Thursday, December 09, 2004


So it's come down to this.

Yes, Jared Wright is worth a flyer. While I think it's likely Jared Wright will crash and burn without Leo Mazzone guiding the way, the 28-year-old might have as much upside as anyone available other than Pedro--and even Pedro's not really Pedro anymore (although Boston once said the same thing about Roger Clemens...). But a 3-year-contract for a guy who was all but out of baseball just over a year ago?

Granted, the alternatives aren't that much better. If you're like the Yankees and looking to shore up your rotation with some free agent pitching, I have one word for you: yeesh.

I can't remember a flakier collection of free agent starters--and that's tossing aside the likes of Eric Milton and Al Leiter. How do you choose from Matt Clement, Odalis Perez, Kevin Millwood, Jon Leiber, Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano, and Brad Radke?

Clement36.9 VORP27.6 VORP41.3 VORP
Lieber27.3 VORPN/A22.2 VORP
Lowe-11.5 VORP21.9 VORP72.9 VORP
Millwood9.3 VORP37.4 VORP49.6 VORP
Pavano62.2 VORP28.1 VORP-9.6 VORP
Perez49.7 VORP19.2 VORP59.9 VORP
Radke60.1 VORP32.8 VORP14.7 VORP
Wright40.3 VORP-10.9 VORP-21.8 VORP

Wow, it's worse than I thought. Honestly, if you can look at this chart and tell me who is going to be a solid contributor in 2005, I know a couple of major league teams that can use your help.

But if you're the Yankees and you're considering signing Jared Wright for 3 years and $21 M, why not just pony up and pay Pedro instead? At his worse he's still as good as the rest.

Martinez51.2 VORP71.4 VORP66.8 VORP

The only thing that's clear to me is that in a market of seriously unpredictable aces, the Yankees locked up the most uncertain. What can I say, it's a better signing than Kris Benson. Christ, is this what the great Yankee dynasty has been been reduced to, only slightly less ludicrous transactions than the Mets? (And before you talk performance bonuses, just to make it clear that Anna has to actually catch Kris cheating before the rest of the team gets their, err, bonuses.) Five bucks says Cashman is trying to make him somebody else's problem by November.

I concede that the free agent options at 2B are no better, and just as the starters have their Pedro Martinez, so the 2B have their Jeff Kent. But I think Martinez would be a good idea in pinstripes, Kent is actually the sort of position player the Yankees should NOT be signing at this point. You know, the kind that was once exceptionally good but now is about twenty years past their prime and liable to fall off a cliff at any instant--or at least stumble while washing their vans.

But while we should commend the Yanks for not letting a decent season from Miguel Cairo confuse them into thinking that he is anything more than driftwood, we must also pile on them for making that very mistake with Tony Womack.

And yet despite this fascination with former Cardinal middle-infielders, the Yanks opted not to sign the younger, and superior, Placido Polanco.

Cairo22.2 VORP0.0 VORP1.5 VORP
Womack33.8 VORP-17.5 VORP7.9 VORP
Polanco31.5 VORP42.8 VORP24.9 VORP

Polanco is exactly the player the Yanks think they're getting in Womack: versatile, good defence, good speed, good on-base skills, and a little pop. What Cairo and Womack did in their fluke years Polanco does year-in, year-out. Even if he cost the Yankees another million or so, Polanco's a much better investment for a team (supposedly) looking to regain its crown.

My guess now is that Polanco signs as an everyday player with Oakland (2B) or Toronto (SS), but he'd make a hell of a utility guy for the Red Sox.

I'm not saying it's going to be easy for the Red Sox to win the East this year. Epstein's got more key players than anyone else to resign or replace this year, and Boston's ownership isn't quite as willing to spend beyond the luxury tax as New York's. But man oh man is somebody with the Yankees making Epstein's job easier.

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