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November 24, 2005

Standing Pat?

The trade winds are blowing furiously in baseball. In the span of two days, three mega-trades went down or more precisely were agreed upon in principle. The Red Sox bagged a pitching ace and solid thirdbaseman, the Mets finally snagged Carlos Delgado one year later, and the White Sox and Phillies have come to terms on a swap of fleet centerfielder Aaron Rowand for slugger Jim Thome.

In the midst of all this activity, the Yankees have been silent. I expect them to have an unusually quiet off-season. No major face lift this year because there's precious little they can do. Except for Chien Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, and the untouchable prospects Philip Hughes and Eric Duncan, they have precious little cattle to make trades to fill their glaring needs.

Unless they were going to trade Gary Sheffield, which might not have been a bad move if they could have replaced him with Brian Giles, they weren't going to get Rowand. I doubt they have what the Marlins would want for Juan Pierre, leaving them with only one outside alternative in centerfield: Johnny Damon. However, the 32-year-old Damon is said to want a seven-year contract, and the Yankees aren't likely to bite. If his asking price comes down to $30 million or so over three years, they would be players. There is a distinct chance, though, that we will find out what Bubba Crosby can do over a full season. Do you think the Yanks now regret not having bitten the salary bullet for one season and passing on Carlos Beltran?

In the bullpen, they are going to have major problems plugging their holes. They don't want to go to the mat for Tom Gordon and aren't going to be able to lure B.J. Ryan, who apparently wants to remain a closer. Losing Gordon, despite his struggles in the playoffs, will be a crushing blow. That will leave them with no one to set up for Rivera, unless Tanyon Sturtze can rebound from his poor second half, and really no solid arm in the pen beyond Rivera. It was a small miracle that they managed to win the division this year when they could count on only Rivera and Gordon to get clutch outs late in games.

Forced to stand pat or relatively pat, the Yankees rightfully won't be the pre-season favorites to win the division. There's a strong possibility that they won't even make the playoffs. They won 95 games this year with a flawed team and will have an even more flwaed team in 2006. The Achilles Heel will be the bullpen barring some unbelievably shrewd moves by Brian Cashman.

Posted by at November 24, 2005 05:31 PM

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