Cliff Lee is going to the Phillies. What do the Yankees do now?

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It’s not just a Yankees world in which we’re all living, but in this case, the implications for the Bombers losing out on Cliff Lee are the most interesting.  Philly? Heck, print up their NL East championship t-shirts already.  The Rangers? They seem like they felt they were out of it for a week now, complete with reports of going after Adrian Beltre as a second place prize.  And really: Texas is a team that didn’t need to go all-in on a 32-year-old pitcher.

But the Yankees wanted Cliff Lee. The Yankees needed Cliff Lee. The Yankees failed to get Cliff Lee, however, and it was the first time that they failed to get their big-fish free agent target since they lost out on Greg Maddux back in 1992.   They’re a well-prepared team and I assume that the panic in the Yankee Universe is about 98% in the fan base and 2% in the front office right now, even if they are reeling somewhat.  This was the plan. All possible Plan Bs are a big, big step down.  So what do the Yankees do?

  • Don’t panic.  This is a team that won 95 games last year and is going to bring back every single player that was on that team. Yes, they’re older, but many stand to improve over last season. Yes, one of their main competitors got better, but the other is getting worse. Reasonable people should have the Yankees as their wild card team at the moment, and they will add before the winter is over.  They’re not rebuilding from some disaster.  They missed a chance to improve greatly in one fell swoop. They’ll make other moves to make up the difference, or to at least try.
  • Get on the phone to Deer Park, Texas first thing in the morning and make a strong pitch to Andy Pettitte.  He may be the biggest immediate beneficiary out of anyone in this deal. The whole “Andy is leaning retirement” thing has seemed overblown to me.  I think it was a negotiation tactic, frankly. Both by Pettitte, whose claims to be leaning towards retirement seemed calculated to make the Yankees desperate, and the team, whose “we think Andy is probably retiring” stuff seemed calculated to act as if they didn’t care.  Now all pretense is gone. The Yankees need Pettitte, and they will pay to get him. Someone besides CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes has to start.
  • Think hard about trading Jesus Montero.  That could be a panic move. I’m not sure.  But if they want another impact starter — and I think they’ll think that — it’s going to take more than the Joba Chamberlain pupu platter to get it done.  Zack Greinke or someone like him — if there is someone like him — will take top flight talent to acquire. Nothing should be off the table for New York right now.
  • Mostly, though, the Yankees should take a few days to think. And to wait.  Because just like Cliff Lee going to Philly was a shock to all of us, it was a shock to many people in baseball who didn’t see it coming. And who may now have a desire to see if they can’t pry something away from the Yankees.  Some offers will come their way.  Brian Cashman will think up some on their own.  They always do.

Mostly, though, we need to remember: the Yankees are not dead until you see their body on the slab. They are far from there right now. And to count them out an hour after they lost out on Lee would be foolish in the extreme.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.