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Posts Tagged ‘Randy Levine’

Two of the most influential members of the Yankees’ front office took to the airwaves this morning to promote the upcoming Pinstripe Bowl, and not surprisingly, each interview touched on the team’s offseason plans. President Randy Levine, who was a guest on FOX 5’s Good Day New York, and COO Lonn Trost, who appeared on WFAN’s Boomer and Carton morning radio show (hosted by Kim Jones and Chris Carlin), each fielded several questions about what the Yankees are doing, or not doing, and their responses suggested the organization has a coherent party line.

Randy Levine (l) and Lonn Trost (r) flank Derek Jeter during a ceremony honoring his 3,000th hit. (Photo: Getty Images)

Responding to the question about whether the team’s spending philosophy has changed, Trost dismissed the idea that the Yankees were being more cautious, but stated that the team was trying to be smarter. According to Trost, the Yankees do not believe the dollars being spent in the current market are commensurate with the abilities of the players available, putting the organization in a position to depend on its minor league system. In particular, Trost cited Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi, Jesus Montero, and Austin Romine as prospects that could make an impact next season. He also suggested that because of the team’s high expectations for those players, there hasn’t been a need to overspend as in the past.

Levine’s segment on GDNY was much shorter than Trost’s appearance on WFAN, and the hosts didn’t have the same sports background as Jones and Carlin, but there were several pointed questions about the Yankees’ winter designs. When asked about the team’s need of pitching, Levine responded that the organization was always looking to get better and that if an opportunity presented itself, Brian Cashman would be on it. Levine also touched on the Yankees’ potential interest in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, stating that it was in the best interest of the organization to keep their level of involvement a secret.

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The news for the Mets keeps getting worse. Although most people expected a steady stream of pessimism to emanate from between the white lines, it’s really the organization’s bottom line that has been the greatest cause for concern.

Empty seats at CitiField could spell big trouble for the Wilpons.

By now, everyone should be familiar with Fred Wilpon’s entanglement in Bernie Madoff’s massive financial fraud, but lately even more distressing news has emerged. Earlier in the week, it was revealed that the Mets received a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball. Although such a transaction is not unprecedented, tapping into the central fund usually presages rougher times ahead (and sometimes an eventual sale). In the Mets’ case, we know the Wilpons followed up the November loan with the intention to sell a minority stake in the team. Since that announcement, no news of an impending sale has emerged, so if the Mets can’t take on a new partner soon, liquidity could continue to be an issue.

Compounding the Mets’ financial problems is interest in the team continues to wane. Despite opening brand new CitiField in 2009, attendance has declined thanks to two sub-.500 finishes. Unfortunately for the Mets, debt payments don’t abate when attendance does, and according to early reports, 2011 could see an even greater attendance decline. In an effort to reverse this trend, the Mets have not only enacted significant ticket discounts, but also revamped its ticket operations, including hiring a new head of sales. Of course, the 25-men on the active roster are the ones who really sell tickets, and it doesn’t seem as if reinforcements are on the way.

Financial empires can collapse over night, especially when they are constructed like a house of cards. Moving money from one entity to another works well when cash is plenty, but once liquidity dries up so does the organization’s financial health. The Wilpons are finding this out the hard way. According to several reports, including the lawsuit filed by Madoff trustee Irving H. Piccard, the Wilpons have used their other businesses to support the Mets, a lifeline that is now being cut off by their current financial predicament. Without the ability to fund the team’s operations from its own revenue, the Wilpons and their partners may have no choice but to sell out completely.

Adding insult to injury from a Mets’ point of view is the massive shadow being cast by the cross-town Yankees. Not only has the team enjoyed great fortune on the field (i.e., playoffs every year but 2008 since 1995, not to mention five championships and seven pennants in that span), but it continues to make one off it. Upon his passing, former Yankees’ principal owner George M. Steinbrenner was lauded greatly for the triumphs he helped the Yankees achieve on the diamond, but his best work was done in the boardroom. (more…)

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

All winter, Brian Cashman has taken his lumps for patiently biding his time during the off season. However, those criticism were nothing compared to harsh rebukes he has received in the hours since John Heyman announced that the Yankees had signed Rafael Soriano.

According to reports, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman may not have seen eye-to-eye over the Soriano contract (Photo: The Star-Ledger).

