Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Blue Jays' blockbuster? Big deal

By Wallace Matthews
ESPNNewYork.com

OK, all together now: "If The Boss were still alive ..."

Well, The Boss is not alive. He has been gone more than two years now. And the era of Yankees Insanity apparently went with him.

Yes, we know that if The Boss were still alive, news of a blockbuster trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins would have sent shockwaves from Tampa up to the Bronx that would have rattled the River Avenue El.

But these days, the fact 12 players will change hands in one deal, and all the best of them -- Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle -- will go to an AL East rival, is being met with no more than a shrug in the New York Yankees' front office.

Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes wheeling his way to Toronto doesn't change the Yankees' offseason strategy.

Because the truth is, nothing has changed.

The Yankees need to get younger, faster and better.

They needed to before they got swept out of October by the Detroit Tigers -- who, by the way, also got better Tuesday, if not younger, with the addition of Torii Hunter -- and in fact, they needed to before the postseason even started.

And they certainly needed to well before the Marlins decided to dismantle and dump a boatload of high-priced players over the Canadian border.

So to say the Yankees need to respond to this earth-shaker is not only wrong, but shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Yankees' real problem is.

The real problem is not the Baltimore Orioles or the Marlins or the suddenly overloaded Blue Jays. It is not even the Boston Red Sox, for those of you old enough to remember when they were good.

To paraphrase the great Walt Kelly -- for those of you old enough to remember newspapers and comic strips and something called "Pogo" -- the Yankees have met the enemy, and it is them.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman put it better than I ever could when I called him Wednesday morning to ask if his offseason would now be influenced, and perhaps even shaped, by the possible shift of AL East power to the Great White North.

"No," he said. "We can only control our own decision-making process and our own needs. We have work to do and it has nothing to do with the other 29 clubs making themselves better."

In other words, even if the Blue Jays had done nothing, the Yankees still need to do something. And what the Blue Jays did doesn't mean the Yankees have to do something more than what they were already planning to do. They needed to do it anyway.

Unfortunately, anti-collusion rules written into baseball's new collective bargaining agreement have scared every GM into clamming up this offseason. So I can't tell you specifically what Cashman plans to do, because he can't tell me.

But I can give you an educated guess on what the Yankees' needs are, and the order in which they will pursue filling them: pitching, catching, outfield, bench. In that order.

Right now, the Yankees are in the process of making a deal with Mariano Rivera. They are in the hunt for Hiroki Kuroda, who I am told is considering just three destinations: Japan, Los Angeles and the Bronx. Andy Pettitte is in the midst of what has become his annual Hamlet routine, but there is no one in the Yankees' organization who does not believe he will come back in 2013, and there is no one who does believe he would consider pitching anywhere else.

The catching situation appears to be headed toward one of three outcomes. Either Russell Martin comes back on a multiyear deal, the Yankees make a play for Mike Napoli or they try to cobble together a full-time backstop out of a collection of backups: Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, maybe Austin Romine, maybe new pickup Eli Whiteside.

The outfield situation is a little more complicated. They could bring back Ichiro Suzuki and go with an outfield of him, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Or they could trade Granderson. Or Gardner. The could pursue a free-agent outfielder like B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn.

Or they could do what Cashman has specialized in for the past couple of seasons, plucking a name out of the air that no one thought of as a possible fit for the Yankees, like Michael Pineda, or Ichiro.

The last area that will be addressed is the bench. They might pursue Raul Ibanez in the hope that in 2013 he will be able to inhabit the role they intended for him in 2012, as a DH against right-handed pitching. They might bring back Eric Chavez, although his difficulty playing more than a couple of games in a row, combined with his poor postseason, probably makes his return less likely.

I can tell you with the utmost certainty that Andruw Jones has played his last game as a Yankee.

I can tell you with the same degree of certainty that Alex Rodriguez will be the starting third baseman, at least on Opening Day of 2013, barring injury of course. A team like Miami doesn't dump $170 million of salary, much of it tied up in young players, to take on $114 million more on a declining player like A-Rod.

Likewise, I can tell you there is no shot the Yankees will be picking up Giancarlo Stanton or Logan Morrison, for similar reasons. A team like the Marlins doesn't dismantle by giving up two young, affordable players. Both make the major league minimum. Those are the kind of players you build, or rebuild, around.

And no, the Yankees should not have replaced Toronto on the receiving end of that trade. As great as Reyes and Johnson might yet become, and as steady as Buehrle has been, it should be remembered that this group was part of a team that lost 93 games last year. It couldn't all have been Ozzie Guillen's fault.

But enough about other teams. How do the Yankees get better? Obviously, bringing back Kuroda and Pettitte holds the status quo but does nothing to improve them, nor even does the re-signing of Rivera, whose job was more than adequately picked up by Rafael Soriano.

Replacing Nick Swisher with a comparable offensive right fielder is a must, and I'm not sure Ichiro is the answer since you give up a lot of power. Trading Granderson would be a bold move. You lose a ton of strikeouts and a terrible on-base percentage, but you've got to make sure you replace most, and preferably all, of those 43 home runs.

And you need young, reliable infield replacements for A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, who will be 39 and is coming off a serious ankle fracture.

The truth is, even though the Yankees won 95 games in 2012, there is a ton of work to be done because although they won the division and made it to the second round of the playoffs, they were not a better team than they were in 2011.

A big reason for that was injuries, but injuries are going to be a part of every Yankees season for the foreseeable future because of the age on the core of their roster.

And no amount of offseason wheeling and dealing is going to change the fact the Yankees are saddled with Rodriguez, Teixeira, Jeter and, yes, CC Sabathia for a long time at a lot of money.

You want to look for places where the Yankees can get younger, better and faster? Look at their infield, and then look at the contracts attached to the names.

Those are the problems the Yankees face, problems that right now look unsolvable.

And that hasn't changed overnight, no matter what the Blue Jays and Marlins did.

Or what The Boss would have done.