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(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstripe Alley)

Baseball Americarecently unveiled its new ranking for the Yankees’ farm system, and once again Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos were featured prominently. Absent from the list, however, was Andrew Brackman, who ranked fifth on last year’s list. Of course, the reason Brackman didn’t make the list is because he is no longer in the organization. After only three minor league seasons and fewer than 350 professional innings, the Yankees decided they had seen enough of their 2007 first round draft pick.

Although Brackman’s and Betances’ status in the Yankees’ organization has diverged dramatically since this time last year, the two pitchers still share one thing in common: abnormal height. At 6’10” and 6’8″, respectively, both right handers rank among the tallest players in major league history. Perhaps not coincidentally, both pitchers have also shared a relative lack of command, which begs the question about whether height is a developmental impediment?

Tallest Pitchers in Yankees’ History (click to enlarge)

Note: For an in depth look into the curious life of Slim Love, click here.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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The Yankees lost out on another potential trade target when Gio Gonzalez was traded to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects. At the price the Nationals paid, the Yankees probably weren’t a player for Gonzalez anyway, so the trade really doesn’t alter the team’s offseason strategy. However, it does further an interesting development taking place around baseball, and particularly in the N.L. East.

Nationals' fans may get down on their knees after their team acquired widely coveted Gio Gonzalez. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are a variety of differing opinions on Gonzalez. Some believe he is gradually emerging as one of the best young arms in the game, while others suspect he may not be able to continue outperforming his relative inability to throw strikes. As with most young pitchers, it’s hard to predict what path Gonzalez will take in Washington, but regardless, the Nationals’ aggressive move speaks volumes about the internal view they have about their team as well as the economic boom taking place throughout the game.

When the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, we learned that Arte Moreno’s shopping spree was being funded by a new multi-billion television deal. Similarly, the Rangers aggressive spending since being sold to the ownership group fronted by Nolan Ryan has been linked to TV money. Now, it seems, we can also add the Nationals to that list.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Nationals are in the process of negotiating a new payout from MASN that could be substantially higher than the $29 million fee they currently receive. With the expectation of increased revenue, the Nationals’ decision to accelerate their rebuilding strategy makes perfect sense. Even though Gonzalez, who is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, won’t cost the Nationals much initially, the price in prospects was very steep. The team’s willingness to cash in so many future chips for instant gratification must mean the Nationals either think they are ready to contend now, or have the financial wherewithal to significantly expedite the process. When Washington broke the bank to sign Jayson Werth last year, many pundits scratched their heads, but clearly, the organization has adopted a very optimistic outlook. Even though GM Mike Rizzo probably already regrets the decision to sign Werth, it says a lot that he and owner Mark Lerner remain undeterred in their attempts to quickly improve the team.

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“Not interested” have seemingly become Brian Cashman’s favorite two words, which hasn’t exactly been music to the ears of many Yankees fans (or agents hoping to ignite a bidding war). Although it’s easy to see why Cashman would remain aloof when it comes to big ticket free agents or inflated trade demands seeking the team’s best prospects, the cold shoulder given to pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt has been harder for many to understand.

Is Roy Oswalt the best option for the Yankees? (Photo: AP)

As the winter has progressed, and the Yankees’ Hot Stove has remained without a flame, there has been a growing disenchantment among the fan base. All of sudden, the likes of Oswalt and Kuroda have become “must haves”, and the Yankees’ lack of interest a sign of irrational fiscal restraint. Earlier, I suggested the team might be in a warped version of a rebuilding mode, and apparently, many in the Yankees’ Universe have taken that sentiment a little too much to heart.

Whether or not the Yankees are laying the foundation for when Cole Hamels becomes a free agent next season, there is no reason for the team to make a rash decision on players whom, only weeks ago, most would have agreed weren’t a great fit. After all, is a 34-year old Oswalt, who is coming off a season with a bad back, really what the Yankees need? Is a 37-year old Kuroda, who has spent his brief career in the NL West, any better?

As constituted, the Yankees’ rotation has several question marks, but the only real candidate to be removed for an acquisition would be Phil Hughes. Considering his struggles over the last season and a half, many fans would likely welcome a veteran replacement, but should the Yankees be willing to pull the plug on a pitcher who was not only a highly touted prospect, but has had some success in the major leagues? Granted, penciling Hughes into the rotation represents a risk, but the potential reward (a young, reliable starter under team control for three more years) suggests it should be one the Yankees are willing to take, especially when contrasted against what could be expected from some of the proposed alternatives.

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With C.J. Wilson in Anaheim and Yu Darvish reportedly headed north of the border or deep in the heart of Texas, the Yankees’ offseason pursuit of pitching has so far come up short. Unlike last year, however, when the team’s courtship of Cliff Lee was rebuffed, it doesn’t seem as if the Yankees had much interest in Wilson or Darvish, not to mention the many starters rumored to be available on the trade market. For some Yankees’ fans, this level of inactivity has been the cause of great frustration, leading to speculation that the team’s free spending ways may be a thing of the past.

Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman appear to be on the same page about being more prudent in player acquisitions.

Hal Steinbrenner’s unwillingness to open up the checkbook and Brian Cashman’s reticence to part with prospects seem to contradict the team’s “win the World Series or bust” mantra. After all, it’s hard to argue that Darvish, Wilson, Gio Gonzalez, etc. wouldn’t represent a major upgrade in the Yankees rotation, which, after CC Sabathia, consists of major question marks. Even though rolling the dice with such a rotation worked out well last year (assuming, like me, you consider a 97 win season to be a success), doing so again would constitute a major risk, especially in a league getting stronger by the minute.

The Yankees’ mandate is to win the World Series, but that isn’t a short-term proposition. Although fans, and some within the organization, rarely think too far ahead, it’s important to remember the team’s real mission statement is to win the World Series every year (or at least try), not just this year. That’s why Cashman’s cautious approach isn’t a betrayal of the team’s lofty standards. As the Yankees’ GM has repeatedly stated, no deal is better than a bad deal, which basically means the long-term competitiveness of the franchise is more important than an incremental, short-term gain.

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(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstripe Alley)

In addition to the Hot Stove, baseball warms up the winter months with Hall of Fame debate. From the time the ballot is released until the votes are counted in early January, arguments are made for and against various candidates, often with a considerable degree of disagreement and usually with some form of exaggeration. As a result, for those players on the borderline, the process can be somewhat demeaning.

This year, Bernie Williams is making his first appearance on the ballot, and judging by popular sentiment, he isn’t likely to come close to enshrinement. Although Williams’ case deserves much closer scrutiny than many seem willing to give, as a borderline candidate, there really is no right or wrong answer regarding his candidacy. With that in mind, it seems more appropriate to consider the best players who are not in the Hall of Fame instead of trying to determine which of them actually belong.

At the Baseball: Past and Present blog, Graham Womack recently completed a survey based on exactly that premise. For the second straight year, Womack polled an electorate made up of baseball writers and researchers and compiled the results into a ranking of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Included in this baseball version of purgatory were several players who spent most of their careers in pinstripes, prompting a further question: who are the 10 best eligible Yankees without a plaque in Cooperstown?

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Yu Darvish may not becoming to America after all. Instead, Canada may be his destination.

Several sources have identified the Toronto Blue Jays as the team that cast the winning bid in the Yu Darvish posting process. If true, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because the Blue Jays have gradually increased their focus on international signings, including the much heralded acquisition of short stop Adeiny Hechavaria in 2010.

For much of the last decade, the Blue Jays have been mired in mediocrity, hovering around the .500 mark in the rough and tumble A.L. East. Although the team hasn’t made much of a dent in the standings during this period, the organization has gradually taken steps that could soon allow it to stand up against the big boys. In addition to being aggressive in the international free agent market, the team has also been adept at cultivating draft picks and making astute acquisitions of both talented cast offs (Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista come to mind) and prospects with high potential. However, some of the most important moves made by the Blue Jays have been subtractions, not additions.

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Recent times have not been kind to Fred Wilpon.

The last five seasons haven’t been very kind to the Mets. Whether on the field or in the board room, the team has been besieged by a myriad of unfortunate circumstances ever since Carlos Beltran was mesmerized by a Adam Wainwright curve ball to end the 2006 NLCS. Not surprisingly, the Mets’ hardship has led to much ridicule, particularly from the less compassionate segment of the Yankees’ fan base. Despite the dark days still ahead, however, there is every reason to think the Mets could still have the last laugh.

In the three years since Bernie Madoff’s massive securities fraud was uncovered, Fred Wilpon has been desperately trying to maintain his hold on the New York Mets. Despite insisting at the time that the scandal would have no impact on his ownership of the team, subsequent events have proven otherwise. Since that time, which, unfortunately for the Wilpons, coincided with poor play on the field and a corresponding decline in revenue, the current ownership group has relied on debt to remain afloat. According to a recent report in the Daily News, those loans are about to come due.

The team is not for sale, not a piece of it, not a part of it. We are not for sale. We have no reason to sell. We have other money. Just because you guys don’t know how much money we have, we have other money outside of this, from diversity.” – Fred Wilpon, quoted by the New York Times, December 17, 2008

Despite Fred Wilpon’s fervent desire to remain as majority owner of the Mets, the prospect of looming debt payments and even further deflated revenue in 2012 could soon force his hand (while creditors, and perhaps even the commissioner, slowly pry loose his fingers). As Frank McCourt has learned with the Dodgers, the weight of debt can become too much of a burden, especially when the alternative is selling out and making a handsome profit.

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