A Potential Yankees’ Offseason Outcome
The offseason is underway as 12 players can accept or reject qualifying offers by Monday, free agents can officially sign with any team, and trade talks are heating up. Each fan has his or her wish list for what the Yankees (and every other) team should do. Do they go big on starting pitching by signing Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, or James Shields?
Do they follow the Royals model and load up on strikeout monsters in the bullpen? Will Brendan Ryan start at shortstop or will they target one of the free agents that are shortstops in name (Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jed Lowrie) but not defensive ability? Dave Cameron of fangraphs.com has his predictions for what each team will do this winter to upgrade their teams. As he notes in the introduction, he is making predictions on where each of the 55 crowdsourced free agents will sign and what their contracts will look like.
Let’s take a look at what he predicts the Yankees will do and how that will affect the 2015 outlook. This is not at all meant to judge whether Dave is right or wrong on who they will sign and for how much because nobody in the world knows that answer right now. Rather, it is meant to be an analysis of what the team would look like if they were to make the moves that Dave is predicting.
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Dave predicts that the Yankees will sign the most free agents (five) out of the pool of 55 players he uses. Hiroki Kuroda, after not receiving a qualifying offer, will sign back on with New York for 1 year and $12 million. The Yankees still need starting pitching help with injury risk surrounding CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda. Getting Kuroda back on another 1 year deal would stabilize the middle of the rotation as Kuroda projects to put up another 3-4 fWAR season even as he approaches 40 years of age.
Chris Capuano is predicted to sign on at 1 year/$2 million to presumably act as a swingman. The lefty adds necessary depth and insures that the team doesn’t tank when a starting pitcher or 3 gets injured. David Robertson will sign on for 3 years and $40 million to continue being the first post-Rivera closer in New York. The bullpen will remain a huge strength like it was in 2014 if Robertson is retained.
The next two signings shore up the left side of the infield. Mid-season trade acquisition Chase Headley will re-up for 4 years and $60 million to play 3rd base. The switch-hitter has an excellent glove and good batting eye. He projects as a 4-5 win player over an entire season. Finally, former Indians’ shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will sign for 2 years and $22 million. Cabrera projects as a league average player (2 WAR) even with his defensive deficiencies at shortstop. This left side of the infield is not quite prime Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, but it would be an upgrade over the past couple seasons.
These 5 additions give the team flexibility as no constraining long term contracts at high AAV are given out. However, it doesn’t seem like these moves alone will move the needle much from the 84 win team they were last season. Positive regression from Beltran, McCann, and Teixeira and much better health in the starting rotation are imperative to jump into legitimate playoff contention range.
An interesting note is that the Yankees would have 4 switch-hitters in their everyday lineup if Cabrera and Headley were signed and added to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran. That is a huge tactical advantage in the era of playing matchup baseball with the bullpen. Despite the lack of big names, these moves would represent a good offseason for New York. There is only so much that can be done in one offseason round and a lot of the improvement at the team level will have to come from guys already under contract.