. The Yankees had already penciled in Nick Swisher at first base, so even if they lost the bidding they still had the option of making Swisher's name written in ink. In the end the Yankees out bid the Red Sox by $12 million and shocked the world by landing Mark Teixeira. News quickly spread threw baseball, and the Red Sox were left in defeat. The Yankees had stole their rivals main target.

So what does Teixeira bring? Many are going to find ways to criticize the move. They will bring up the money issue, the Posada/Jeter possibly having to move there down the road or some other excuse. When it comes down to it, this is a fantastic move and is exactly what the Yankees need. The Yankees get easily the best first basemen they've had since Tino Martinez. Teixeira bring great defense, which will likely be able to save up to 10 errors at year from the infield that Jason Giambi couldn't last year. They also get the slugger they need to protect Alex Rodriguez, and the 3-4 of Teix and A-Rod is possibly the best in baseball. He also fits the Yankees type of player perfectly. He takes a ton of walks and posts an OBP of close to .400 every year. And more importantly, he will only be 29 in April, meaning the Yankees have a guy who can be one of the faces of the franchise for a long time, and who isn't an aging and declining player. You can find whatever problem you want, but the truth is Teixeira is exactly what the Yankees needed. They have put themselves in a great position for next year with this move as well. If Xavier Nady leaves, Swisher can take over right, Austin Jackson can play center and if Posada can't catch anymore, he can move to the wide-open DH spot.

The thing the Yankees don't have to worry about for 8 years is something that has been creeping up on them for a long long time. This is that they don't have to pencil in Teixeira's name at first, this time...they can use pen.

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