Just two seasons ago, the Philadelphia Phillies did it -- they won the World Series, defeating the young Tampa Bay Rays.
A World Series title is impressive, however they did something that not many championship teams do. More often than not, teams that win the championship, at any level in any sport, don’t like to change their winning formula for the following season, and therefore stay inactive in the bidding for high profile players. The Phillies, upon the loss of Pat Burrell last year, added Raul Ibanez (who hit more than 30 home runs in 2009), and later in the year scooped up 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. As a result, they represented the National League in the World Series for a second straight season.
The New York Yankees have just won the World Series and I think they should follow the example set by the Phillies.
Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon each recently filed for free agency, and the Yankees stated that only one of them will return. Also, Joba Chamberlain was effective out of the bullpen in the playoffs and it would be interesting to see how he would perform there, while Chien-Ming Wang pitched poorly and got hurt early in the year.
The situations regarding Wang’s recovery and redemption, as well as Joba’s return to the bullpen, will leave some holes in the pitching rotation. This off-season will bring its new group of high profile free agents, and never count the Yankees out of the bidding for any of them! After all, I can see any of the following guys fitting into the 2010 Yankees roster:
Matt Holliday, leftfield: Holliday can play leftfield or be the designated hitter, the two positions that were filled last season by Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. Either Damon or Matsui is not returning to the team for 2010, so Holliday may be a possibility, especially because he is young and has a lot of pop in his bat. I expect the Yankees to not show interest early, but instead slip in towards the end of the free agent signing period with a huge contract offer, much like they did last year with MVP Candidate and Gold Glove Award Winner Mark Teixeira.
Jason Bay, leftfield: Like Matt Holliday, Bay is a big name player who plays leftfield, where there could potentially be a hole in the Yankees’ lineup. He is coming off one of the best years of his career and has just reached his prime, so he may be the perfect fit for New York. Even better for Yankee fans, he was a member of the rival Red Sox in 2009. What would anger Red Sox Nation more than the Yankees picking up a World Series title? I know, having the Yankees pick up one of their best sluggers from last year too!
Vladimir Guerrero, outfield/DH: Vlad is simply another great fit for the Yankees. He is known as one of today’s better players and I’m sure Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will be happy to dish out the cash necessary to bring him from the west coast to the Empire State. One thing that concerns me, however, is Guerrero’s age. He will be 35 on Opening Day next season, which is not too old, but the Yankees are looking for some younger stars, which is why Matsui and Damon are on their way out.
John Lackey, starting pitcher: Honestly, this acquisition would be HUGE for the Yankees. If they had a pitching rotation of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Lackey, they may just be unstoppable. This will allow either Chien-Ming Wang to make a slower than necessary return from his injury, or Joba Chamberlain to live in the bullpen where he thrives. Lackey and a great power hitter like Holliday, Bay, or Guerrero signing with the Yankees seems a little improbable, which is why I included the other two pitchers as possibilities. But hey, last year, nobody expected the Yankees to grab Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira either.
Jarrod Washburn, starting pitcher: Washburn is not as talented as John Lackey, but he could join the Yankees to fill a similar role. After all, the Yankees did show interest in Washburn at the trading deadline both this year and last year. Now may be the time he finally joins New York’s roster.
Joel Pinero, starting pitcher: Pinero is the type of guy that would work perfectly for New York. At age 31 he is not too old, but not too inexperienced either. He is coming off a great year where he helped the St. Louis Cardinals top the National League Central and dive into the playoffs. His 3.49 ERA and 15 wins would work nicely with the forces of CC, A.J., and Andy. I could see him joining the team in addition to Lackey, Washburn, or maybe even a guy like Randy Wolf, Brad Penny, or Vicente Padilla.
Remember, don’t underestimate the Yankees in this year’s free agent market. Just take a look at their signings from the past few years. Anything is possible!