While the disappointment of the American League Championship Series is still lingering with many Yankee fans, including myself, it is time to start turning our attention to the off-season. The Yankees have several players whose contracts have expired and many big decisions that must be made in the coming months. While general manager Brian Cashman and his staff have done more than respectable job in piecing together these Yankees’ teams of the past few years, they have many crucial decisions to make this winter in trying to not only set the ball club up for a successful 2013 campaign but to prepare the team for the future.
The Yankees starting rotation definitely has some holes to fill in 2013 but I do not feel that McCarthy is the direction the team should turn. The 29-year-old right-hander has enjoyed success in the big leagues, however, has suffered from major injury issues throughout his career. Even before the scary incident of fracturing his skull in 2012, McCarthy had previously suffered from various elbow and forearm problems. McCarthy has pitched 170 innings only once in his career and other than the 2011 season, has never thrown more than 111. The Yankees would be better off to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda after his fantastic 2012 campaign and then try to pursue Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez has thrown 195 innings or more in each of the past 3 seasons, and proved down the stretch for Detroit this year that he could be a clutch performer. The Yankees should also be able to get improved starting rotation help from Ivan Nova, Dustin Phelps, and a returning Michael Pineda.
While Ross did put a up a career year for the Red Sox in 2012 with 22 homers and 81 RBI’s, he is still a 31-year-old journey-man outfielder. Ross has played for 6 teams in his nine-year career, finishing with over 20 home runs only 3 times and never batting above .270 in a season in which he had over 200 plate appearances. In spite of his lousy post season, the Yankees would be better off re-signing Nick Swisher. Swisher has consistently produced at higher levels throughout his entire career than Ross, hitting over 20 home runs in every full season of his career, but he even had better numbers this year with 24 homers and 93 RBI’s. The biggest difference between Ross and Swisher as players though is On Base Percentage where Swisher’s career OBP of .361 is 37 points higher than Ross’. Swisher may demand a higher contract than Ross but a deep free agent outfield class and Swisher’s poor post season play will hopefully drive down his stock a bit. Either way, his in season production is undeniable and he is worth the investment.
Third base seems like it will be one of the trickiest positions for the Yankees to figure out in 2013. The team will lose Eric Chavez to free agency and who knows what will happen to A-Rod. However, I do not believe Kevin Youkilis is the answer. Youkilis has been an every day starting third baseman for the past seven years and is going to try and command that type of money on the free agent market despite having a severe dip in batting average over the last two seasons. The Yankees still do owe Alex Rodriguez $114 million so why not give him a chance to play third base again next season. A-Rod has slugged higher and hit for a better average than Youkilis in each of the last two seasons and since he’s already on the pay roll as long as he can somewhat get a long with Girardi, the Yankees should give him a shot at playing third at least part of the time. A-Rod’s durability has significantly decreased in the past few seasons, so it might do the Yankees some good to bring in a player like Jeff Keppinger or Marco Scutaro to both fill in at third and add depth to the infield if their asking prices are not too high.
Mike Napoli may have hit 30 home runs and batted .320 in 2011 but if the 2012 season showed anything, it was that 2011 was certainly an anomaly. Napoli has a career batting average of .259 and hit .227 in 2012 and .238 in 2010. While Napoli has put up better power numbers throughout his career than Russell Martin, it would do the Yankees well to simply re-sign Martin. Martin has developed a great relationship with the Yankees pitching staff over the past two seasons and has developed a reputation throughout his career to be better defensively than Napoli. Unlike Napoli, the Yankees should be able to sign Martin for a short deal which will allow either prospect Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez to learn under him and eventually take the reigns as the Yankees’ full time catcher by 2014 or 2015. If the Yankees do decide to sign a bigger name catcher however, I would advise they go after Pierzynski, who has been more consistent throughout his career, both hitting for average and defensively.
Soriano stepped up big time for the Yankees in 2012; however, I do not believe it will be worth the Yankees money to dole out a large salary to a reliever, if Soriano chooses to opt out of his current contract. Mariano Rivera should be back in 2013 and while his health is a question mark, no closer in the history of the game has been able to sustain success for nearly as long a period of time as he has. No one in baseball is as mentally tough as Mariano, and the Yankees should be able to rely on him to close out games. Even if he can’t however, recent trends suggest the closer position is not one a team should spend heavily on as teams like the Cardinals, Orioles, and A’s have proven that a big name closer is not a necessity (see Motte, Johnson, and Balfour).
There is no denying Josh Hamilton’s greatness over the past few seasons and that he would contribute to the Yankees next season in remarkable ways. However, the reason the Yankees should stay away from signing him, is that he will leave them in the same predicament they are in now with several of their players. Hamilton is 31-years-old and his shaky past makes his durability going forward a question mark. Most likely Hamilton is going to try and demand a contract upwards of $20 million a year with a duration of 6 or 7 years. While Hamilton might be worth that money originally. his production may see a sharp decline in years six or seven. If the Yankees were to sign Hamilton to a contract that ludicrous, it would most likely leave them in a position similar to the one they are in with A-Rod right now and might be in with Teixeira in a few years. The only way the Yankees should even consider signing Hamilton is if his asking price decreases significantly.
After drafting B.J. Upton with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, the Rays had grand expectations for the young shortstop. Ten years and a move to the outfield, Upton is yet to live up to his enormous potential. Recent reports have linked Upton as a possible replacement to Curtis Granderson in centerfield for the Yankees next season, but anyone who believes this must be ready to see a serious decrease in production from that spot in the lineup. While Upton will most likely be a cheaper sign, he has shown significantly less power than Granderson and except for 2012, has even hit for a lower average throughout his career. The main complaint most Yankee fans have with Granderson’s play is his high strikeout numbers, however, Upton has almost as bad a problem with the K as Granderson, as he has posted over 130 strikeouts in each of his six full seasons. Personally I feel the Yankees should re-sign Granderson as his upper cut swing and high fly ball rate fits perfectly with Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch.