New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was busy Tuesday trying to figure out the best way to make something out of virtually nothing. So far, he’s either still formulating a plan, he’s got no clue what to do or he’s waiting for the right moment to pounce on a deal like the stealth GM he’s played in the past.
At this moment, the Yankees inaction seems more likely to be a case of talking to as many options at each position they can while at the Winter Meetings and then formulating a plan which fits into the original course of action. There are three positions in the starting lineup (at least there are three for the first few months of the season going on Alex Rodriguez‘s worst case scenario return from hip surgery) which need to be filled.
For Yankees fans, the comments coming from Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, who addressed the media yesterday, are not exactly encouraging if they’re expecting a flashy move. This is especially true at catcher, where Cashman continues to signify that the Yankees may have that position covered already with in-house representatives, none of which have starting catcher stamped on their roster cards. But, Cashman is holding his ground suggesting there could be a three way competition between Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine in Spring Training.
“I doubt I can upgrade on what we have catching-wise, because the defense is an important aspect for us,” Cashman said. “The bat’s a secondary aspect. That’s why starters who can do defense and offense make a lot of money.”
The Yankees have had discussions with free-agent A.J. Pierzynski, but his price and possible requirement for a two-year contract pose problems for the Yankees long term plans. As Cashman indicated above, he is willing to sacrifice offense knowing he has a solid receiver behind the plate. Using a low cost option also provides Cashman with more money to spend on his other two issues, right field and third base.
In right the Yankees have spoken with representatives for Ichiro Suzuki, Scott Hairston and Cody Ross. Another option that has been floated around is trying to trade Curtis Granderson to free up some money in order to have a chance at maybe Josh Hamilton. This seems like a long shot to me, but it makes sense to consider trading Granderson, who is going to make $15 million this coming season, if the Yankees have no intention of signing him long term after the 2013 season. Trading him would have to then bring a big piece to New York. Despite Granderson’s low batting average and high strikeout rate, he hits a ton of home runs which can only be replaced by spending the cash on someone else with power potential.
Ichiro makes sense in that he brings stability from both sides of the plate and above average defense. On the flip side he is a speed guy who cannot approach generating the run-production numbers missing from Nick Swisher‘s departure.
Hairston and Ross hit left-handed pitching hard and they fall off considerably against right handing pitching. Raul Ibanez is on the Yankees radar for a return, but the Yankees probably do not want him on the field too much if they don’t have to. As Cashman noted in his discussions yesterday he’ll have to go with what’s out there.
“Beggars can’t be choosers”
The hole that has opened up at third base with Rodriguez’s surgery looming, has brought forth some intriguing options. Cashman has talked with agents representing, Eric Chavez, Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Keppinger, and Jack Hannahan.
They could go the route of a platoon to hold the fort down and keep costs down by adding Chavez or Hannahan as left-handed hitting part of a platoon, as Girardi indicated was an option (the idea of one not necessarily the players just named). Chavez had an excellent 2012 season, but he wore down in extended time when Rodriguez was out with a broken hand. Hannahan is a light hitting third baseman with a good glove.
Keppinger has been a favorite of the Yankees for a while and while he is recuperating from a broken fibula, he is rumored to be in line for a two-year or three-year deal worth about $4 million per season. The Yankees are reluctant to go long term right now, but this is not a huge salary, and Keppinger’s versatility around the field keeps him a viable option to pick up in other positions when Rodriguez is ready to return.
On Rodriguez’s return, the Yankees need to plan on the chance that he will not be able to play third base in 2013. With that they have discussed Youkilis as an option. He made $13 million in 2012, hitting .235/.336/.425 with 19 homers, another downward trending season for the veteran former Boston Red Sox favorite. Is he worth a large salary for just one season? Youkilis could sign one with hopes of bouncing back and securing a mulityear deal for 2014, so you can see his interest.
At the end of the day there was a lot of speculation and not much movement. Cashman believes he can settle one of the positions by the time the meetings come to an end. Yankee fans hope that one of the moves takes them by surprise and is not a filler signing, but chances are they’ll be disappointed if they are hanging their hat on such a thing.