Forget A.J. Burnett, forget Cliff Lee; the real story is the Yankees offense

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The first thing everyone wanted to do after the Rangers’ domination of the Yankees last night was to speculate how much New York would now pay for Cliff Lee this winter. Fun topic, but let’s save it for the hot stove season, OK?

The second thing everyone wanted to do after the Rangers’ domination of the Yankees last night was to fret about A.J. Burnett starting a pivotal playoff game. Also a fun topic, but with Joe Girardi making it clear that he’s sticking with Burnett, it’s not really a debatable point anymore.

The third thing on people’s minds is the most interesting and most important: where is the Yankees offense? Yes, Cliff Lee was incredible last night, but the Yankees lineup didn’t do much against Colby Lewis of C.J. Wilson either. But for a single breakout inning in Game 1 that was probably more the fault of Ron Washington’s bullpen mismanagement than anything else, the hitters have been silent. The tale of the tape:

  • Mark Teixeira: 0 for 11;
  • Alex Rodriguez: 2 for 13;
  • Derek Jeter: 3 for 13;
  • Nick Swisher: 1 for 11;
  • Jorge Posada: 2 for 10;

Of the Yankees’ primary offensive weapons, only Robinson Cano, who is 5 for 13 with a couple of homers, has been contributing in a material way.

So covet Cliff Lee all you want, Yankees fans. And freak out about A.J. Burnett all morning and afternoon.  But know this: if the Yankees end up losing this series, it will not be because of those two guys. It will be because the vaunted Yankees offense is not getting the job done.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.