Before we answer the questions posed to us, here are some other thoughts on previously discussed Yankee-related topics:
On the starting rotation: Mussina will be the opening day starter on April 2nd, provided he is healthy. Torre always goes with the veterans; even if the fans now perceive Wang as the "true" ace of the staff, Mussina and Pettite will go before him in Torre's rotation (assuming health). Speaking of assuming health, at the four-spot: Pavano. And, provided he doesn't completely bomb in camp, at the five-spot in the rotation... Kei Igawa. Note: Pavano and Igawa could flip spots, if Igawa has a solid camp. From what I've heard, his stuff isn't too impressive; but alot of lefties can get by with unimpressive stuff if they know how to pitch (see Jimmy Key).
Favorite Jimmy Key-related story: I was hanging out with Ill Will once, and described a lefty as Jimmy Keyish.
SML: You know, he throws crap but gets away with it. He throws his change-up alot.
Will: If you throw it all the time, is it really a change-up? Should it be called a same-up?
That still cracks me up.
As for Philip Hughes, I love the future, but he won't be in the majors any earlier than June, and then only if there are injuries. And even then, I don't think he will be needed... the Yankees only got rid of Randy Johnson because they must think they have the inside track on Roger Clemens come July.
Questions about Pettite are unnecessary. Assuming he is healthy, he has thrown for over 200 IP the last two years; yes, it was the NL, but his homefield was a hitter's park, and he had an amazing 2005 (17-9, 2.39 ERA). I don't think he'll do that, but I think a 14-16 win season with a 4.20 ERA is likely.
On to the questions from greenpinstripes:
1. The Yankees strength is their offensive firepower, but outside of the top of the order (Damon and Jeter) and the number 9 slot (whoever is on first), what would be the best way to fill out the everyday lineup?
The problem the Yankees have had the last three to six postseasons has been that they can't manufacture a run in a close game. The rely too much on power, and especially the last three years, they have had too many power hitters in the lineup - that's great in the regular season, when you can rely on Giambi to carry the team for a few weeks when he's hot, A-Rod for a few, etc; but in the postseason rarely, if ever, can a hitter really carry a whole team. You are now facing top pitching every night - you'll never see so much as a team's fourth starter, and you won't see much middle relief in a close game - only the top pitchers.
The Yankees (from 1996-2001) used to be able to hit and run, or have someone lay down a bunt in a critical situation. When was the last time you saw the Yankees bunt, or sacrifice, in a playoff game? How do you ask Sheffield, or A-Rod, or Giambi, or Damon, to lay down a bunt?
The inability to manufacture a run cost the Yankees in game 4 and 5 against Boston in 2004; they had opportunities, but could not score a run from second with less than two outs. We saw it again last season against Detroit - they lost game 2 by a 4-3 score, and let Detroit back into the series. We saw in 2005 against the Angels.
The Yankees need less power in their lineup, which is why, even though we love Sheffield we knew he had to go. Giambi is still untradeable, and has a great eye. So, too does Abreu. With Cano, Damon, and Jeter, and whoever is playing 1st (watch for Josh Phelps, he has an outside chance), the Yankees now have a team that can better manufacture runs - speed, contact hitters, guys with good eyes. I would go with Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui, A-Rod, Giambi, Posada, Phelps/Mientkiewicz, and Cano, in that order.
This off-season saw the Yanks trade Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson for young arms. Will any (like Humberto Sanchez or Ross Ohlendorf) make an impact on the Yankees in 2007 or will Philip Hughes be the best bet to make the claim as the Yanks new young gun this year?
Both have a better chance of making the team than Hughes; whereas Hughes is 20 years old and never pitched above AA, Sanchez is 23, Ohlendorf is 24, and both have some (minimal) experience at AAA. Sanchez is 6'6 with a power arm and a tender elbow - I could see the Yankees going the bullpen route with him, and in that role he would be my bet to have the most impact on the 2007 Yankees. I don't see Hughes getting a significant amount of time in the majors, unless Clemens signs with the Red Sox and forces the Yankees' hand. Ohlendorf is the oldest, so if something happens to the rotation (with Pavano, Pettite, and Mussina, that's almost certain), he could be used to spot start or fill an injury, but Sean Henn and Jeff Karstens have dibs on that role. He could be tradebait (see next question).
What do you expect out of Carl Pavano this season? Also, if he has a strong Spring Training, should the Yankees consider trading him while his value would be at its peak?
If Pavano can avoid injuries, he will be a decent fourth - his stuff never wowed me, but he'll be better than Jaret Wright last season. Put him down for about 12-9, 4.40 ERA. He won't be an ace, nor will he have to - as long as he can do a decent job as a fourth starter, he has done his (overpaid) job. As for trading him - if you trade out of camp, even if he looks great during camp - you are going to get undervalue for him. I don't see Cashman going that route; if anything, I think he would let him show his stuff for a few months, then trade him in July when Clemens comes in. If the rest of the rotation - Mussina, Wang, Pettite, and Igawa - are doing great, then it makes sense - Clemens can take Pavano's spot, the Yankees save $10 million next season, and can get back some prospects or some bench depth.
One last thing to watch for, in the event Clemens doesn't sign with the Yankees - look for a possible move for Dontrille Willis or even Carlos Zambrano, both free agents after this season. The Marlins are not re-signing Willis, so he should be available; Zambrano is a different story but it depends on how the season goes in Wrigley. With the newly restocked farm system, I could see Ohlendorf or Sanchez getting traded for one of those guys.
Questions for Depressedfan:
1. Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Yankees in the East next year? Alot of people in the media want to play up the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but don't you think the Blue Jays are the real threat? Or do you think the Sox can make up the ground they lost to the Jays last season?
2. What would you do to improve this season's team? What do you feel are the weak spots that need to be worked on?
3. Where do you see Cashman taking this team in the long-run? Is he (re)building the foundation of the team, and, if so, is he betting the future of the team on these young prospects (Hughes, Sanchez, etc) or is he going to go out and get a free agent after the season, like a WIllis or a Zambrano?
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