What Do They Have? The Yankees' top asset is money, including more than $75 million in 2008 salaries coming off the books via the free agencies of Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Andy Pettitte. They'll need cold, hard cash to fulfill their biggest needs, since the values of their most tradable young players, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano, are so depressed as to make selling low inadvisable. They have young, unproven pitching to deal, starting with Ian Kennedy, who fizzled (0-4, 8.17 ERA in nine starts) following a promising late-2007 showing. Phil Hughes, who will compete for a starting slot, is likely off limits, but names like Mark Melancon, a potential future closer, and Dellin Betances, a 6-foot-8 behemoth, could surface -- not that they'll be moved.Mere hours after that went up at BP, word came over the wire that the Yanks had in fact acquired Swisher in a five-player deal with the White Sox, sending futilityman Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez (a second-line pitching prospect whose stock fell with a lousy year in Triple-A) and Jhonny Nunez (a live arm acquired from the Nationals for infielder Alberto "Attorney General" Gonzalez) and receiving another live arm, Kanekoa Texeira (no relation to the first baseman; note the different spelling), in return.
What Do They Need? In missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993, with an offense that slipped from an AL-best 6.0 runs per game in 2007 to a mid-pack 4.9 last year, the Yankee lineup looked increasingly outmoded. With Giambi and Abreu both free agents, they have holes at first base and right field, and it's imperative that they get younger at one position if not both. Further down the wish list is upgrading center field; Johnny Damon is in a defensive decline and Cabrera is taking a Triple-A refresher course. No less glaring is the need for starting pitching, given that 13 pitchers started for the Yankees last year, with the blueprint hinging on youngsters Joba Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy having blown up in GM Brian Cashman's face; all three got hurt, with the latter two so ineffective that they failed to garner a single win. Chamberlain and Chien-Ming Wang (also coming off injury) are assured spots, but the rest is up for grabs, and Cashman plans to overstock the larder to avoid repeating last year's Sidney Ponson-ocalypse.
What Are They Likely To Do? They'll pursue the biggest of big game, namely CC Sabathia, who will command a nine-figure deal, but will face competition from multiple teams including the Brewers, who have a $100 million offer already on the table. Expect them to chase former Red Sox nemesis Derek Lowe as well as A.J. Burnett, who opted out of the remainder of his five-year, $55 million deal in Toronto after setting career highs in innings, wins and strikeouts. They won't net all three but they'll shoot for two and augment that by re-signing either 20-game winner Mussina (if he surprises everyone and shuns retirement) or Pettitte, who's coming off his highest ERA since 1999. As for the lineup, [Mark] Teixeira is an ideal fit both offensively and defensively; he would also be the youngest regular aside from Cano and Cabrera. They'll need to break the $100 million mark to outbid the Angels, the Red Sox and others for his services. In right field they may offer the 35-year-old Abreu arbitration, a route that could net him a higher salary than he would average via the three-year deal he seeks but won't get here. They may also explore swapping Cabrera for the Brewers' Mike Cameron, but may have to sweeten the pot to get Milwaukee to bite.
What Should They Do? If the Yanks can only go nine figures on one player it should be Teixeira, given the need for youth and the dearth of A-list first basemen in the free-agent pool. Otherwise they face unappealing solutions like Kevin Millar or an aging Giambi. One alternative would be to trade for the aforementioned [Nick] Swisher, who can play first base, right field or even center field; he would provide flexibility as the winter market evolves. As for the pitching, Burnett's legacy of injuries should make a team still smarting from the Pavano and Jaret Wright debacles think twice. Lowe, by contrast, is a reliable groundballer who's every bit as effective and much more durable, with at least 32 starts in seven straight years.
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