By Jon Lane
The Hot Stove is fired up and it’ll be burning through this week’s General Managers meetings in Chicago and the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. It’ll be re-fired after baseball takes a (scheduled) sabbatical for the Christmas holidays and keep you warm until pitchers and catchers report in February.
The biggest question on the minds of Yankees fans is the futures of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte. All three are free agents and in their mid-to-late 30s. At this point figure on Damon coming back. He was clutch in the ALCS and World Series at the plate – and especially on the base paths – and remains valuable as a slap hitter at the top of the lineup who can get on base.
Matsui is the toughest decision. Many believe he’s a goner, and logic dictates he will be unless he’d accept a workable one-year deal to be a part-time player; the Yankees have a strong desire to rotate the DH position with veteran players, namely Jorge Posada. But Matsui’s MVP performance in the World Series certainly changed that story a bit.
Pettitte’s plan was to take his time to contemplate one more year or retirement, but according to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the left-hander told teammates he’d like to try again one more time. The starting five would be set right away (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes) – assuming John Lackey doesn’t become the newest hired gun Yankees brass suddenly bails on their Joba the Starter plan. Either way, there will be depth entering Spring Training with ample time to evaluate if Chien-Ming Wang has anything left.
Felix Hernandez in pinstripes would look fantastic, wouldn’t it? Of course, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik sees no reason why “King Felix” won’t pitch in Seattle for at least the next two seasons.
“He’s our property this year and next year, and we’re looking forward to him being part of the organization as we move forward,” Zduriencik told reporters at the GM meetings.
It would take a King’s Ransom for any team to acquire Hernandez, 23 years old and off a season in which he established career-highs in wins (19), innings pitched (238.2) and strikeouts (217), and a career-low in ERA (2.49). The M’s come off a surprising 85-win season and have to tools to compete in the AL West, so I don’t see Hernandez going anywhere, that is unless Nintendo of America cries poverty.
Besides, Brian Cashman is walking around chest out and chin up, body language that reads “I told you so.” Cashman took a lot of heat for not dealing for Johan Santana in 2007. People stopped talking about that a long time ago.
If you still care about the enemy – I know you do – Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox have finalized a new two-year contract, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Meanwhile, while the Jason Varitek Era in Boston appears to be over, the BoSox are on Roy Halladay’s wish list if the Blue Jays decide to finally unload the right-hander.
Imagine CC Sabathia opposing Halladay April 5, 2010 at Fenway Park? The thought of that alone will keep you warm once the weather reaches the intolerable stage.
By Jon Lane
The Yankees’ magic number to clinch the AL East is 10 games – don’t forget, it’s only four to clinch a playoff berth – but Joe Girardi was quick to say, “I believe this is going to go down to the end.”
Think about it: The Red Sox have won seven of eight and play the lowly Orioles this weekend, while the Yankees are out west to play the Mariners (not easy) and the Angels (you know their history in Anaheim). Making the playoffs isn’t good enough. The Yankees want the division and home field, and are determined not to slip to Wild Card status – I don’t care how many Wild Card teams ended up winning the World Series.
Furthermore, tonight is the start of the rest of the season for A.J. Burnett. Handsomely earning $82.5 million, Burnett is 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA in his last nine starts having allowed 25 earned runs in his last 29 1/3 innings. This man is starting either Game 2 or 3 in the ALDS. He has no choice but to turn it around.
Worse, Felix Hernandez (15-5, 2.52, 193 K) is Burnett’s opponent. King Felix may be 1-3 with a 5.92 ERA in four starts against the Yankees, but he hasn’t faced them since May 3, 2008. If he’s on, Burnett is good enough to be anybody. But when he’s off, whoa boy.