|How to rebuild the Yankees|
By David Schoenfield
Page 2 Staff
Here's the problem: the only cigar smoke the Yankees have seen lately was when Jack McKeon stumped out his Cuban on Mickey Mantle's plaque in Monument Park. Derek Jeter, after his Alvaro Espinoza-like performance in the final game of the World Series, hasn't been seen with a hottie cradled up next to him in weeks and is reportedly in search of another type of slumpbuster. The grass at Yankee Stadium has already turned brown.
And, most importantly, with this aging, decaying dynasty on the fringe of melting into mediocrity, WHO ARE WE SUPPOSED TO HATE IF THE YANKEES ARE BAD?
Baseball needs the Yankees. Baseball needs this battle of Good vs. George. Baseball needs an evil empire, a Darth Vader, an enemy to pursue, a team so hated that seeing it suffer from the heat of 96-mph fastballs fired by a cocky 23-year-old Texan with 17 career wins in the final game of the season just feels so perfect.
What, you want the Marlins playing the Twins in the World Series next year?
So, as George Steinbrenner and his cadre of lieutenants embark on the team's most significant offseason since Reggie Jackson was brought in to stir the drink, Page 2 is offering our advice on how to rebuild the Yankees. Consider it an act of charity for the good of the sport.
First, the crumbling nature of this dynasty needs to be made clear:
Luckily, Steinbrenner has some money to spend or this team would really be in trouble. (Although the Mets are a reminder that spending foolishly is a foolish thing to do.)
This past season, the Yankees' payroll was anywhere from $164 million (the total of the August 31 roster) to $185 million (the overall estimate, according to reports). If George is willing to spend that much on such an obviously flawed team, an increase to $200 million is not only possible but probable.
1. Move Jeter to third base and non-tender Boone. This may sound sacrilegious, sort of like saying Don Mattingly is overrated or that Thurman Munson wouldn't have made the Hall of Fame anyway, but with Miguel Tejada available on the free-agent market, it's time to move Jeter and get a better defensive shortstop. As captain, Jeter's ego surely won't get in the way.
2. Sign Tejada to a five-year, $75 million contract.
3. Bernie Williams has lost three steps in center, throws like Pete Gray and is prone to injuries. Move him to DH, which makes Nick Johnson available for trade. (Yes, we'd prefer to trade Giambi, but he's as stuck as a pig in mud with his contract.)
4. Carlos Beltran is the popular rumor for center, but here's another suggestion: Jim Edmonds, who is available, signed through 2007 and owner of a left-handed stroke engineered for Yankee Stadium. The Yanks can swing a three-way trade that also brings in …
5. ... Curt Schilling. Forget Javier Vazquez, another popular rumor. The Yanks need a Proven Postseason Pitcher -- like Schilling, who is available with the emergence of Brandon Webb in Arizona. With St. Louis looking for a first baseman (Tino Martinez is washed up), here's the deal: Nick Johnson and Arizona's Danny Bautista go to St. Louis, Edmonds and Schilling go to New York and Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Weaver go to Arizona.
6. Which means signing a second baseman, preferably one who doesn't take two seconds to turn the deuce. In comes free agent Luis Castillo with a three-year, $21 million deal.
7. Sign Bartolo Colon. Why not? Five years, $70 million should do the trick.
8. Because Karim Garcia couldn't throw out Alex Gonzalez so ... Gary Sheffield, come on down to play right field: three years, $45 million sounds about right.
9. The bullpen needs a little shoring up so we suggest free agents Tim Worrell (2 years, $7 million) and lefty Ricardo Rincon (2 years, $5 million).
10. Sell Drew Henson ($12 million left on his contract) to the Houston Texans to raise additional capital.
Which leaves us with this roster (2004 salaries included):
Surely, fans and writers and even those other teams nobody cares about will cry out in frustration over this largesse, but the total payroll for these 19 guys? Just over $179 million, which still leaves $21 million left to sign an insurance starter (Greg Maddux?) and fill out the bench. The only potential problem is a lack of a left-handed starter, but that's nothing an in-season trade or two won't fix.
Otherwise, this team is flawless. Sure, it would be nice if the No. 9 hitter had a little more power and neither of the lefty relievers is exactly Billy Wagner. But note that Sheffield and Edmonds are great fastball hitters -- you know, just in case the Yankees meet up again with Josh Beckett in the World Series
As we await what happens this offseason, hoping the Yankees can successfully rebuild, Page 2 leaves you with a quote from Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea": "Have faith in the Yankees, my son. Think of the great DiMaggio ..."
DiMaggio is gone, but we have 200 other million reasons to still have faith.