Before delving into the wisdom of the signing, the pink elephant in the room is Cashman’s earlier insistence that the Yankees would not surrender a first round pick for any free agent not named Cliff Lee. So, either Cashman was holding his cards close to the vest (i.e., lying), had a serious change of heart, or was overruled by another in the organization.

If Cashman was being deceptive, well, good for him. His chief responsibility is to make the Yankees better, so if that means throwing up a smoke screen or two, so be it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see where the Yankees benefitted from an improved negotiation position, but then again, the full details of the contract and pursuant negotiations have not been revealed. Nonetheless, a general managers’ commandments are made to be broken when the right (or sometimes wrong) deal comes along. Just ask Bubba Crosby.

As mentioned, the exact terms of the Soriano contract have not yet been divulged, so in the details may be the reason why Cashman did an about face from his earlier vow.  Maybe he believed that Soriano would return to the Rays at a discount, or sign with a wild card competitor? Perhaps further evaluation of the draft revealed less than promising prospects for the 31st pick? Maybe it was Andy Pettitte’s latest display of indecision that pushed his hand? Or, it could be that Cashman has other contingent moves in place (e.g., moving Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation, or a trade that involves the team’s now impressive bullpen depth)? Regardless, just because Cashman changed his mind doesn’t mean he panicked.

The third option is the one that is cause for real concern. In his daily column, Buster Olney hinted at a divide within the Yankees organization, while Peter Gammons tweeted that Randy Levine was the driving force behind the signing. Even Mariano Rivera has been credited with holding sway. If true, that could be disastrous for the Yankees. Whether you like Cashman or not, the Yankees have seemed to benefit from having one coherent voice on baseball-related matters, so a return to the days of front office factions could have undesirable consequences. I am sure more on that topic will be written in the coming days, but usually when there’s an early leak, there’s also an unhappy general manager.

Putting aside the intrigue behind the Yankees’ change in course, let’s now return to an examination of the player and the contract (for a concise rundown of how the Yankees blogosphere has reacted to the deal, check out Bronx Banter). The biggest criticism of the deal has dealt with the fact that Soriano does not address the team’s greatest weakness, which, of course, is the starting rotation. But, should that really make a difference? The Yankees did not get Cliff Lee, nor were they able to trade for Zack Greinke or Matt Garza. Nothing can change that reality, and there are no apparent acquisition targets capable of filling the resulting void.

Instead of focusing on a cadre of has-beens, also-rans, and could-bes, the Yankees instead decided to bolster the backend of the bullpen with a bonafide quality reliever. Granted, the contract, which at $11.7 million per year makes Soriano the third highest paid reliever in the game, seems exorbitant, but should that matter to anyone but the Yankees’ accountants? After all, just because he will be paid closer money doesn’t mean he won’t be very valuable pitching in the eighth inning. When you are a billion dollar franchise in an offseason when no one else will take your money, you can afford that kind of luxury.

Another knock on the contract stems from the fact that Soriano has had Tommy John surgery, but since undergoing the procedure in 2004, he bounced back with healthy seasons in four of the last five. In 2008, however, Soriano missed most of the season and eventually required another elbow surgery, so the risk is definitely real. But, again, that’s really a financial concern.

Does Soriano have a higher power (Mariano Rivera) to thank for his contract with the Yankees?

Statistically speaking, it’s nearly impossible to justify the monetary terms of the contract, so once you get past that hang-up, the bottom line becomes that the Yankees are a better team with Soriano than without. Even if one wanted to boil down the addition in terms of value added, it could be argued that if he pitches as he did in 2010, Soriano would come close to approximating the contribution that would be lost if Andy Pettitte does in fact retire. Also, in addition to giving the Yankees one of the major’s best bullpens, it also provides the team more flexibility, both in terms of whom they can move into the rotation and how much rest they can afford Rivera. There is a domino effect at play, and although the benefits don’t trickle down enough to match a $12 million outlay, the addition of Soriano does strengthen the team.

Perhaps the most legitimate criticism of the deal centers around losing the 31st pick in the 2011 Rule IV draft. It should be noted, however, that the Yankees still have a supplemental round pick thanks to the departure of Javier Vazquez. So, if the draft really is as deep as many experts have suggested, the Yankees should still have enough quality selections to replenish their farm system.

