Yankees 2014?

 girardi ball

New York Yankees’ Needs:  Two starters; SS, 3B, maybe 2B; OF, C

Any analysis of the New York Yankees needs to put first things first which, in my opinion, means listing what positions the Yankees need to fill.  And, in my opinion, the team needs two starters, a shortstop, a third baseman, a catcher, at least one outfielder and very possibly a second baseman.

That is lot of need.

So where to start? Actually, with the front office personnel because the team has a fair amount of prospects in the minors but nothing immediately ready to step in and fill roles. That is a direct representation of front office failure. Specifically, scouting office failure. (For the best analysis/indictment of the Yankees’ scouting office read Bill Madden’s column in the 10/20(Sunday) issue of the New York Daily News http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/madden-playoff-confidential-notes-yankees-article-1.1490544.)

During the 2013 season the Yankees had to find veteran “bargains” to fill out their roster just so they could be competitive. And they were relatively successfully doing that as they hung around the wild card race until the last few weeks of the season.  But, they did so because their bargain basement pickups played very well in the early going and they were beating up on teams that were run of the mill. Unfortunately, players like Vernon Wells, Hiroki Kuroda, et. al., faded down the stretch and they had to play too many other teams that were better than middle of the road who then beat up on the Yankees as they were jockeying for a place in MLB’s post-season tournament.

For the Yankees to satisfy their need for an infusion of talent and young blood that means they need to step up their scouting.

Ex-GM Gene Michael is still with the Yankees as an advisor and he was the primary guy who built the late 1990’s/early 2000’s championship teams with Pettitte, Jeter, Posada and Rivera, aka the core four, Yankees into a highly competitive team.  Brian Cashman who studied under Michael needs to swallow a little bit of pride, let Michael make suggestions and listen to those suggestions.

Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman
Hal Steinbrenner
Hal Steinbrenner

(A quick note before this analysis continues: Most times when Brian Cashman is mentioned it should be understood Hal Steinbrenner is the final word on all things Yankees. Hal is not George but he does control the purse things and will “suggest’ certain things and they will be done. After all, he is the face and controlling point man of the Yankees’ ownership.)

The one thing that Cashman did do is he resigned Joe Girardi to a four-year deal to be the Yankees’ manager. Which was both a good move and a smart move. My quibbles with Girardi are minor and not worth the time to go over. Essentially, I like Girardi’s managerial style.

Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi

Also, from rumblings in the New York press, it appears all of Girardi’s staff/coaches will be hired back. I think that is also a good, smart move. No need to burden Girardi with any new additions to staff. In a period of rebuilding he will need all the continuity he can get. Besides the talent problems on the Yankees are due more to the front office and scouting departments than the on-field coaching people.

Again, the Yankees need to get two spots in the starting rotation, an outfielder, a catcher, a second-baseman to give Derek Jeter some breaks at short whether he likes it or not and, I will assume ARod is suspended for the season, so a third baseman.

There’s plenty of salary coming off the payroll this winter, as Cano ($15M), Rivera ($10M), Pettitte ($12M mil), Curtis Granderson ($13M), Hiroki Kuroda ($15M), Kevin Youkilis ($12M), Phil Hughes ($7.15 M), Travis Hafner ($2M), Boone Logan ($3.15M), David Robertson ($3.1M), Brett Gardener ($2.85M), Joba Chamberlain ($1.8M), Mark Reynolds ($6M), Brendan Ryan ($3.25M), Lyle Overbay ($1.25M), Shawn Kelly ($0.94M) and Ivan Nova ($0.575M) combined to make more than $109.065 million in 2013. Granted some of these players were added after the All-Star break but they all count toward the Yankees’ payroll at least partially and if they were to be resigned then would cost, at the minimum, their pay for 2013.

Cot’s Baseball Contracts website says he Yankees have committed roughly $86 million in salary already. From the above list of contracts being subtracted, Dave Robertson, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, Shawn Kelly aren’t going anywhere and will get raises the question is how much? My guess is Robertson and Gardner get at least a few million plus. And Nova, Kelley (plus a few other first- and second-time arbitration-eligible players not listed) get more modest raises.  So add somewhat meaningful raises to avoid arbitration for Robertson and Gardener and conservative raises for Nova, et. al. and a few other first- and second-time arbitration-eligible players, and the Yankees are between $105 million and $110 million for 2014.

And that’s without Cano.

