Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated is one of my favorite baseball writers.
He was interviwed by SI.com yesterday about the Mark Teixeira signing and there are some comments I’d like to share with you all here.
How does Mark Teixeira fit in with the Yankees?
He’s a great fit for the Yankees. I really thought before they signed him that their offense was short last year, having gone from almost 1,000 runs a game to fewer than 800, and they added a big bat in the prime of his career. He’s a switch-hitter, he’s an upgrade defensively. They became the favorite in the AL already if they weren’t already. I think they needed a bat, and the other side to that is they kept him away from the Red Sox, which further improved their chances in the division.
Did the Yankees overpay?
You can make an argument that the Yankees overpaid a bit to get him. He’s certainly not in the A-Rod/Albert Pujols category in terms of the very best hitters in the game but he is in the next tier, and you have to like the fact that he’s durable and he is a switch-hitter. If they did overpay they didn’t do it by a lot.
How does this affect the Red Sox and where do they go from here?
They’re OK depending on the health of Mike Lowell and how David Ortiz bounces back from the wrist injury. They don’t have to go panic into another move. It probably makes them the favorites for Matt Holliday at the end of 2009. Yankees-haters should understand that they’ll have Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui coming off the books, so if they think the Yankees have nothing left in the cookie jar, think again. People forget that they spent $372 million last year on A-Rod and Jorge Posada, so that’s $796 million in two seasons.
Can anyone beat them in 2009?
There’s one thing that would happen that would make them completely unbeatable and that would be if they ever got their act together with player development. If they could supplement their ability to develop players with their ability to buy players no one could touch them. They got Teixeira because they needed position players and part of the reason they got CC Sabathia is that in New York you can’t wait more than one year to find out if guys like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are answers. That would be really scary for the rest of baseball. They’ve tried to use their resources on the amateur market as well in terms of giving huge bonuses to guys like Andrew Brackman, who head right for surgery. Those risks haven’t really paid off, even on the international market. Everybody misses; no one’s really solved the eternal mystery of being able to project amateur players into being stars.
We’ve seen the Yankees spend big for years, yet they haven’t won a World Series since 2000. Will this be any different?
Cerrtainly when you look back on 2000 and 2001, when they got the best pitcher available in Mike Mussina one year and the best hitter available the next in Jason Giambi and they didn’t translate into championships, you would think the Yankees learned some lessons about staying away from older players, injury risks and guys who weren’t thick-skinned enough to succeed in New York. Certainly I think Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Teixeira all fit the profiles of guys who should succeed in New York. Burnett is a bit of an injury-risk obviously. They may or may not get burned on that. Otherwise, I think you’re talking about two very smart buys, and I don’t see it being analagous to the acquisitions of Kevin Brown or Carl Pavano or players like that.
I’ll discuss a couple of things Verducci says. First, Verdiccui says the Tex signing is a great fit for the Yankees. They needed a position player (Swisher doesn’t cut it and is better off the bench to give some power when needed) and they needed a big time bat. Tex provided both.
Sure, the Yankees probably overpaid, but they are the Yankees and they can afford to.
It’s interesting to see what Verducci says about player development. The Yankees could have been patient and just allowed Hughes, Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Phil Coke, Al Aceves, Andrew Brackman, Humberto Sanchez and many other pitching prospects to develop — but they won’t wait. They could afford to get CC and AJ. By next year if Pettitte doesn’t sign, then the Yankees have a waiting list of young arms ready. And the same goes for position players — especially Jesus Montero, who will now have to switch to catcher now that the Yanks got Tex. Montero can take over from Posada as early as 2010, when Posada assumes the role he got from Girardi, a mentor to the heir apparent.
Last, Verducci explains the Yankees’ model and why they haven’t won since 2000. That’s because when George Steinbrenner took over, he got older players like Brown, Randy Johnson. Cashman threatened to leave unless the reins were turned over and Cashman has done an excellent job developing the team and restocking it with farm talent. That is the way the Yankees got their dynasty started in the 1990s. Now that the Yankees have 3 young players to develop a new core around with, they are a formidable opponent for the next 5-7 years.
To read the rest of Verducci’s article, click here.