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December 11, 2013

NY Baseball Hot Stove On Fire


One week after we addressed the embarrassing state of our region's professional sports teams, the sports Gods delivered; more specifically, the baseball Gods. The week brought a flurry of moves by both the Mets and the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees for seven years and $153 million, then two days later Robinson Cano took his talents to the Pacific Northwest, joining the Seattle Mariners for $240 million over ten years.

Within hours the Mets had signed former Yankee Curtis Granderson for four years and $60 million. And by the close of business Friday, the Yankees had taken some of their money saved on Cano, and resigned starter Hiroki Kuroda on a one year, $16 million deal, and brought in ex-Met Carlos Beltran for three years and $45 million.

It was a wild day for New York baseball, but anything to avoid the Knicks, Nets, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Devils and Islanders is beneficial to all of us.

The Yankees definitely made the right move letting Robinson Cano walk. Ten-year deals don't work (see Rodriguez, Alex or Pujols, Albert).

Baseball is a reliant on too many players to justify that size of a contract for anyone, never mind Cano, who is already 31 years old, has hit more than thirty home runs once, and driven in 100 runs only three times. Also, it's important to note those numbers were as a left-handed hitter in the most friendly left-handed hitting ballpark in Major League Baseball.

But, as restrained as the Yankees were in paying Cano, they lost all self-discipline by dishing out over $150 million to Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is 30 years old, and his game revolves around speed. The deal won't end well.

Ellsbury had one great year, in 2011, when he hit .321, 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, and stole 39 bases. But, he spent portions of the past two seasons injured, and outside of 2011, has never hit more than nine homers or driven in more than 60 runs in a season. The Yankees will be lucky to get three productive years out of Ellsbury, but eventually they will regret this signing.

Elsewhere, bringing back Hiroki Kuroda was a no-brainer for the Yanks. There were, and still are, holes on the back end of the rotation. So even though Kiroda struggled down the stretch last season, the organization knows he can pitch in New York, and there is no risk to the one-year deal.

The more interesting acquisition was Carlos Beltran returning to the Big Apple, except this time he will don pinstripes. At 36 years old with creaky knees, Beltran was bound to move to the American League. He should benefit from the short right field porch, and brings balance to the lineup. But, with the aforementioned suspect knees that miraculously held up the past two seasons in St. Louis, the Yankees can only hope Beltran stays healthy as he pushes towards 40 years old.

Meantime, the Mets signing of Curtis Granderson was important for the franchise, not just from a production standpoint, but also from a PR perspective. The Mets have spent the past two years telling their fan base that this was the offseason they would re-open the Wilpons' wallet, or whatever's left of it post-Madoff. It's the largest contract GM Sandy Alderson has given to a free agent in his three years in charge.

Due to being hit by two pitches last season, and causing two fluke injuries, Granderson is the ideal buy-low candidate. He shouldn't be expected to produce his Yankee Stadium inflated numbers of 40 plus homers and 100 plus RBIs, but anything within 30 percent of them would be welcomed.

Both the Yankees and the Mets saw a slight change in identity over the past week with the addition and subtraction of key players. But, I believe both teams improved for the short term. The long term ramifications of the Ellsbury, Beltran, and Granderson deals are questionable.

Most important, baseball's hot stove has been on fire in New York over the past several days. Hopefully, for the sake of the rest of the teams in the city, it stays warm through the winter months.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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