If this offseason has taught Yankees fans anything it’s the fact that they will need to remain patient as the front office tries to reduce payroll and still field a competitive team. Granted, the $189 million threshold is a ton of money to field a winning squad, but when you have three players making more than $20 million, and five players making between $10-$17 million, it becomes very difficult for a team hell bent on signing the best players to get those same players to sign on the dotted line. It’s proven that free agency is the most cost-inefficient way of building a team and the Yankees are now feeling the effects of that. However, if there is one saving grace, it might be the trade market, and as always the Yankees seem to be in the thick of things for many available players.
Please, say no to Vernon Wells.
Image: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
An old AL East adversary from his time with the Blue Jays where he hit .280/.329/.475 in 12 seasons. When he went out west to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim he didn’t bring his bat with him as evidenced by his .222/.258/.409 slash line in two years with the club. The 34-year-old three-time Gold Glove-winning outfielder has also seen his defense take a dip, and as with many players who’ve age he had to move from centerfield to left field. His centerfield defense hasn’t always been the best where he’s posted UZR/150 ratings north (south?) of -20 in four seasons, with his last two seasons amounting to -41.1 in 2011 and -21.3 in 2012 (both of which in fewer than 100 innings, so take it for what it’s worth). Meanwhile, his left field defense is still holding up as he is averaging an 8.6 UZR/150 rating the past two seasons.
The Yankees kicked the tires on Wells because he would presumably add another right-handed bat to help balance the Yankees order. However, his splits reveal he’s not all that great against left hand pitching (.227/.298/.373 in 2012) and any power he had in Anaheim would likely decrease in the Bronx. Couple that would his ridiculous contract with $42 million left over two years, which Anaheim would pick up most of the remaining money, and you can plainly see there’s no upside to this deal for the Yankees. His production could just as easily be met using younger players in the minors.
Here’s a potential signing that makes little sense for the Yankees. First, their outfield lost a 20+ HR, 80+ RBI guy in Nick Swisher, then turn around and sign Ichiro Suzuki and Michael Bourn to multiyear contracts? This rumor caught traction in a recent article from Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe, in which he opined that the Yankees are “quietly interested” in Bourn as their leadoff guy. With Scott Boras representing him, the speedy outfielder will likely demand more than $100 million on the open market.
The problem with Bourn is he’ll turn age 30 on December 27, and with that, his days as a speed demon on the base paths and in the outfield are numbered. Speed doesn’t hold up throughout a career and once that goes, and it will go, Bourn’s productivity will drop dramatically. If signed, he’d provide some of the best center field defense the Yankees have ever seen, as he is regularly among the top defensive outfielders in the game and a multiple Gold Glove winner. He also has the potential to steal upward 50 bags a year. Again, as he ages those two tools will suffer most, which will drive down his value to the club in later years of the contract. Saying that, the bigger question is: If they are willing to spend that kind of money on Bourn, then why aren’t they willing to spend that on Swisher, whose power is likely to sustain itself longer than any speed-oriented tool?
No…just no. Next!
After Russell Martin jetted to the Pittsburgh Pirates when Brian Cashman (reportedly) couldn’t make an offer on him, the Yankees were left with a gaping hole at the catching position. In recent years Yankees fans were treated to sub-par defense, but excellent offense from Jorge Posada, which then turned into a better defense and a worse bat in Russell Martin. Now the Yankees are on the verge of starting their season with defensive-minded catchers in Chris Stewart, Austin Romine, and Francisco Cervelli. Defense in Yankeeland? Hmph, yeah right!
Pierzynski has always been one of the better hitting catchers throughout his 15-year career. In 2012, as a 35-year-old, he hit .278/.326/.501 with 27 home runs and 77 RBI and was awarded a Silver Slugger for his efforts. His left handed swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium, but he’s not getting any younger. Catchers are usually the first to see their production drop as they age, and while Pierzynski’s offense has aged well, there’s no telling what he’ll look like on the backside of a multiyear deal. Plus, his defense is nothing to write home about, but what he could possibly bring with his offense might just outweigh his deficiencies on defense. Considering where the catching position is right now, making a one-year deal for Pierzynski isn’t a terrible idea, especially with the other free agents on the market it’s pretty slim pickings.
As our own Alex Pugliese wrote, the Yankees have no one else to blame but themselves for this mess. This is a big, convoluted mess too. Not only is the Yankees’ payroll being paid out mostly toward over-the-hill types, but they’re leaving little room for signing better, younger players. Couple that with the under-developed farm hands and the Yankees are definitely seeing karma rear its ugly head. Many players don’t want to sign a one-year contract, and eventually these one-year types won’t produce. Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Hiroki Kuroda are the exception, not the rule when it comes to players over-producing on one-year contracts. This season the Yankees employ Kevin Youkilis, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera on expensive one-year pacts, sooner rather than later these won’t be enough to make it to the postseason.