Besides Rivera and Pettitte (retirement), it is more than likely that Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson have worn the pinstripes for the last time. Granderson will get a low ball qualifying offer and the Yankees won’t cry if he goes somewhere else like the rumored White Sox. I believe he does.

Now to stay under the 2014 designated magic payroll number of $189 million the Yankees have to take into consideration not only the 40-man roster salaries but insurance costs, medical costs, pension benefits and other non-salary expenses or what experts say is about $12 million for 2014.

The Yankees have about $70 million to safely spend this offseason.

However, I am going to go “out on a limb” and say Alex Rodriguez’ appeal of his 200 plus game suspension won’t be totally successful but will be reduced to one season. That adds another $25 million in Cashman’s pocket to spend. So, figure they got $95 million wiggle room to play with.

This brings us now to Cano. Rumor has it his initial asking price is a contract of 10 years, $305 million. No one is giving him that. And if he gets it, it won’t be from the Yankees.

Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano

I think Cashman should offer no more than five years and a top of $110 million. However, I believe Cashman will be authorized to go to about 7 years and around $185 million or about $26.4 million a year. If they sign him for that then the wiggle number just shrunk down to $68.6 million.

IF, the Yankees do let Cano go then that’s an entirely different scenario… I’ll come back to this.

Next: Derek Jeter missed 145 games in 2013 or essentially the entire season. The Yankees need an insurance policy for Jeter if he gets disabled for any amount of time in 2014. Luckily they have one in Brendan Ryan and should resign him if they can do it somewhat economically. Ryan is short on stick but very long on the glove. Some say maybe the best shortstop glove in the Majors. Plus, he can play second and third which makes him a solid late game defensive replacement player.  I think it’s worth the tradeoff if Jeter gets hurt again. Plus, Jeter can DH and Ryan, the much better defensive player can play on a semi-regular basis. Not that Jeter is your prototypical DH player but the Yankees DH player(s) in 2013, in a word, sucked.  I think Cashman will actually do this signing because he needs as much money as he can get to fill other lineup holes. Besides when Ryan plays then the Yankees’ pitching staff will be that much better with a vacuum on the left of second base. Ryan made $3.25 million so give him $5 mil with incentives to be Jeter’s caddy. He ain’t getting much more, or a starting job, with any other team anyway and I think he takes the Yankees offer with little to no quibbling.

Personally, Ryan should be the everyday SS and Jeter a leadoff DH. But, I don’t see that happening.

The wiggle room balance sheet is now $63.6 million.

Catcher: Assume Chris Stewart is gone. Also, assume Austin Romine makes the team out of spring training but as the backup catcher. That means the Yankees need to go after a free agent catcher. And it will not be Brain McCann unless he can be got for no more than $15 million. And I think that won’t happen and the Yankees have bigger fish to fry then going higher to get McCann in pinstripes. So who will they go after? Probably one of the following: A. J. Pierzynski, Ryan Hannigan and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

I think the Yankees should target Hannigan because he is simply the best defensive catcher out there. Proof? Catcher’s ERA of 3.04 was the lowest in the Majors; 48.5%

Ryan Hannigan
Ryan Hannigan

caught stealing which was tops among big league catchers with at least 110 games played, .995 fielding percentage was third-best in the National League and he had only three passed balls. He will make the pitching staff better. And he could provide 15 plus HRs and 20 plus doubles with a .250 BA. I think the price could be a reasonable $5 to $6 million. Call it $6 million for arguments sake.

Wiggle room is now at 57.6 million.

The outfield consists of Brett Gardner and a jumble of past-their-prime veterans, Alfonso Soriano (37 next season), Ichiro Suzuki (40) and Vernon Wells (turning 35 in December). The Yankees need at least one outfielder. With a platoon developing somewhere, in left or right. If Gardner is in center and a new right fielder is sought then realistically there are only three right fielders worth considering: Carlos Beltran (37), Shin-Soo Choo (31) and Nelson Cruz (33). I’m eliminating Cruz for three reasons: No one knows for sure how much steroids inflated his numbers, I doubt the Yankees want another player tainted by steroid use so soon to their recent tango with Rodriguez and Cruz is a cheaper version of Granderson. Slightly less strikeouts but decidedly less RBIs, Runs and HRs. They would be better off if Granderson accepts their qualifying offer. And, Choo is even worse than Cruz in my opinion. So this leaves Beltran… now is he worth taking a chance on at 37 years of age? My opinion? No. So where does this leave the Yanks?

