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5 Questions with New York Yankees' Expert Travis Goldman

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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. 


MLBDD: The biggest offseason need of the Yankees appears to be starting pitching. How do you think the team will address this during the offseason?

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.

My Thoughts: They seem to be extremely likely to get one of either Yu Darvish or C.J. Wilson if that's their desire to do. If not, it seems like they should try to target a starting pitcher via trade, and a candidate that may actually match up to me is Gio Gonzalez. If they think he can actually still pitch, Barry Zito would be a great candidate for them to go out and get, as they could give a low-level prospect if they were willing to eat the salary.

Read Travis' thoughts about Derek Jeter, Jesus Montero, and the minor leagues after the jump... 


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). 

My Thoughts: I think Jeter still has some solid production left despite his advancing age. It definitely looks like the milestone may have been affecting his performance, as he got hot almost immediately after reaching 3000 hits.

MLBDD: We saw a glimpse of what the future may hold with the September callup of Jesus Montero. Do you think he remains the starting designated hitter for the team for 2012, or do you think he will end up traded before the season begins?

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. 
My Thoughts: If they want to try and acquire an elite starting pitcher, especially one that's under team control for a while, they're going to have to include Montero, Manny Banuelos, or both in all likelihood. But they must believe he will be truly atrocious behind the plate considering they won't even really try him there except to rest the starter.


MLBDD: It has been just shy of two seasons since the team acquired Curtis Granderson. How do you feel about the trade now, and is that different from how you felt about the trade when it happened?

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.

My Thoughts: When this trade happened, I also thought that Jackson was the bigger loss to the team, as Kennedy hadn't shown anything in the Majors and was recovering from that aneurysm. But Arizona clearly saw something from him, and was able to get more out of him at this point than the Yankees had been. I don't think anyone expected him to be the pitcher to show the most success to this point out of that group of 3 pitchers.


MLBDD: The Yankees have done well to build up their farm system in recent years, and appear to have some solid prospect besides Montero. Is there one position player and one pitching prospect who really stand out to you as having the potential to be special major leaguers?

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!