I’m as excited about the New York Yankees signing Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka as anyone. It’s not enough. In my heart of hearts, and as great as it’s been to see the Yankees sign Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, it’s simply not enough. It’s not enough to overtake either Boston or Tampa in the American League, and it’s not enough to make it out of a play-in game as a second wild card team.
The Yankees flat out screwed up when they didn’t give Robinson Cano what he wanted. I think he would’ve returned for 8 years if the money had been there. He claims he felt disrespected and unwanted. I tend to agree. The Yankees prior to Cano walking away, had never lost one of their own premium free agents if they didn’t allow it to happen. We move on. I thought it was a great move when Cashman signed Kelly Johnson, but not for the role he is most likely to fulfill now. I envisioned him as a super-utility guy in the mold of a Mark DeRosa. I thought Brian Roberts, expecting 90 or so games would be a wise move. They made it. The problem with that signing is, now he is going to be expected to be the Roberts of five or six seasons ago, and that simply is not realistic on the part of the Yankees. I was on board with pulling the trigger on a deal for Brandon Phillips, and even though his batting average has plummeted the past few seasons, he was still good enough to provide protection for Joey Votto. Phillips still drove in 100 runs, and is still the best defensive second baseman in the National League. We’ll get back to that thought in a bit.
I was dead set against the Jacoby Ellsbury signing for the length of contract he was given. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a dynamic player, but until he can play a few straight years without missing significant time, I view him as a Grady Sizemore-esque injury waiting to happen. Here’s to hoping he proves me wrong. I love Carlos Beltran, always have and here’s why: the man produces when it matters most-in the postseason. I don’t care that he isn’t the elite defender he once was. The Yankees signed him for his bat. I believed that an outfield of Soriano/Garnder/Beltran was good enough.
As for the infield issues, whether you like Alex Rodriguez or not, he was the best option at third base for the Yankees bar none. Who in free agency or could be acquired via trade would be better? Okay, maybe Chase Headley, but the San Diego Padres aren’t giving him away. Now, the Yankees are stuck with the aforementioned Johnson, or perhaps Dean Anna can show the team something in spring training and win the job outright. The Yankees made another critical error in not offering Mark Reynolds a major league deal to return to the team. The man was never going to win a batting title, but he would’ve put up big time power numbers in the lower third of the order. He is a decent enough defender and would’ve provider insurance for guess who? That’s right, the now slow to recover Mark Teixeira at first base.
Since Reynolds is off the board (for now), the Yankees have to sign Stephen Drew. This allows for Johnson and Roberts to be a straight platoon, and ensure that Roberts stays healthy, and Johnson isn’t overexposed for the .230 hitter he truly is. Drew could man the hot corner for a season, and if Jeter retires at the end of 2014, he can make a smooth transition back to shortstop. if Jeter stays on, A-Rod returns in 2015, then you shift Drew over to second base and bid Johnson and Roberts adieu after one season each in pinstripes. The Yankees have already overpaid for Ellsbury and Tanaka, and some might argue giving Beltran the third year on his contract is overpaying as well. The team is already past the $189 million dollar threshold, so if you have to overpay a tad for Drew, so be it. It’s not like his market is white hot with suitors.
I may be one of the only members of the Yanks Go Yard team that doesn’t believe David Robertson is ready to close. There is a big difference between the 8th inning and the 9th. There is no safety net, and from this point forward, there is no Mariano Rivera to save the day. For the third time this offseason, the Yankees missed the boat not once, but twice by failing to sign Grant Balfour to be the closer. Hal Steinbrenner is confident that Robertson will be the closer. Fine. The team still needs a power arm in the 8th inning, and I’m sorry, Shawn Kelly is not the answer. Now the Yankees must overpay a former setup man-turned-closer away from the Baltimore Orioles and bring in Fernando Rodney. If Robertson fails, Rodney is at the ready, just as he was when wait for it…former Yankee headcase Kyle Farnsworth couldn’t stay healthy enough to hold the closer’s role in Tampa. Technically speaking, Brian Cashman made a serious error in judgement when he allowed Rafael Soriano to not only opt out of his contract but sign with another team, when Cashman could’ve paid him closer money for one season to be the closer-in-waiting last season.
Now, to the starting rotation. Long the discussion of Yankees’ fans everywhere this winter. All of the attention was placed on signing Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees got their guy, but it’s not enough. If the Yankees want to take that next step, and return to past glory, forget about giving a triumvirate of Michael Pineda/David Phelps or Vidal Nuno a shot at the starting rotation. The Yankees are still not sure if Pineda will be 100 percent, Phelps is nothing special, but Nuno could be. Keep the youngster at Triple-A for one more season to gain much needed experience until his day comes, which could be as soon as next season assuming that Kuroda retires at the end of 2014.
The projected rotation right now, 1-4 is Sabathia, Kuroda, Tanaka, and Nova. Again, that’s great, but the Yankees do need a fifth starter, and a weak link simply won’t do. The man the Yankees need to sign to finish the job is Ubaldo Jimenez. He is a horse, as he has recorded six straight seasons of 31 or more starts each. Once Kuroda retires, Nuno can slot in in the fifth spot, Tanaka moves up to the #2 slot, and the competition for the 3/4 slots will be between Jimenez and Nova. I am fully aware of the disastrous seasons he had in Cleveland after being traded by the Colorado Rockies. I’m also aware that during the second half of 2013, he was more like his 2010-version than he was his previous seasons in Cleveland. Jimenez is a high strikeout pitcher, who has ace capabilities, and if his mechanical issues are truly behind him, the Yankees could get a relative steal by signing him to fill out the rotation. In 1275 1/3 career innings pitched, he’s only allowed 103 home runs. That bodes well for a guy coming to Yankee Stadium, who has spent the majority of his career pitching his home games at Coors Field. With Matt Garza getting a four year deal and $52 million from the Brewers with no draft pick compensation attached, expectations for the remaining arms–Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo should now be tempered for what type of contract each will receive.
Now, back to my infield ideas. I still think if push comes to shove, the Yankees revisit the Phillips for Gardner deal. Here’s the kicker though. The Yankees have one prized possession in their farm system, and that is catcher Gary Sanchez. If the Yankees couldn’t sign Ubaldo Jimenez, a larger deal should loom. Deal Gardner and Sanchez to the Reds for Phillips and Homer Bailey. Think about that rotation for a moment…okay, that would put the outfield of Soriano/Ellsbury/Beltran back into play. The Yankees will not resign Gardner when he becomes a free agent, so they might as well deal him, and a prospect who more than likely will never see the Bronx and get pieces they need. While Phillips is no Robinson Cano, he’s right there defensively, and the Yankees can live with his bat–and his contract since they are now over the threshold. A pitching rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, Tanaka, Bailey and Nova would compete with any in baseball.
While most of these proposed moves are far fetched, now’s the time for overkill if the Yankees are indeed serious about returning to top of the baseball world. The other teams in the American League are getting better each and every season. The Yankees already missed the playoffs last year, so if the Steinbrenner brothers are serious about carrying on their father’s legacy, these are the types of moves The Boss would drool over.