A change of strategy: Jacoby Ellsbury or Adam Jones. Unfortunately as good as I think Ellsbury is the Yankees don’t need him. But, they could use Jones and he fits their needs, i.e., power with a decent batting average.  Gardner moves back to left and the platoon shifts Right. If Soriano plays then he goes to left and Gardner moves to right. Jones price? 12 million? Let’s go high at $15 million.

Wiggle room is now $42.6 million.

If by some chance Granderson accepts the Yankees’ offer then deduct another $15 million. And, look for the Yankees to eat Wells contract and release him sometime during spring training. And maybe not just Wells. Maybe Ichiro, too.

Wiggle room is $27.6. The Yankees’ rotation: CC Sabathia is coming off the worst season of his career. But the Yanks are locked in with him and they hope he returns near to his 20 game winner stuff. After Sabathia, it is a crapshoot. Hughes is gone. He has had his chances and failed to produce when they needed him. Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent and the Yankees will likely pursue the veteran righty for another season but, frankly, I hope they don’t. He gives you innings and Whip but outside of one decent season (2012) he is a career below .500 pitcher. He always seems to fade late. And, to me that is not a good sign.  But, expect the Yankees to make a run at him for something around his present salary of $15 million. I don’t expect them to offer much more than that… maybe $16 million.

SCC Sabathia
CC Sabathia

Ivan Nova showed glimpses of meeting expectations as did David Phelps. Michael Pineda is in the wings but I wouldn’t count on him as fitting into the rotation. I expect one of the Yankees spring training stories will surround the competition for a rotation spot between these three. I see Nova landing the job and Phelps heading to the bullpen as insurance in case of an injury to a starter. Pineda starts the 2014 season in the minors. One thing I am pretty sure of is that the Yankees will be going after Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who will be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League this winter. I think they will be in with a very large number for the right to negotiate with Tanaka. He looks polished and is young and the Yankees need to take the gamble.

The bullpen will be a patch work job until they figure out who inherits the closer role and I actually expect to see more complete games from the starters due to Mariano Rivera’s retirement. I don’t expect the Yankees to sign a closer.

There are several options for one-year deals that could interest the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka
Bronson Arroyo
Bronson Arroyo

Bronson Arroyo, Tim Hudson and Jake Westbrook would be worth one-year fliers, though each player is over the age of 35. None of these guys would cost a ton of money.

Arroyo and Hudson could be had for around $6 to $8 million. I am not a big Westbrook fan especially because of his plus 4 ERA.  ’Nuff said about him.

I do like Arroyo and Hudson. Arroyo would be the best of these options. He was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA in 202 innings this season, better than Kuroda and what the Yanks could use.

Out of the potential multiyear deals pitching talent available, only Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco stir my interest. Garza is too volatile and reminds me of A J Burnett. No thank you. Nolasco is a no go for the same reason that Westbrook is a no go.

I expect the Yankees to kick the tires on Roy Halladay, Scott Kazmir and Tim Lincecum. Who knows something could happen. I do like Lincecum and if the price is right then go for it and I think he could become a closer. If Kuroda is resigned then its Kuroda, Sabathia, Nova, hopefully Tanaka and maybe either Arroyo or Hudson in the rotation.Take about 16 million away for pitching and the wiggle room is now $11.6 million.

Jhonny Peralta
Jhonny Peralta

3B????   Either Omar Infante as a stop gap on the cheap for a year. Or, Jhonny Peralta, if he can be gotten for around $10 million a year for three years. I know, I know… the steroid issue but the Yanks need someone at third base. Plus, he is another insurance policy at shortstop, if the need arises. So don’t over pay for Peralta but don’t insult him either and there is Infante as an option.

Now then, if Cano gets someone to break the bank AND the Yankees smartly refuse to match the offer and he leaves, everything changes. Sort of.

The Yankees need a second baseman. And your guess is as good as mine who they get. Infante at 2B and Peralta at 3B?

But, with no Cano, it does free up $26 million and they could either bank that for 2015 free agents or spend some of it on more pitching of which you can never have too much. Plus, the Yankees now need Granderson more than ever… kind of, sort of. What they need is his potential 40 HRs more than anything.

Of course not all of these options are going to happen and who knows they may need to force feed a minor leaguer like David Adams (3B) into the lineup and hope for the best…  But, hey, it’s the beginning of the hot stove league and this is what it’s all about; kicking it all around and seeing what shakes out.

 

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