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September 07, 2006

Time To Discontinue Unit Production?

Seven months ago, I looked at all A.L. Pitchers, since the DH Rule, age 42 or older - to see who had the best season ever. At that time, I wrote:

I think the expectation for the Big Unit should be 16 wins this season - and if anything higher happens it would be something special, indeed.

Since Randy Johnson won his 16th game last night, I thought this would be a good time to look inside his numbers this season:

Games Started: 30
Wins: 16
Losses: 10
Innings Pitched: 187.3
ERA: 4.76
RSAA: -10

I think Johnson should get 4 more starts this year - which should bring his IP total near 210 by the end of the season.

Making 34 starts and throwing 210 innings is impressive these days. But, clearly, the "quality" of this "quantity" is not near "Randy Johnson" levels - even for an old Randy Johnson.

Knowing that Unit complains of aches and pains these days, and the fact that it's going to be hard for him to reach 300 career wins next year (at his current rate), I have to wonder this: If the Yankees win a ring this year, would Johnson consider walking away from the last year of his contract and retire (while on top)?

Or, is the chance to make an additional $16 million in 2007 worth the tarnish and hassle of another season in New York with an ERA near five?

Would the Yankees miss Johnson's 200 IP? Or, would they welcome the chance to use that $16 million on other pitchers?

Bunching this all together, if the Yankees win a ring in 2006, does it make sense for them to approach Johnson about excepting a buyout of his 2007 option? Say, something like "We'll give you $4 million as a lump sum, if you agree to retire and void the last year of your deal."

It's an interesting idea to me - if the Yankees win a ring this year.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at September 7, 2006 03:20 PM


Approaching Johnson with that $4 million offer would certainly require great delicacy!

Right now, for the rotation in 2006, there is only one sure thing -- Wang. Johnson will probably be back and definitely will be back without a championship.

That leaves three spots (all with question marks).

Mussina (I doubt they will pick up his option, but what would a new contract offer look like -- 2 years at $24 million?)
Wright ($7 million with a club buyout at $4 million -- I bet they pay the extra $3 million)
Pavano (Who knows? I wouldn't be surprised if they trade him and pick up some of the contract)
Hughes -- (Would they pencil him into the rotation with no AAA experience? I doubt it)

Zito -- (will be very expensive)
Pettitte -- (I would not be shocked if sentimentality brings him back)
Kerry Wood -- (an incentive-based flier like the Dotel deal?)

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 04:10 PM

Kerry Wood knows that any future he has in baseball is as a relief pitcher and not as a starter. If the Yankees are smart, they don't look at Kerry Wood for the rotation in 2007, 2008, or at any point beyond that. However, if they want to dole out a couple of million clams to see if they can successfully convert Wood into a 7th or 8th inning guy, by all means, it's worth a shot (as long as they know that Wood, in all reality, will never be able to pitch in the big leagues without spending time on the DL each and every season).

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 04:24 PM

I dunno, with salaries the way they are today, $2M for a 1 yr Kerry Wood experiment doesn't seem that bad. Stick him in the back of the rotation where there's no pressure (or not much anyway) and see what he can do.

I think most of the problem he has in Chicago is that everytime he comes back from injury, he's expected to be an ace for the Cubs. Maybe sticking him in the back of the rotation and asking him for 150 a-little-better-than-league-average innings will be what he needs to get back to being dominant.

Posted by: Mike A. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 04:32 PM

There's no way Randy walks away from $16 mil. Randy, Moose (something around 2 for $24 mil sounds right), and Wang will all be back. Yanks won't get outbid for Zito if they really want him. Maybe someone like Rasner or Karstens fills the #5 spot. I can see the Yanks walking away from Wright and working a deal for Pavano.

What about the idea of Randy coming back in 2008 as a set up man? If he stays relatively healthy, I can see him working 4 or 5 innings a week in relief.

Posted by: christopher [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 04:35 PM

In a perfect world, Randy would not be back. I was excited when he got here, but I'm really tired of this old grumpy bastard. He's not that good anymore and it clearly drives him nuts, and it gets sickening the way they have to coddle him (even Torre strokes his ego). If we can dip into a little bit of a fantasy land here, it would be great if the Yankees could actually trade Unit to an NL team (without getting anything back -- the team would have to pay his entire salary). I think it makes sense: with mediocre pitchers putting up great numbers in the NL, I think Unit could go back and dominate. Instead of just being so-so here. If winning a ring this year gets rid of both Johnson and Torre (maybe he'll hang it up too), I'll dance a friggin' jig on home plate.

