Tuesday, February 03, 2004

posted by James - 11:57 PM

Now back to your regularly scheduled baseball posts...

Boonie. Boonie. Boonie.

I've said this plenty of the last three years, but usually it's in reference to Seattle 2B Bret Boone. He can be an exasperation with his overactive style of play and overactive style of mouth... but he's been a productive exasperation since he donned a Mariner uniform for the second time.

No, this time Yankee 3B Aaron Boone is the subject of my scorn when it comes to the Boone family.

He has this magical offseason where he buries Boston's hopes at making it back to the World Series for the first time in 17 years with Bartman-like efficiency, and then he signs a pretty hefty contract to man the hot corner for a perennial contender.

Then he plays himself a little pick-up basketball like he's Stephon Marbury, only his contract wants him to be more like Charles Barkley... which means on the sidelines, not rotund.

Unfortunately, Boone ends up like Grant Hill after sustaining a knee injury which might sideline him for a significant portion of the season, but unlike Hill he won't be collecting a fat paycheck, because his contract says don't play basketball!

(And Reds OF John Vander Wal doesn't get off the hook either. He injured himself while shoveling snow. You'd think when you're less than a month from the greatest eight months of your life - nine if you play for the Cubs - you'd walk on egg shells and pay Little Billy from down the street $20 and an autograph to shovel your snow.)

Depending on the severity of the injury and the extent of his DL stint, the Yankees have the right to non-guarantee Boone's contract. Boone could end up missing out on more than $4 million in salary. That's an expensive pickup game.

Now the Yankees have to answer the question: Who will man third base in Boone's absence?

They have limited, in-house options, especially after dismissing disappointing prospect Drew Henson back to his more productive football roots.

They could hope perennial gap-fillers such as Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo can add some production with the increased playing time.

The Yankees of course didn't rest there, signing former Cub, Brewer and Phillie Tyler Houston to a minor-league deal and trading for former Ranger Mike Lamb.

All four competitors are versatile infielders, and Cairo could serve as a fourth or fifth outfielder, while Houston can fill an emergency-catcher role behind Jorge Posada and John Flaherty.

The Yankees have also set themselves up for a competent platoon with Cairo posting a career 768 OPS vs. LHP, Lamb posting a 789 OPS vs. RHP in 2002 - he spent last year in AAA as the Rangers rightfully went with youth; He has a career 724 OPS vs. RHP - and Houston having a career 741 OPS vs RHP.

Wilson's numbers aren't worthy enough to mention, but Joe Torre's not getting rid of him and he'd be their only backup to Derek Jeter at shortstop. I'd find a way to scoot him off the roster, but I'm not running the Yankees.

But unfortunately for the Yankees, they all can't stay. Not even the Yankees can finagle their way to a 30-man roster. (Al Davis would sue, but that's a whole different sport.)

So, assuming they go with a five-man bench, they could have Flaherty, Wilson, Cairo, Lamb and Ruben Sierra on the bench. Lamb beats out Houston for the last spot because of his experience at first base, which leaves Clark out in the cold.

There's a chance they could leave Sierra off in favor of Houston or Tony Clark, but only if Bernie Williams proves healthy enough to play a couple games per week in centerfield.

But of course, this is the Yankees and there's always another option: Spend more money!

You know where this is going.

...Beep...Beep ...Beep...Beep...Beep

(Beeping to the tune of Black Sabbath's Iron Man)

Another update from the Just North of Wrigley Field Ugueth Urbina Update Center.

The Yankees could explore the trade route and look to the West coast for third-base options.

Anaheim's Troy Glaus and Los Angeles' Adrian Beltre would probably cost too much in terms of salary and prospects, of which the Yankees have very little, but they're probably available as long as their tradees can weather the offensive downgrade (the Dodgers probably couldn't).

The San Diego Padres have Jeff Cirillo... I'm sorry I ever brought him up. I have forever shamed this blog. I will now attempt to move on.

And San Francisco has Edgardo Alfonzo... former New York Mets 3B Edgardo Alfonzo, who can also play second.

This is where your Triple-U update comes in.

The Giants have acquired several offensive upgrades in the outfield, but have yet to make room for 1B/3B Pedro Feliz, who had a 793 OPS last season (854 OPS in the second half!), and they've made only two significant additions to their pitching staff when they needed at least three, and more if closer Robb Nen doesn't make it out of spring training.

Trading Alfonzo (and maybe some cash) to the Yankees for Clark, who would back up J.T. Snow at first base and has a $750,000 contract, and a prospect or two would free up money to bring in a fifth-starter to compete with Dustin Hermanson, Kevin Correia and others at fifth starter...

Or they could offer Urbina a couple million dollars as Nen insurance, with escalator clauses if he were to assume closer duties (similar to the deal former-Twins closer Eddie Guardado signed with Seattle).

Barry Bonds might not be too happy about losing Alfonzo's protection in the lineup, but Feliz would represent a 70-point increase in OPS and a 125-point increase in slugging percentage. And Bonds doesn't care if the person behind him gets on base (they have plenty of candidates who can do that in front of him), he needs guys behind him who can strike enough fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers, and managers, to hold his walks under 200 per year.

A prospective Giants lineup and their relevant 2003 statistics:

1. Durham 2b (.366 OBP, 50 bb in 110 G)
2. Pierzynski c (.360 OBP, 35 2b)
3. Bonds lf (1278 OPS, 45 hr)
4. Feliz 3b (.515 SLG%, 16 hr in 235 AB)
5. Tucker rf (815 OPS pre-All-Star Break)
6. Grissom cf (.468 SLG%, 56 extra-base hits)
7. Snow 1b (806 OPS, 51 RBIS in 103 G)
8. Ransom/Perez ss (none)

And they'd still have a loaded bench at this point with Clark, Dustan Mohr and Jeffrey Hammonds and some decent minor-leaguers waiting when the inevitable injuries happen.

The Giants have already reached the limits of their payroll, but if they were able to rid themselves of Alfonzo's contract when they have a possibly superior replacement already in hand, they could keep their lineup strong and still keep up with the strong bullpens throughout the NL West.

Now I'm going to go spin around four times and spit even further North of Wrigley Field and try to exorcise the demons of "the third baseman who shall not be named" from this blog.

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