The New York Yankees have received plenty of media coverage during the offseason. It started by the team making big splashed in the free agent market by signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. It was followed up by the public relations nightmare that became the defection of All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners. The coverage then shifted gears as to whether or not Rakuten Golden Eagles’ ace Masahiro Tanaka would be posted, or held back for another season to pitch in Japan. Once he was posted, then the other shoe dropped, with the 162-game suspension and future legal ramblings of third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Even with the roller coaster ride being far from over for the Yankees as pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, the actual roster still has holes to fill.
The starting rotation has to take the pole for most important on the roster. As of right now, the rotation is a wreck, and the Yankees are banking on winning the Tanaka Sweepstakes. There is no guarantee that happens, even though the Yankees are one of three teams Tanaka has shortened his list down to. With a spouse that is an entertainer who prefers the west coast, along with the Dodgers claiming they “…won’t be outbid” for his services, the Yankees better prepare themselves for disappointment. The Yankees aren’t thrilled with the next three free agent options of Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza or Ervin Santana. They also aren’t keen on the idea of dealing outfielder Brett Gardner for an arm. Ideally, Tanaka would solve all of their problems. But just in case he signs elsewhere, who do the Yankees turn to for pitching help?
My partner in crime and fellow editor, Jason Evans have had many discussions over who is the better fit in the Bronx, and since I’m writing this, I will suggest that Jimenez makes the most sense. Personally, I think since the Yankees are going to go over the $189 million dollar threshold, they should attempt to sign both Tanaka AND Jimenez. A rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Jimenez and Ivan Nova would rival any starting five in baseball. I don’t think that will happen, and one of the two will be wearing pinstripes, with the fifth starter spot in my opinion, being won in spring training by Michael Pineda.
Not to take away from the glaring weaknesses in the starting rotation, the infield also has several question marks. The loss of Cano not only in the lineup, but on defense is going to be felt in the Bronx until the next great star arrives, whenever that happens. General manager Brian Cashman must be so used to signing retread scrubs from last season, that he continues to use that methodology to replace Cano and the now-suspended A-Rod. The Yankees were offered Brandon Phillips straight up for Gardner, and declined. They weren’t willing to give Omar Infante the extra year he desired, so he signed with Kansas City. The Yankees seem to have no interest in dealing a bag of balls and perhaps Eduardo Nunez to the Braves for a much-needed right-handed power bat in Dan Uggla. Instead, Cashman signed the oft-injured Brian Roberts and the .230 hitting Kelly Johnson. If the season started today, both men would be in the starting lineup, with Roberts replacing Cano and Johnson replacing A-Rod.
It has been reported on this site, that the Yankees best option for replacing A-Rod, has been offered nothing more than a minor league contract. Mark Reynolds, who spend the final two months of last season in New York, deserves and will get a major league offer, unfortunately it will come from another team. Reynolds could be penciled in for 20 home runs, 80 RBI, and a .220 or slightly better average. He would provide depth at both corner infield spots, something Cashman should absolutely consider not knowing how well Mark Teixeira will respond post-wrist surgery. Reynolds would also provide right-handed power that the Yankees’ lineup is always lacking. But who am I to say Reynolds is the best option?
As painful as it may be for Yankees’ fans to think about or discuss, Derek Jeter‘s best days are behind him. Cashman again going the cheap, scrub route, re-signed Brendan Ryan to spell Jeter at shortstop. He better pray that Jeter stays healthy, or the Yankees are going to have a .170 hitter up the middle. Ryan is worth a big league contract but Reynolds is not? Most people think 2014 will be the swan song for the Yankees’ captain, and Cashman should think ahead. He could take care of two issues with one signing. Rather than having Roberts man second base, he should’ve signed Stephen Drew to replace Cano this year, and Jeter next season forward. That would make too much sense though. With Drew signed to be the heir apparent at shortstop, the Yankees could determine if a young prospect such as Angelo Gumbs or Gosuke Katoh might be ready to man the keystone in 2015.
The only thing that Cashman did properly when it comes to re-tooling the infield, was to sign catcher Brian McCann away from the Atlanta Braves. This move allows top prospect Gary Sanchez to continue developing his glove in the minor leagues. The backup role will come down to Austin Romine or Francisco Cervelli. The wildcard option is J.R. Murphy.
The final question on everyone’s mind is…who is going to replace the Sandman? With the retirement of all-time great Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have a gaping hole in the closer’s role. I might be in the minority when I state that I don’t believe David Robertson is ready to take the mantle from Rivera. While I believe Robertson is an elite option in the 8th inning, he is no closer, with a career 9th inning or later ERA of over 4. Again, this situation could’ve been avoided by Brian Cashman, had he simply been willing to pay a set-up man (Rafael Soriano), closer-type money for one season to hedge his bet. Cashman went cheap, allowed Soriano to opt-out and leave for Washington, and here we are looking for a closer. Instead of already having a proven closer on the roster, Cashman must now either go with inexperience (Robertson), or bring in one of two closers who aren’t nearly as solid as Soriano.
Grant Balfour failed his physical in Baltimore and had his deal voided by the Orioles. He’s on the wrong side of 30, and has a temper that could ignite a Fourth of July display. That temper may not play well with Yankees’ fans if he struggles and gets a Bronx cheer. Then again, closers outside of Rivera, are a little crazy to begin with, so he might fit on a 2-year deal for $5 million per. The other option is the inconsistent Fernando Rodney. He tends to lose focus, as displayed by his inconsistency. Plus, I’m not sure anyone wants to witness his hat flipped sideways, shooting arrows out into Monument Park each time he does his job. This is what Cashman is left with by attempting to play it safe and cheap.
With only a few weeks remaining before the start of spring training, there are holes to fill. Common sense states the answers are right in front of the Yankees. This team has never been run on common sense, and now it appears that the 2014 version will be built on 1980s spending in some places, and 2013 spending in others.