The unofficial start to baseball season is about a week away, and it appears as though the Yankees are done making moves. Even with the team sticking to their payroll plans, they still made some important transactions – but which one was the most important?
6. Yankees sign Travis Hafner
Within the last week, it was announced the the Yankees signed Travis Hafner to act as their designated hitter. They inked him to a one year, incentive-laden deal worth two million guaranteed dollars. Hafner – although not the player he once was – could bring a boost of power to the Yankees’ lineup if he remains healthy. Since 2008, Hafner has only had one season where he played more than 100 games, and that was when he played in 118 during the 2010 campaign. Although he isn’t the 40+ home run player he previously was, expect Hafner to be aiming for the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.
5. Yankees sign Matt Diaz
While most people will be watching the battle to see who will become the starting catcher during Spring Training, I will be keeping my eye on the battle for the fourth outfielder’s spot. With the Yankees’ starting outfield being comprised of lefties, the team desperately needed to find a player who could hit right-handed.
Enter Matt Diaz.
Although his numbers don’t look great on the surface, Diaz can dominate left-handed pitching. Throughout his career, Diaz boasts a line of .324/.364/.498 against lefties. It goes without saying that these numbers are very enticing.
During Spring Training, Diaz will compete with Juan Rivera, Melky Mesa, and Zoilo Almonte for the fourth outfielder’s job. If Diaz is able to showcase his talent against lefty pitching, the Yankees’ decision should be a no-brainer. Signing Diaz was an under-the-radar move for the Yankees, but it is one that can pay off in a big way.
4. Yankees sign Kevin Youkilis
Especially with the Alex Rodriguez conundrum that is currently taking place, signing Youkilis is proving to be a pretty smart move. The Yankees signed the “Greek God of Walks” to a one-year deal worth $12 million back in December. With Rodriguez out for the foreseeable future, Youkilis will be the starting third baseman for the majority of the season. The Yankees are hoping that Youkilis will play like the all-star that he once was. Also, with a new setting to play in, many are expecting Youkilis to rebound offensively in 2013. The Yankees will get their money’s worth from Youkilis, and he should be an interesting player to watch.
3. Yankees re-sign Ichiro Suzuki
When the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki in a trade last July, nobody expected him to be as good as he was. Ichiro, revitalized by his new surroundings, hit .322 with five home runs and 27 RBIs. So when Ichiro became a free agent when the season finished, it was obvious that the Yankees had to bring him back. It wasn’t easy though, as the Yankees had to compete with other teams who also wanted to sign him. Ichiro accepted the Yankees two-year offer worth $13 million, turning down more money elsewhere.
It was an amazing gesture by Ichiro – one that many players do not make these days. Hopefully Ichiro can continue to turn back the clock with the Yankees. If he can, the Yankees will have a very dangerous hitter on their hands. While playing with the Yankees, Suzuki also has a driving force behind him.
Ichiro wants to win.
2. Yankees resign Mariano Rivera
“I’m not going down like this.”
That was what Mariano Rivera said after he injured his ACL before a game in May. Up until that point, Rivera had been hinting at the fact that 2012 would be his final season. Obviously the greatest closer of all time can not go out like that. While the Yankees were able to succeed with Rafael Soriano as the closer last season, they don’t have the same luxury this year. Re-signing Mariano Rivera gives them one more year to develop a pitcher to take his place – whether that be David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma, Mark Montgomery, or somebody completely out of the blue.
He may be coming off an injury, but expect Rivera to be as dominant as he always has been.
1. Yankees resign Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda
This was by far the most important move that the Yankees made this offseason. Could you imagine them with a starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and a rookie? Yeah, neither can I. Re-signing Pettitte and Kuroda gives the Yankees a stable rotation once again.
Pettitte — although he did miss time due to injury — pitched well when he started. He went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA, accumulating 69 strikeouts in a little over 75 innings pitched. When you consider the fact that Pettitte was 40 years old, and didn’t pitch since the 2010 season, those numbers are pretty impressive. Having a healthy Andy Pettitte this season can only help the Yankees.
Kuroda on the other hand, was extremely valuable to the team last year. When both CC Sabathia and Pettitte went down at the same time with injuries, nobody knew what to expect. Kuroda stepped right into the role of “ace” and did not disappoint — anchoring the team until both pitchers were ready to return, and keeping the Yankees in the playoff race. Kuroda finished the season with a record of 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA. Kuroda also had an ERA+ of 126 — the best in his career. Having him back for another full season will also help this team.
So there you have it, folks. These were the Yankees’ major offseason moves ranked by importance. Was anything ranked too high? Too low? Was something not ranked at all? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below.