Link 4-20-2011: Who’s afraid of the Yankees?

Yeah, they’re on top of the division, but looking at the New York Yankees, they’ve got some issues to deal with. Beyond the Box Score sums it up rather well, but here are three bullet points:

The rotating rotation

Even with the solid performance of Ivan Nova, they were already down a rotation spot. Now with Phil Hughes not able to repeat his early success, the Yankees are stuck with some combination of Kevin Millwood, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Andrew Brackman to fill 1.25 slots. Oh, and A.J. Burnett is the other starter. Forgive me for being underwhelmed. I don’t see any of these guys being able to produce a Hughes-like season, apart from Hughes. They need quality innings, and it’s not clear how many they can get out of this group.

Unsustainable offense

The Yankees have been on an offensive tear, thanks to a Major League-leading 29 home runs in 15 games, or a clip of two taters per contest. I know they’ve got firepower, but that’s a lot, even for them. Consider that last year, Toronto hit only 257, or 1.58 per game to lead all of baseball in that category. The Yankees are hitting .256 as a team, but have suffered from some poor BABIP (.256 as a team) so they will stand to get some more hits. But they will experience a power outage at some point, and it’s gonna hurt.

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Sox sweep Yankees for 10th straight win

Ellsbury steals home

Ellsbury steals home

Man, and I thought game 1 was unbelievable. The Red Sox came back from a huge deficit in Game 2, and then broke a 1-1 deadlock in Game 3 to take their 10th straight victory last night, highlighted by Jacoby Ellsbury’s steal of home plate in the 6th (video at MLB.com). Read more of this post

2009 Offseason: The Captain still in command

Jason Varitek has accepted Boston’s contract for one season at $5M, with a club option for $5M or $3M player option for 2010. There are $2M of additional incentive clauses for 2010.

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10-7: Beckett and Ramirez punish Yanks, 7-5

With a very strong outing by Josh Beckett (2-1) and a two home run performance by Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox earned a split of this two game series in New York. Beckett gave the Boston bullpen some much needed rest after some very short starts this week, which overexposed the middle relievers; that’s never pretty on any team.

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Contract extension for Varitek in the works?

There’s been some discussions going on in the media recently about the Red Sox getting some contract extensions done before the season begins. I’m all for it, provided they are reasonable deals. Among the names I’ve heard as candidates for extensions include: Terry Francona, Jason Varitek and Jonathan Papelbon.

I listed these talks in order of importance. Francona is a great manager for the Sox. Is he the best in-game manager in baseball? No. But is he incredibly good at handling the players, the press, and the front office here? Absolutely. Without equal. So I say throw him a 3-4 year extension at about $3-4M per year. The Sox don’t overpay like some of the teams out there, and Francona gets a huge raise. Win-win.

Next up, the captain himself, Tek. Varitek is unquestionably the position player who contributes the most outside of his batting line. His scouting and preparation are legendary, and they give invaluable confidence to our pitchers in addition to a tactical edge. Even at age 36, Tek is still a serviceable catcher and an above-average bat at his position. However, that looks to change within the next year or two. A player of Varitek’s stature demands a deal worth at least $8M a year, if he’s willing to take a pay cut. And in the wake of Jorge Posada‘s monster 4-year, $52.4M deal this year, I don’t know if that’s reasonable to expect.

Tek seems to be open to an extension, and why wouldn’t he be? Playing for a two-time World Champion in a place like Boston is a dream job for most players. Sean McAdam seems to think he wants a deal longer than two years, possibly four. And with Scott Boras as his agent, you know things will get dragged out. On the bright side, Varitek has gone over Boras’ head in the past in the interest of getting a deal done.

The Sox don’t have a lot of other options in the cupboard. Dusty Brown, George Kottaras and the like are not going to be ready for Fenway for a long time. Kenji Johjima will likely be a free agent after 2008, but Tek stays in very good shape, he says and does all the right things, he is our captain. And that is worth a lot. I’d be willing to go two years and $22-24M on him, and at the end of 2010, if he can still squat, we can talk about another deal then.

Papelbon is without a doubt our closer of the present and the future. There’s no way we should fail to pay him a fair amount for what he does, but there’s also no reason to sign him long-term until we get to arbitration. I know a lot of teams have been doing it this year; it’s fashionable to sign your Troy Tulowitzki or your Ian Kinsler real early. But what if you sign a guy, and an injury ends his career that year? You’ve effectively locked in money you didn’t have to commit yet. I’m all for giving Paps a generous raise (to $1M or so) on a one-year deal. Then maybe next January, lock him up.

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