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Tex worth the money now, and later

Yanks shouldn't spend more on rotation when they need a first baseman
12/19/2008 2:33 PM ET
By Steven Goldman / Special to YESNetwork.com

Mark Teixeira fills a long-standing, two-way need at first base for the Yankees. (AP)
SPRUNG FROM THE BUNKER WITH A BIG FACE
I couldn't let Friday end with that face at the top of the screen. It's like a cellulite eclipse. Let's tear through a few items before breaking for the weekend. Someone write in and remind me to take a break from editing the Baseball Prospectus annual (Pre-order now! I don't get anything if you do! Not a dime! But you should.) to spend an hour on the treadmill. They're going to let me go back in the Dot-com Bunker on the next show, Jan. 8, 2009. This time I might sneak onto the main set when no one is looking, just to see what it feels like to sit in one of those comfy chairs the New York Times guys get. I can dream, and yet the positive to not being in the plush chairs is that they don't issue rations when you're in the Bunker, so weight loss is pretty much inevitable. I skipped lunch yesterday, and after about two hours in my cell I was getting pretty low. It's hard to answer questions about CC Sabathia when you're thinking, "I wonder if Bob Lorenz would be good with barbecue sauce?" Did you see how they cut to me before my second segment? Next time, instead of working at my computer, you might see me opening up a pizza delivery box.

No, no, no. No pizza. Treadmill, Steve. Treadmill.

In yesterday's Hot Stove show thread there was something of a debate on the subject of Mark Teixeira vs. Manny Ramirez. To me, the most interesting thing about said debate is not the players involved but the apparently universal sense that the Yankees need to bolster the offense. The sense that they need to improve the defense as well is not universal, or no one would be arguing for Manny. The correct answer, though, is "both," especially if the Yankees want to fully exploit the Scrooge McDuck money they just put into arms. Think of it this way: Teixeira, as a Gold Glove defender at first base and a top hitter, is all positive. He's not only adding runs above average on offense, he's taking them away from the bad guys when in the field. Say Teixeira is worth 50 runs over the average player with the bat, and 10 runs above average with the glove, so you could say that his total contribution to the winning effort is 60 runs.

With Ramirez, the math is different. As Rob Neyer wrote this week, under normal conditions he's such an egregiously indifferent outfielder that most metrics see him as being worth about 20 runs below average. Those runs have to be held against his offensive totals, such that if Ramirez is worth about 60 runs over the average player with the bat, after fielding is considered, he's really only a 40-run advantage — or less than Teixeira. Another way of looking at it is to say that Teixeira adds about five wins over the average player with his bat, then gives his team another with the glove. Ramirez gives his team six wins with the bat, but also contributes two losses with the leather.

We haven't even talked about the elephant in the room with Manny, which is, "If he's paid, will he give a damn?" but we don't have to, because there's another consideration, which is that if he's signed to a three-year deal, his team is buying his age-37, 38 and 39 season. Hall-of-Fame hitter or not, this is a dangerous thing to do. Ramirez's fielding is already a problem. If he loses a half a step, he's not just going to be damaging in the field, he's going to be a visible joke. Sure, he could DH, but the age is still an issue — at some point age is going to set in, and while we don't know if it will happen during those three years, there's a good chance that it will. In contrast, the team that buys eight years of Teixeira will get him from age 29 through 36. His contract will end where Ramirez's begins. That consideration alone should swing the discussion toward Teixeira.

What we still don't know is the Yankees' position on all of this. They've signed two starters, supposedly don't want to go crazy with their budget, and yet are rumored to be looking at still one more free-agent pitcher. This last point would almost certainly be overkill. Few teams go five deep in quality starters in their rotation, and the Yankees have sufficient alternatives in, at the very least, Phil Hughes, winter ball-reborn Ian Kennedy, and Alfredo Aceves, that if one falters they can move to Plan B without too much trouble. Foregoing Andy Pettitte at No. 5 would probably be worth half a Teixeira. Establishing Hughes, Kennedy, or Aceves in the rotation would mean a couple of seasons of pre-arbitration, pre-free-agent salaries at that roster position, along with the possibility of buying that now-established player out of their arbitration/free-agent years, such that their costs are controlled for years. This beats going back to the free-agent market for next year's A.J. Burnett. Plus, you get to save the offense and the defense. To put it another way, send $22.5 million a year on Teixeira now, save $10 million on Pettitte this year, save $17 million on Burnett II next year, and the year after that, and for however long the team controls the young pitcher it puts into the fifth spot in 2009. At that point, Teixeira starts to look darned cheap — $12.5 million for him, plus the $10 million you would have wasted on an old pitcher anyway.

Stay safe and warm this snowy weekend. The Pinstriped Bible rides again on Monday or with breaking news, whichever comes first.

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Thursday, December 18: Posted at 3:41 p.m. EST

TEN THINGS THAT ARE SPECTACULARLY ANNOYING TO THE FAT, BEARDED PINSTRIPED BIBLE GUY RIGHT NOW
10. Sports radio talk show hosts and callers that endorse $100 million over four years for Manny Ramirez, but not $200 million over eight years for Mark Teixeira.

9. People who can never admit when they're wrong, even on the brink of disaster. That is, grown-up infants.

8. Those same Manny advocates who insist that the Yankees cannot sign Teixeira because they must keep first base open for a superannuated Jorge Posada, as if there's some equivalence there, as if an elderly Posada would hit and field like a first baseman, any first baseman, in the prime of his career.

7. My complete inability to get a contractor to commit to re-doing my front walk. How do these guys make money when they never, ever show up? I've had four separate guys give estimates, then disappear.

6. The realistic possibility that the Yankees will have no young players in the lineup or starting rotation to start the season. In the long term this is a recipe for disaster.

5. The guy in this very crowded train who either just expired of a digestive meltdown or is consuming rancid sauerkraut. Also, the woman who, prior to the radioactive cabbage incident, perfumed herself in this same car. You'd think this was a German attack at the Somme. Ladies: Spraying your perfume around in enclosed public spaces is just selfish and cruel. A rose by any other name would smell just as rank if its odor had been forced on you.

4. The Baltimore Orioles. The most competitive division in baseball could be one-fifth more exciting with a real team in Maryland. Exception: Their automatic Rookie of the Year catcher.

3. So-called collaborators who leave you holding the bag. Also, the Carolina parakeet. You never see them around anymore.

2. The extremely lethargic way the winter market is proceeding. At this pace, half the teams in baseball will be unsettled on the eve of Spring Training.

1. Tie: Teixeira on the Red Sox/It's always about you, isn't it?

HOT STOVE SHOW OPEN THREAD
Your thoughts here, because I want to know. Also, I might have trouble thinking for myself. You wouldn't want me to freeze up on cable, would you? Bob Lorenz might yell at me. Also, any number of ex-girlfriends might be watching, and if I can't appear handsome and prosperous, with your help I might at least seem intelligent. I'll be checking in during the middle segment of the show, when they keep me locked in the closet.

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Wednesday, December 17: Posted at 11:34 p.m. EST

WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR HEROES ...
... We were in the midst of our subjective position-by-position ranking of the teams in the American League East, with the intention of trying to discern, however unscientifically, how these teams rank in terms of talent. We're using a simple scoring system: if a team's player ranks first out of five at a position it receives five points. If it ranks fourth, it receives four points, and on down the line. Having reviewed all the fielding positions (scroll down, pilgrims), the score was Red Sox 31, Yankees 26, Rays 25, Orioles 21, Blue Jays 17 with designated hitter and the pitching staffs yet to go.

Designated Hitter:
1. Red Sox: David Ortiz
2. Yankees: Hideki Matsui
3. Orioles: Aubrey Huff
4. Blue Jays: Travis Snider
5. Rays: Free parking

As with many of these entries, there is a great deal of conjecture here. Will Ortiz be completely healthy? He wasn't half bad when he was hurting. Will Hideki Matsui's knee problems be a thing of the past? Will Huff revert to his previously mild levels of production for a DH? How will 21-year-old Snider hit over a full season? Who is the Rays' DH? The correct signing could jump the Rays up to second place or third place on this list. For now, THE SCORE: Red Sox 36, Yankees 30, Rays 26, Orioles 24, Jays 19.

No. 1 Starter:
1. Yankees: CC Sabathia
2. Blue Jays: Roy Halladay
3. Red Sox: Jon Lester
4. Rays: James Shields
5. Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie

You want to take Halladay over Sabathia, I won't argue with you. THE SCORE: Red Sox 39, Yankees 35, Rays 28, Orioles 25, Jays 23.

No. 2 Starter:
1. Rays: Scott Kazmir
2. Yankees: Joba Chamberlain
3. Red Sox: Josh Beckett
4. Blue Jays: Dustin McGowan?
5. Orioles: Garrett Olson?

These numbered starter designations are somewhat arbitrary, so if you want to debate who should be sorted where that's fine. Kazmir rates over Chamberlain on the basis of greater experience; Chamberlain rates over Beckett because of the latter's health problems this season. Speaking of health problems, it's not quite clear when McGowan will be back from surgery to repair a frayed labrum. Between injuries (Shaun Marcum is likely out for the season) and the free-agent defection of A.J. Burnett, the Jays have really had a hole blown in their starting rotation. As for the Orioles, their rotation is scary anonymous -- and likely scary bad. THE SCORE: Red Sox 42, Yankees 39, Rays 33, Orioles 26, Blue Jays 25.

No. 3 Starter:
1. Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka
2. Yankees: Burnett
3. Rays: Matt Garza
4. Blue Jays: Jesse Litsch
5. Orioles: Chris Waters

The wild card here is Burnett's health, Matsuzaka's ability to dance between walks for another year, and if Garza can take the wonderful things he did to the Red Sox in the ALCS into the regular season. THE SCORE: Red Sox 47, Yankees 43, Rays 36, Blue Jays 27, Orioles 26.

No. 4 Starter:
1. Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang
2. Rays: Andy Sonnanstine
3. Blue Jays: David Purcey
4. Red Sox: Tim Wakefield
5. Orioles: Radhames Liz

I'm going on feel here. It's all guesswork at this point, except that Wang should trump the lot if he stays healthy -- although David Price could be listed here, and perhaps he blows everyone else away. Liz could turn out to be the best Orioles pitcher, or the worst. He certainly has the potential to be good, but the Orioles aren't very good at tapping potential. Sending an unrefined pitcher to the O's is like hiring a porpoise to sniff out truffles. THE SCORE: Red Sox 49, Yankees 48, Rays 40, Blue Jays 30, Orioles 27.

No. 5 Starter:
1. Yankees: Right now it's probably Phil Hughes, but they could sign anyone.
2. Rays: Price, barring a Spring Training breakdown.
3. Red Sox: Clay Buchholz likely gets first dibs.
4. Blue Jays: I don't think they know, either.
5. Orioles: Just what do you want from me, already?

Three pitchers with great potential, two unknowns. I think they call that a full house. The top three could shake out in any order, particularly if Hughes is secretly Derek Lowe or Lefty Grove, Price proves to be Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann or someone like that ... Or if Buchholz turns back into Charlie Zink. THE SCORE: Yankees 53, Red Sox 52, Rays 44, Jays 32, Orioles 28.

Closer:
1. Yankees: Mariano Rivera
2. Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon
3. Blue Jays: B.J. Ryan
4. Rays: Troy Percival
5. Orioles: George Sherrill

No shame in being third in this group. I'm not going to score middle relief because it's far too volatile, but if I had to rank them right now, I would pick the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays in some order ahead of the Red Sox and Orioles. That makes our FINAL SCORE: Yankees 58, Red Sox 56, Rays 46, Jays 35, Orioles 29.

So, there you have it. One version of the talent spread among the teams of the AL East. By switching just a few assumptions, you could easily flip the Red Sox over the Yankees, or bring the Rays a lot closer. There are so many moves yet to happen the whole thing could change ... except the Orioles being last. That's set in stone.

TV TIME AGAIN
I'll again be chatting from the cyber-closet with Bob and the gang on the YES Hot Stove show, 6:30 p.m. EST on Thursday. Once again, I'll be looking for your input, so feel free to comment here or in our pre-show thread, which we'll open up tomorrow. I hope you will tune in

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Wednesday, December 17: Posted at 1:20 a.m. EST

WHO'S BETTER, WHO'S BEST?

As promised in yesterday's entry, an "if-the-season-started-today" roster comparison of the five teams in the American League East. The goal: to see if the Yankees' several moves thus far have tipped the balance of talent towards the Bronx. The method: a subjective one, but I will justify my rankings. The scoring is simple: The team whose player ranks first among the five teams receives five points. Having the second-best player is worth four points, and so on. The team with the most points wins.

FIRST BASE 1. Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis
2. Rays: Carlos Pena
3. Yankees: Nick Swisher
4. Blue Jays: Lyle Overbay
5. Orioles: The Great Pumpkin

The Red Sox could put Mark Teixeira here and the rankings would be the same, though the gap between one and two would simply grow larger. The high upside on a Swisher rebound is probably in the neighborhood of .270/.380/.490. That would be very good indeed, but not quite at the level of Youkilis/Teixeira or Pena, the halfway point of whose last two seasons is .264/.394/.560. Overbay hasn't hit at an appropriate level for a first baseman in two seasons. We don't know who the Orioles first baseman is going to be. Last season's placeholder, Kevin Millar, is a free agent, and their pursuit of Teixeira seems unlikely to pay off. They could play DH Aubrey Huff here, which would vault them to fourth, or even third if Huff has another 2008 in him. SCORE: Red Sox 5, Rays 4, Yankees 3, Jays 2, Orioles 1.

SECOND BASE 1. Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
2. Orioles: Brian Roberts
3. Yankees: Robinson Cano
4. Blue Jays: Aaron Hill
5. Rays: Akinori Iwamura

As with the placement of Swisher above, this ranking is dependent on a rebound-which Cano should do. The laws of physics almost demand it. The problem is that the two guys ahead of him on this list will probably get on base more often even if he does. The placement of Hill is based on his age and where he seemed to be heading after 2007, a concussion having wiped out the majority of his 2008 season. Iwamura is good for a little offense and a little defense, but not enough of either. SCORE: Red Sox 10, Yankees 6, Rays 5, Orioles 5, Jays 4.

THIRD BASE 1. Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
2. Rays: Evan Longoria
3. Red Sox: Mike Lowell
4. Blue Jays: Scott Rolen
5. Orioles: Melvin Mora

What a strong group. Even consistency from A-Rod should keep him on top. The ranking of Longoria is speculative based on a full season and a mild improvement. If the Sox sign Teixeira and push Youkilis here, the ranking probably wouldn't change-the thought here is that Youkilis backslides just slightly. Put Lowell, Rolen, and Mora in a bag and shake 'em up. Mora was actually better than Rolen this year, but Mora is unlikely to have another season like that in him at 37. SCORE: Red Sox 13, Yankees 11, Rays 9, Orioles 6, Blue Jays 6.

SHORTSTOP
1. Yankees: Derek Jeter
2. Red Sox: Jed Lowrie
3. Rays: Jason Bartlett
4. Orioles: Cesar Izturis
5. Blue Jays: John McDonald

As weak a field after Jeter as the third base collection was strong. Jeter played hurt last year, declined, or both, but he'd have to fall a long way to sink past the glove-men here. The jury is still out on Lowrie, who isn't a great glove and showed quite few holes in his rookie year, including Fenway-dependent hitting, an aversion to right-handed pitching, and an inability to adjust in September, when pitchers struck him out in about 30 percent of his at bats. The alternative is Julio Lugo, who seems to have come to the end of his abilities. Bartlett saved his season with a strong second half. The other two guys make Rabbit Maranville look like Babe Ruth. SCORE: Red Sox 17, Yankees 16, Rays 12, Orioles 8, Blue Jays 7.

LEFT FIELD
1. Red Sox: Jason Bay
2. Rays: Carl Crawford
3. Yankees: Johnny Damon
4. Blue Jays: Adam Lind
5. Orioles: Luke Scott/Ryan Freel

The only thing I'm sure about here is that Bay belongs on top. I have the sense that Carl Crawford has a better year in him after hamstring and hand injuries wrecked his season. I feel strongly that Johnny Damon is going to give something back this season. Lind could finally hit like his minor league numbers suggest he should (.318/.379/.509 in the sticks) and if he doesn't, the Jays could put Travis Snider in his place and get good production. Luke Scott is a good platoon guy and could pop enough home runs to move up a couple of spots. SCORE: Red Sox 22, Yankees 19, Rays 16, Orioles 9, Blue Jays 9.

CENTER FIELD 1. Rays: B.J. Upton
2. Blue Jays: Vernon Wells
3. Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Orioles: Adam Jones
5. Yankees: Fred C. Dobbs, Duke Mantee, or Philip Francis Queeg

Among the wild cards here: Jones and if he adds power, as is expected; Ellsbury's ability to hold on to the progress he made at the end of the season; Upton's health and if the super-powerful version of him that showed up in the playoffs will reappear in April; and, of course, just who will play center for the Yankees. Mike Cameron would not change this ranking and could conceivably increase the gap between fourth and fifth place. SCORE: Red Sox 25, Rays 21, Yankees 20, Jays 13, Orioles 11.

RIGHT FIELD
1. Orioles: Nick Markakis
2. Red Sox: J.D. Drew
3. Blue Jays: Alexis Rios
4. Yankees: Xavier Nady
5. Rays: Matt Joyce

I suspect this ranking will lead to some argument. Drew is the best all-around hitter here, but you never know if he'll be in the lineup. Somehow Markakis has yet to make an All-Star team. He will this year. He's just 25, has improved each season of his career, and is the best all-around player in the group. Rios does a lot of things well without quite reaching the level of production you expect from a right fielder. Joyce is unproven, but he's a strong glove who should give the Rays some pop from the left side. An unorthodox platoon pairing with switch-hitters Fernando Perez or Ben Zobrist could be reasonably productive and defensively sound. That leaves Nady, who will almost certainly return to his career rates of performance next season. That makes him fourth in this group, fifth if Joyce hits and fields as expected. SCORE: Red Sox 29, Rays 22, Yankees 22, Orioles 16, Jays 16.

CATCHER
Orioles: Matt Wieters
Yankees: Jorge Posada
Rays: Dioner Navarro
Red Sox: Batman
Blue Jays: Rod Barajas

Some rankings on faith here. Wieters is perhaps the best prospect in baseball, and is presumed to have the Orioles job (Ramon Hernandez was traded for Ryan Freel in anticipation of Wieters' arrival). Bat-wise, he looks like Mike Piazza II. If Posada can catch regularly and hit anything like old school Jorge, the Yankees will be in very good shape. If not, they're off-the-charts hopeless, as they were this year. Navarro is an average-driven hitter who holds his own. Boston's catcher, is, of course, fictional, but we don't know if Theo Epstein will break down and bring back Jason Varitek, make a deal with the Rangers for one of their extra backstops, or pursue some other option that isn't yet apparent. It takes some faith to rank a complete unknown ahead of Rod Barajas, but I'm certain that whichever catcher the Red Sox ultimately acquire he will be capable of at least a .300 on-base percentage. SCORE: Red Sox 31, Yankees 26, Rays 25, Orioles 21, Jays 17.

We will continue in our next entry with designated hitter, starting pitching, closers, and middle relief.