I really, really fear the Yankees will go after Zito. It would be a huge mistake. He's going to demand a ton of money and he's not that good. He is not a big-game pitcher and cannot be counted on. Being saddled with Zito for five years would actually retard the growth of Clippard and the other young pitchers we have, because they would have even less of a shot of making the team. The Yankees will probably pursue Zito because it's what they do, but they have to get out of that old mold; having pitching depth means you DON'T have to go after every free-agent pitcher.

In reality, the starting five out of spring training will probably be RJ, Mussina, Wang, Pavano, Rasner/Hughes/free agent. I don't want to see another year of RJ, and Pavano will probably get hurt, so this is what I consider a perfect rotation for '07: Mussina, Wang, Hughes, Clippard, Rasner (maybe even Matsuzaka, just to make more money in Japan). Chance of that happening: zero percent.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 04:51 PM

I don't think Wood's troubles in Chicago were those of expectations but those of lousy genetics and stressful mechanics. I don't want to see the Yankees invest in Wood as a starter, period. If they want to roll the dice and see if he can be a setup man or pinch-hit closer, that's fine.

As for Zito, I haven't made my mind up about him yet. He hasn't been that 22-win guy in the last 3 years and he won't be worth the contract Boras gets for him. But he's a lefty and he's certainly better than average. I wouldn't categorically rule him out, but I wouldn't break my back to bring him here, either.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 05:00 PM

I'm fine with Zito. He's better than anyone gives him credit for, and he's been good in the playoffs (2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 32.2 IP).

He does have the 10th best ERA in the AL this year, and if nothing else, the man is a bonafide workhorse (no fewer than 213 IP in any full season, and he'll make it there again this year), which we have zero of right now (save Proctor).

Posted by: Mike A. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 05:20 PM

Hmm, let's see:

Choice 1 I'm guaranteed $16 million

Choice 2 "Just give me $4 million and we'll call it even."

What's the advantage for Randy Johnson to take a buyout when he doesn't need to? Maybe if you offered $12-14 million of the 16 rather than lowballing at 4, but to shortchange him by $12 million? To whose benefit is that, the Yankees?

I'm really glad you're only looking for what's best for Johnson's sake.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 06:04 PM

It's not that he'd just take the $4M and go away. I'm sure some team out there would offer him $13M for 1 yr, which means he'd make an extra million between the buyout and the new contract.

Posted by: Mike A. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 06:17 PM

You're SURE a team would offer him $13M for 1 year? Why should he take the chance to lose up to $12M to possibly make an extra $1M.

Sounds like yet another person with only Randy Johnson's best interests at heart.

If you guys want Johnson off the team so much just give him his guaranteed $16M up front and release him.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 07:00 PM

Rich - when you have over $100 million in the bank, money is not everything - at least, more money is not everything.

Maybe $12 million (the difference between the salary and the buyout) is not worth it - to a rich, private, grumpy person like Johnson, in trade for having the NY media in your face, 24/7, asking you what's wrong with you because your ERA is over 5?

Plus, when you have millions and millions already, is the extra millions worth staining your legacy? Remember Steve Carlton on the way out? Is $12 million worth having *that* be the last memory that everyone will have of you - when money is your least concern?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 10:24 PM

I think that even if it's in Johnson's best interests and money doesn't matter, a good negotiating tactic would be to not let the Yankees know that. For Johnson, even if he wants to retire, why not make the Yankees sweat?
The buyout also, considering how grumpy Johnson is, might come off as kicking him out the door. Is that any better than enduring a difficult city and fanbase for another year while possibly (in a best-case scenario) getting 300 wins?

Posted by: jdasilva [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 02:14 AM

wether or not RJ will retire strictly is his decision, we have to assume he comes back for now.

I would trade Pavano, the best trade off the top of my head that might actually get something accomplished than just dumping money is trading him to the D-rays (We take say half the money or more) for Elijah Dukes + maybe some other prospects depending on the how the money goes, Dukes is having a ton of trouble with the D-rays, he's a bad boy, but the Yankee organization should be the best hope of fixing that, and if he is straighten out, he has great contact and on base abilities, very possibly a star OF in the future.

