The Yankees Still Have Pressing Needs
The New York Yankees can’t get caught up in the media frenzy that is Robinson Cano agreeing to a 10-year deal with the Seattle Mariners. I’ll give the Yankees all the credit in the world. For once, they held firm to their stance of not bidding against themselves, and in the end, Cano chose his paycheck over his legacy as a career Yankee. There is nothing more the Yankees can do except role up their sleeves, and continue building a championship-caliber ball club, albeit one without #24 in the middle of the lineup.
With today’s announcement that the Yankees have agreed to a new 1-year, $16 million dollar contract with Hiroki Kuroda, some of that work has been taken care of. New York is still on the hunt for one more rotation arm to plug-in along with Sabathia and Kuroda, and the latest news surrounding the latest on the new MLB/Japanese posting system is making is harder to determine whether or not Masahiro Tanaka will be donning pinstripes in 2014. There have been several reports suggesting that the Rakuten Eagles may not post Tanaka at all, as they were the only team opposed to the new agreement.
Along with needing one more starter, the Yankees now have to address their vacant second base issue, and lessened the blow with the recent signing of Kelly Johnson to a 1-year deal. The Yankees view Johnson more as a super-utility guy than an everyday second baseman. What are the Yankees options now that Cano is off the market? The MLB Network reported on Wednesday evening, that Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips will be traded by the Cincinnati Reds by the end of next week’s Winter Meetings. The Yankees wouldn’t be losing much in defensive ability, and Phillips provides enough on offense to make the Cano departure not felt nearly as badly as some might think. A second, less expensive option the Yankees have been examining, has been free agent Omar Infante. While not even close to the same caliber of player as Cano or Phillips, Infante would not be as expensive on a 1 or 2-year deal either. He’s entering his age-32 season, is a career .279 hitter, and would fit nicely in the bottom third of the Yankees order. Don’t be shocked to see this move happen towards the end of next week if Phillips winds up elsewhere.
The Yankees still have decisions to make in regards to the Alex Rodriguez situation. While again, the Johnson signing will help alleviate an potential absence A-Rod may provide, it doesn’t take care of the problem. As I suggested yesterday, there are a couple of avenues the Yankees could take to solve the third base problem. The first is to trade Brett Gardner to the San Diego Padres, and acquire a solid run-producer in Chase Headley. The other, less expensive option is to bring back Mark Reynolds on a 1 or 2-year deal. He has proven he still has thunder in his bat, and plays better than average defensively.
Now that the money the Yankees had previously set aside for Cano is back in use, the Yankees could get very creative on how to spend the remaining dollars. The team could keep Gardner, sign Reynolds, and move the aging Alfonso Soriano to full-time designated hitter. Gardner would shift to left as Ellsbury takes over in center field, and the Yankees could once again become big time players to sign either Carlos Beltran to his desired 3-year deal in the neighborhood of $50-$55 million dollars, or hand out another long-term contract to Shin Shoo Choo. A cheaper option than both Beltran and Choo, would be exiled Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz. Cruz would provide average defense, but another right-handed power stick in the middle of the lineup. My wild card option, who I love and think would be a great fit as both first base insurance for Mark Teixeira, and could serve in the DH role, is switch-hitting run producer Kendrys Morales.
The bullpen is still a glaring issue that needs to be addressed as well. We still don’t know the Yankees thought process on David Robertson taking over for Mariano Rivera as the closer, but if the fact that the Yankees had discussions with Joe Nathan prior to him signing with the Detroit Tigers is any indication, the team is looking outside the current roster to fill that need. Still available is whom I believe to be the best closer on the market in Grant Balfour. He may require a 3-year deal in the $9-10 million per year range. If the Yankees don’t want to go that high on a closer, cheaper options may include Fernando Rodney, John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Chris Perez, or Joaquin Benoit.
Aside from needing someone to close out ball games in the Bronx, the team still needs to address their situational lefty slot in the bullpen. The leading candidates to fill that role include Yankees free agent Boone Logan, and former Braves lefty Eric O’Flaherty.
We now find ourselves back to addressing the final slot in the starting rotation. Among the free agents not named Tanaka, the Yankees have to seriously consider a flawed group consisting of Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, and Ervin Santana. While any of the three would fit nicely behind Sabathia and Kuroda, Jimenez is most likely the best fit, and the most expensive. Garza has the most success and experience against the American League East, and Santana is the wild card with his notable up and down seasons.
Depending on how the game plan plays out with the outfield, second base, and third base, the Yankees bench will consist of versatile players who can play multiple positions. As of this writing, Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Francisco Cervelli would make up the reserves. While I don’t believe that both Ichiro and Wells will be on the opening day roster, the Yankees need insurance for Mark Teixeira in case he is not fully recovered from the wrist surgery that ended his 2013 season, and that is where I feel Mark Reynolds gets the edge. He can play both corner infield positions as well as serve in the DH role occasionally.
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