MORE FROM ME... ...As always, at Wholesome Reading, to be updated with Internal Improvements III this evening.

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Monday, December 15: Posted at 4:31 p.m. EST

IDLE MUSINGS FOR A SLOW NEWS DAY
The A.J. Burnett signing continues to be controversial. My pal Rob Neyer summed it up as "Too many dollars, too many years." If reports that the Yankees are still in on Mark Teixeira prove to be something more than the usual hot air to bid up the real buyers, I'll be willing to chalk the whole thing up to the team placing a bet on the roulette wheel with money which, after all, they are free to gamble with as they wish. If, on the other hand, this expense is used to justify the fielding of a degraded offense, it will be much harder to swallow.

In regards to that offense, Neyer notes, "Yankee Stadium is (or rather, was) a pitcher's park. Considering only road games, the Yankees finished third in the American League in OPS last year. Maybe that doesn't qualify as 'excellent,' but it's certainly somewhere between 'good' and 'excellent.' Granted, everybody's a year older and we might expect a slight decline next year. So yes, the Yankees should try to improve their offense ... and I'm not at all convinced they can't still afford to do exactly that. Has Brian Cashman suggested that he's finished spending money? If he has, I missed it." Taking the last thing first, Cashman didn't say he was done, but almost every writer on the beat seems to have come to the conclusion that the Yankees are out on the major position players. Sure, they could be wrong, things could change, but one assumes (perhaps incorrectly) that their conclusions are actually sourced. Yeah, I know. I'm naïve. As for last year's offense, with Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu deleted, it's not next year's offense, and comparisons don't really apply.

One other thought about the various Yankees moves thus far this winter, one that seems to have occurred to many others around the hot stove: if the Yankees stop now, have they done enough to pass the Rays and the Red Sox? It's a difficult question to answer because those teams aren't done either, but we'll try in tomorrow's Pinstriped Bible.

I love Jamie Moyer's new two-year contract with the Phillies, if only because I'd like to see him follow through on his expressed wish (threat?) to pitch through age 50. As long as Moyer is still pitching, I am not old. I am less sanguine on the champs' signing of Chan-Ho Park, a pitcher who has been around for 15 years and has never pitched well outside of Los Angeles. His Dodgers career ERA is 3.77 in 275 games. In 103 games with three other teams, it's 5.63. Career ERA at Dodger Stadium, 2.96. Everywhere else: 5.16.

As for new general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s decision to buy Raul Ibanez for three years and $30 million, it is daft. As well as Ibanez has hit in his second stint as a Mariner (.291/.354/.477), that's in good-not-great territory, he's a defensive liability, and they've just bought themselves ages 37 through 39, not usually a player's best years. Adam Dunn is a defensive liability too, but he's more productive and, at 29, will remain that way for longer. Hell, they could have gone in on Mark Teixeira and then traded the fun but limited Ryan Howard. You can see where the Phils might not want to replace a high-strikeout hitter like Pat Burrell with another high strikeout hitter, but just because the ideal candidate isn't available isn't an excuse to sign a bad one.

JUST A REMINDER ABOUT THE COMMENTS
I'm reading 'em, so keep 'em coming. I'll be bringing some of them up on the air later this week.

MORE FROM ME
After a slow week of being imprisoned on the BP annual (not that I've been paroled), I'm back at work at Wholesome Reading, including the first two parts of a planned multipart series on Public Works. Baseball or government, infrastructure strategy excites me. As always, Warning! Politics!

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Steven Goldman's Pinstriped Blog appears daily on YESNetwork.com. "Forging Genius," Steve's biography of Casey Stengel, and "Mind Game," the story of the Red Sox' 2004 championship, and "Baseball Between the Numbers," from the authors of Baseball Prospectus, are now available at Amazon.com. More Steve is available on YESNetwork.com in the Pinstriped Bible, and the Baseball Prospectus Web site. Your questions, comments, suggestions welcomed at oldprofessor@wholesomereading.com. The opinions stated above are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to anyone connected in an official capacity with the YES Network.
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