I would not keep Jaret Wright, there are many reason to expect him to do even worse than this year,

a. his flyball to HR ratio is completely ridiculas, it's just not sustainable (usually, 8-10% would be expected and good .. like Wang, 6% would be REALLY low, Wright is 4% this year so far.. if he manage to finish at this rate, that's a new record.)

b.there's no reason to expect him turning in a healthy season.

If anything, I rather keep Cory Lidle, who has been pretty healthy through his career, and been a steady workhorse posting multiple 200+inning seasons. I would agree to a 2 year 8-10M contract for him with a 3rd year option. (this pay this year is only 3.3M )

As for FAs, the guy that Yankees are probably most interested in is actually Matsuzaka, the Japanese WBC MVP, he is simply destroying the competition in Japan right now, his only worry is his workload,(zito's workload isn't exactly light either) but he really never had major arm injuries either. he should be closer to a true ace than Zito, who has not only sucked against the AL east in limited sample size, but also moving out of a bad hitting division with a hitter's park. if they want a lefty, Randy Wolf is actually a far better gamble, and he would probably agree to a far shorter term contract. yes he is a NL pitcher, but pitching well for the Phillies is usually an acomplishment, as Cory Lidle showed.

The Yankees must be careful not locking themself in too many long term contracts right now, the next 3-4 years will see some serious overhaul, they must try to stay flexible at this point.

I would probably let Sheffield walk (unless he somehow agrees to a lower paycheck .. which is unlikely )and try to just rotate the final starter spot between Melky /Phillips/Guiel and/or others next year. Giambi is still hitting better as a 1B, there is no serious reason to go after another 1B right now.

I will resign Villone only if he doesn't ask for more than 2 year deals and/or higher than current pay, I doubt it, so he'll probably walk too, which isn't terrible, since his overuse this year and somewhat fluky career year doesn't look very sustainable at his age, at least not worth risking multiyears big contract.

So essentially, next year's rotation is something like.

Rj or Wolf if RJ retires
Lide or some other pitcher of his type.

Bullpen of

some combination of
Bruney, Henn, Karstens,Rasner




Fasano or Nieves
Phillips and/or Guiel
Green or Canizaro
finaly spot simply see who's needed or breaks out.

Posted by: Yu Hsing Chen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 04:21 AM

We need some consistency here. If people want to try to buy out Johnson to spare him future embarassment because he's not the player he used to be and so he won't have to put up with the media then do the same people not want to resign Mussina at any cost? His best days are in the past.

Do we want to offer Arod 25% on the remainder of his contract? Matsui?

Instead of rationalizing why it would be in Johnson's best interests to pass up $12M just admit the Yankees guaranteed him more money than you feel he'll be worth in the future to get the last 2 years of production.

And if you guys get your wish, remember this is what you wanted if the successor doesn't meet your expectations either.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 07:36 AM

Plus, when you have millions and millions already, is the extra millions worth staining your legacy? Remember Steve Carlton on the way out?
Carlton stuck around because his financial manager screwed him out of a lot of $$.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 07:43 AM

I'd keep Moose. No, he's not the pitcher he was, and his contract is over inflated for what he's worth in this climate, but then every Yankee's (with a big contract) is (even Jeter at $189 mil.)

Moose will spit the bit more than in the past, but he'll also give a lot of quality starts. Maybe lower the total cost with a $10 mil one year extension?

Wang (no brainer here)
I'd hold on to Lidle, he seems to be a decent fifth starter for NY. Wright or Karstens for the #4 slot.

Unit, I'd keep him just as an innings eater. Sure a 4.9 ERA is not good, but the Yanks lineup can overcome that. It's only one year, which will be the bridge to Hughes. I just won't make him the #1 starter. If he's got a problem with that, then he can 1) retire or 2) ask for & be traded to AZ for a couple of midgrade prospects

As for Carl Pavano. Pavano sleeps wit' da fishes. Seriously, I expect nothing from him, maybe Cashman can find a way to void the contract. Or else trade him to KC for some reality therapy.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 08:46 AM

Ok. I've been lurking here for quite a while and am glad to finally join the scribe. I don't understand all this talk of buying Randy out. He's been coming on as of late. He is essential to our post-season success. And he has 16 wins and counting. He's far better than any other mediocre starter we will add (other than Zito) for next year. There is no rush for Hughes.

Posted by: mosely23 [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 06:36 PM