Finally, much has been made of Soriano’s opt out clauses, which allow him to terminate the deal after the first two seasons AND be paid a $1.5 million buyout for his troubles. Although this may seem to be a very one-sided perk, it actually gives the Yankees an out in the event that Soriano has a terrific 2011 season. Because the contract is end-loaded, it isn’t likely that Soriano’s future performance would ever surpass his salary, so if the right hander were to allow his ego to send him back into the free agent market, the Yankees would be freed of the risk associated with the length of the deal. In other words, the Yankees would wind up with one great year from Soriano and Type-A free agent compensation, which means they’d swap one draft pick for two. Should that happen, the Yankees’ end of the bargain would look much better, which is exactly why the opt outs are probably more in their best interest than Soriano’s (i.e., it provides him with a temptation that isn’t likely to work toward his benefit).

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Cliff Lee’s return to Philadelphia put the Yankees into a bit of a tailspin, but a tacit expectation that Andy Pettitte would return allowed the team to continue to preach patience. Lately, however, the tea leaves have not been as favorable. In a press conference for the upcoming Pinstripe Bowl, Mark Teixeira stated that Pettitte is still leaning toward retirement, a reality that seems to have evoked a hint of desperation. Speaking at the same event, Yankees’ president Randy Levine all but pleaded for the lefty to return by admitting, “Every day I hope Andy comes back. I think he knows we need him”.

Randy Levine and the rest of the Yankees’ brass have been hoping for Andy Pettitte’s return, but will their prayers be answered?

Pettitte has never seemed like the type of guy to hold a grudge, but as he sits back on a Hawaii beach sipping a Mai Tai, you couldn’t blame him if Levine’s words were sweeter than the pineapple juice in his drink. After all, it was only two years ago when Pettitte was forced to return to the Yankees with hat in hand and accept an incentive laden deal. At that time, the Yankees had just signed C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, so the same urgency to re-sign the veteran lefty didn’t exist. Bargaining from a position of strength, the Yankees presented Pettitte with a “take it or leave it” offer of $10 million, which represented a significant pay cut from the $16 million salary he had earned the year before. After turning down that initial offer, Pettitte eventually agreed to a deal at the end of January. The terms of the contract he signed called for an even lower base salary of $5.5 million with incentives, nearly all of which he reached.

The bottom line is, I’m a man, and I guess it does take a shot at your pride a little bit. But when you put all that aside, I wanted to play for the New York Yankees. I wanted to be there and I wanted to play in that new stadium.” – Andy Pettitte, quoted in The New York Times, January 26, 2009

Needless to say, Pettitte won’t be forced to accept a below market deal this time around. Over the course of a few short months, the services of the veteran have gone from a luxury to an absolute necessity, so now it is Pettitte who holds all the cards. Of course, that assumes that he even wants to play. With anyone else, you could be sure that the song and dance about retirement was really a ploy intended to drive up the Yankees’ offer, but Pettitte’s indecision is likely genuine. Otherwise, his agent would also be soliciting offers from elsewhere, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

If he decides to return, the Yankees would be more than happy to have Pettitte exact a small pound of flesh in the contract negotiations. Even though the team would still have work to do on its rotation, the return of Pettitte would provide them with enough leeway to continue practicing the art of patience. Should Pettitte actually retire, however, it could finally be time to push the panic button. All of a sudden, reclamation projects like Brad Penny, Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia and Chris Young would become vital parts of the Yankees’ 2011 blueprint, which isn’t exactly a championship architecture.

The Yankees definitely need Andy Pettitte, and he knows it. But, does he need the Yankees? Somewhere amid the surf and sand, that question is being considered. Whether it’s with money, personal appeals or the lure of historical accomplishment, the Yankees need to do everything possible to influence the eventual decision. Otherwise, the entire organization will probably have the opportunity to join Pettitte on that beach early in October.

Reachable Team Milestones for Andy Pettitte

Rk Player WAR   Player W
1 Whitey Ford 55.3   Whitey Ford 236
2 Mariano Rivera 52.9   Red Ruffing 231
3 Red Ruffing 49.7   Andy Pettitte 203
4 Ron Guidry 44.4   Lefty Gomez 189
5 Lefty Gomez 43.2   Ron Guidry 170
6 Andy Pettitte 42.7   Bob Shawkey 168
           
Rk Player K   Player GS
1 Whitey Ford 1956   Whitey Ford 438
2 Andy Pettitte 1823   Andy Pettitte 396
3 Ron Guidry 1778   Red Ruffing 391
4 Red Ruffing 1526   Mel Stottlemyre 356
5 Lefty Gomez 1468   Ron Guidry 323

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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