The Yankees came into the season expected to win the Wild Card in the AL, but not their division by anyone. They surprised a bit by winning the AL East, but were unable to advance past the Division Series. As a part of our ongoing 5 Questions Series, we sat down with Pinstripe Alley's Travis Goldman to discuss the state of the team, the minor leagues, and the Curtis Granderson trade.
ON POTENTIAL OFFSEASON MOVES:
TG: It seems from all of GM Brian Cashman's talk that he feels the organization has a much better handle on NPB (Japanese Pro Ball) due to more and better scouting. That leads me to believe they'll make a serious run at Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. By most accounts, he'll be an excellent ML pitcher with the chance to be an ace. For as good as Daisuke Matsuzaka was in NPB, Darvish has been significantly better. His posting fee would be high, but it wouldn't count against the luxury tax and wouldn't require forfeiting a draft pick.If that doesn't happen, I see them going after a lefty like C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle. Southpaws tend to fare better in Yankee Stadium.Right now, it looks like there's only one opening in the 2012 rotation, after CC Sabathia (thank goodness), Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes. Because of that, they may only go after one starter, especially considering the strength of the farm system. There are also slim chances that Burnett is traded and Hughes is demoted to the bullpen. In that unlikely case, they'll be very active this winter.
ON THE PERFORMANCE OF DEREK JETER:
MLBDD: We saw Derek Jeter become the 1st Yankee to reach 3000 hits with the team, and really hit much better once he reached that plateau. Do you think we saw his true performance level in the second half, or do you think we might see a 2012 season which was more like his first half this year?
TG: It's a tough question. Two of the last three years, Derek Jeter's been an above-average offensive player. I expect a season, frankly, similar to this year. If you believe the 3000-hit milestone played on his mind, then he's primed to continue his second-half when he OPS'ed .843. But a lot of it boils down to luck. His BABIP was .281 before his 3000th hit, .400 afterwards. And his career BABIP is almost exactly between the two (.355).
TG: I have to believe that Cashman is smart enough to hold on to Montero after what we saw this year. Not only was the 2011 DH terrible (Jorge Posada hit .235/.315/.398) but Montero showed precocious ability, albeit in a limited sample.The Yankees lucked out when the proposed Montero-for-Cliff Lee deal fell through in 2010 (that's an issue for another time), but it shows he is - or at least was - willing to deal his best prospect, as long as an elite pitcher was coming back. But now that Montero has shown he can hit ML pitching, Cashman is probably less willing to deal the 2012 Rookie of the Year contender.But... if some elite starter becomes available, Montero could be gone, especially considering the Yankees do not hold his defense in high regard.
TG: It's funny. I was actually more upset over trading away Austin Jackson than Ian Kennedy at the time. I liked what we were getting back in Granderson, but he was a limited player: he struck out a lot and couldn't hit lefties. That proved true most of 2010. Then he worked with hitting coach Kevin Long late in the year and turned into a different player. That carried over into 2011 where he'll vie for the MVP. He has a reasonable contract that covers another two years. There's nothing not to like about Grandy.The big loss was Ian Kennedy. Who in God's name knew he would turn into a Cy Young contender? Despite that, I still have a hard time believing he would fare well in the AL East. I watched him pitch a number of times this year and he didn't look much different from when he wore pinstripes. At best I pictured him as a good bullpen option going into 2010. With hindsight being 20/20 and all, it would've been better to trade Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, but remember, Kennedy was coming off a season in which he suffered an aneurysm and pitched all of one ML inning.
TG: Outside of Montero, there's one other prospect who looks like a definite future All-Star: Manny Banuelos. He's a Mexican southpaw who reached Triple-A at the age of 20. He has an advanced feel for offspeed pitches (especially his changeup) and a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90's. After Montero, he's the most asked-for prospect in potential trades.On the offensive side, I'll mention 2011 first-round draft pick Dante Bichette, Jr., son of the former major leaguer of the same name. He won the Player of the Year award in the Gulf Coast League, OPS'ing .951, despite being just 18. He apparently has an excellent work ethic and, obviously, a great pedigree; the only question is his defense. But there's no question he'll be an exciting player to follow for the next few years.
My Thoughts: Banuelos has been well discussed, and deservedly so. He seems likely to be in the Majors at some point during 2012. Bichette has been a bit more interesting, as he crushed the GCL. However, it appears very likely that Bichette is unlikely to be able to stay at 3B, and could more likely end up in the outfield. I could see him playing in Low-A next season, and will be really interested to see what he can do in a full season.
Thanks again to Travis for taking the time to answer our questions!