The Yankees have been World Champions for less than a week, but the time for celebrating their accomplishment is running out. Baseball's general managers are meeting in Chicago this week, which means that baseball's eyes have already turned to 2010. More specifically, they've turned to the fates of the free agents from around the league, a pastime that always includes the Yankees in a major way.
This year's version will feature a heavy dose of John Lackey, the ace starter of the Angels team that the Yankees vanquished in the ALCS. Lackey is a free agent and Jon Heyman of SI.com is reporting that the Yankees would be willing to give him the same five-year, $82.5 million contract that they gave A.J. Burnett during the last offseason. Lackey is said to want more and there will be many more reports linking him to many different teams before he actually signs his name on a contract.
The report is so premature that it hardly bears a deep analysis of how Lackey would fit on the Yankees, but everyone who was screaming for them to start Chad Gaudin in a World Series game would presumably be all for this deal. It would cast all sorts of questions about the futures of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, but, again, it's best to wait until there's actually a reason to discuss it before getting too worked up about anything.
More pressing will be figuring out the course of action the team takes with Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte. According to Joel Sherman of the Post, the Yankees want to sign all three to one-year deals and avoid long-term deals for the likes of Lackey. That seems to contradict what Brian Cashman said Monday about the team not being swayed by playoff performance when it comes to making decisions about the future. With Pettitte, the decision still seems to be whether or not he wants to play another season, but it's difficult to read what the team might be thinking about Damon and Matsui.
One thing that signing Lackey would do is give the Yankees a rationale to keep both of them for 2010, at the very least. The upgrade in the rotation would be worth the risk that age begins to catch up with the lineup, and it would also buy time for prospects like Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero to pick up enough polish to become realistic options for the lineup going forward. It would cost more in the short term, perhaps, but cost far less over the next five years to pursue that kind of course instead of signing a Matt Holliday to play left field.
There's a wistfulness to reading these stories, because they make it clear as day that the time for dwelling on the title has already come to an end. Hope you enjoyed it.