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Looking towards 2008 and beyond

There will be quite a bit of uncertainty in Yankeeland heading into the 2007/08 off-season.  The Yanks will undoubtedly have a brand new skipper and Brian Cashman's reign as GM could very well be over.  If Cashman does return, his power will be significantly diminished.

Given that uncertainty, it's very difficult to accurately predict what kind of approach the Yankee GM will make regarding roster moves.

The biggest problem with the Yankees is the lack of payroll flexibility and immovable contracts for one reason or another (high salary, no-trade clause, health, lack of productivity, or all of the above).  

It's very easy to play mini-Steinbrenner and order some of these guys to be DFA, traded, dumped, or shot at sundown.  However, this isn't Yahoo fantasy baseball or a video game where you can drop any unproductive player like a hot potato or dupe someone into taking these guys off your hand.  Unfortunately, that doesn't happen in the real world.

Not including the no-brainer moves to keep Mo, Posada, and A-Rod in pinstripes next season, the man who could very well be the key in getting the Yanks back to where they belong is Carlos Zambrano.

It may be a tall order, but the Yanks need to do whatever it takes to get him signed since he is inclined to stay in the NL and likely favors Flushing as opposed to the Bronx.

Captain Jeter, A-Rod (if he stays), Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth's ghost, and whomever else may need to do a recruiting job for the ages to get it done.  Zambrano just turned 26 years old on June 1st and a pitcher of his caliber and youth on the FA market is rare.

Adding Big Z could hypothetically give the Yanks a 2008 rotation comprised of Chien-Ming Wang, Carlos Zambrano, Andy Pettitte (if he decides to return), Phil Hughes, and Mike Mussina -- with Joba Chamberlain and/or Ian Kennedy both likely to get a taste of the majors at some point.

Like it or not, Mussina isn't going anywhere because he has a NTC in his contract, will be 39 years old, and makes $12M.  Not a huge market for a guy like that.

This rotation would compare favorably with the Red Sox and would certainly be one of the better rotations in the AL.

Some may be wonder why they should focus on the rotation when the offense has so many holes.  My answer to that is very simple:  Pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

I understand the Yanks' very inconsistent offense has been their Achilles' heel for the majority of the 2007 season.  But, any team in "rebuilding mode" will be better off in the long run if they can stack the rotation with as many quality pitchers as possible and patch the holes in their lineup via trades and signing second and third tier guys who have solid bats and can play defense.

Stacking the rotation is a strategy that clearly works and can make this team a contender again as soon as next season.  The top rotations in each league are almost always in the thick of the pennant races.  Oakland is a perfect example of this even though their offense is usually towards the bottom of the league.  Inconsistent as they have been this season, the Yankee offense is certainly better than Oakland and is capable of scoring plenty of runs on a daily basis.

Obviously, the Yankee bullpen clearly needs work as well, but the general rule of thumb is that a bullpen will always benefit from a workhorse starting rotation.  They will still need to add capable arms because there is some dead weight in that pen and they do have a couple of options in the Minors (Britton and Ramirez).  

Unfortunately, I believe the Yanks are going to be stuck with Farnsworth until his deal runs out in '09 because the rest of MLB probably views him the same way Yankee fans do -- completely unreliable and a waste of talent.

As a result of the financial commitments the team has with positional players like Johnny Damon (signed through '09), Hideki Matsui (signed through '09), and Jason Giambi (signed through '08 w/ club option for '09), the team has little choice but to ride out the remaining years on their deals and go in another direction once they expire.  The option of trading these guys is highly unlikely since they all have a NTC in their current deals and no team in MLB is going to trade for an unhealthy and highly paid Giambino.

Brian Cashman has made his bed with these long term financial commitments, so he [or his replacement] will have to sleep in it for awhile longer until those deals are off the books.  Thankfully, Bobby Abreu's deal expires at the end of the season and probably won't be coming back.

I would not advocate throwing money at high-priced positional players like Torii Hunter, Ichiro Suzuki, or Andruw Jones since this is exactly how the Yanks got themselves in this financial mess in the first place.  

The Yanks should target second tier and third tier guys like Aaron Rowand with a solid but not spectacular bat and can play great defense.  They also desperately need to beef up the bench and the backup catcher position -- which has killed this team in 2007.

Trading for Mark Teixeira sounds like a great move.  However, it doesn't appear that Texas will give him up without Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, or Joba Chamberlain in return.  The Yanks should not mortgage the future of their rotation for a guy who will become a FA at the end of '08.  No need to pay for him twice because the Yanks will likely be one of Teixeira's biggest suitors the moment he becomes a FA after the '08 season.

Rebuilding this team is not going to be easy and the transition can't happen overnight.  Clearly, the strategy of signing All-Star caliber players at every position has not brought his team a championship in recent years and has been a disaster in 2007.

This team hasn't been the same since they were able to throw a quality pitcher almost every time out and adding a workhorse arm like Zambrano could be the first step in making this team into a contender as soon as next season.