New York Yankees Free-Agent, Trade Rumors: Updating 9 Big Moves That May Happen

Phil WatsonCorrespondent INovember 5, 2012

New York Yankees Free-Agent, Trade Rumors: Updating 9 Big Moves That May Happen

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    Free agency opened on Saturday after the New York Yankees made qualifying offers by the Friday deadline to three of their 13 free agents.

    According to Dan Martin and George A. King III of the New York Post, the three offered the one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer (and thus qualifying for draft-pick compensation should they sign elsewhere) were pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Rafael Soriano and outfielder Nick Swisher. The trio now has until Friday to decide whether to reject or decline the offers.

    Not extended qualifying offers were catcher Russell Martin; outfielders Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki, Darnell McDonald and Andruw Jones; and pitchers Pedro Feliciano, Mariano Rivera, Freddy Garcia and Derek Lowe.

    Here’s the latest news is on the offseason transaction front:

Mariano Rivera to Return in 2013

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    The New York Post reported on Sunday that closer Mariano Rivera will be back with the New York Yankees next season.

    General manager Brian Cashman told the Post on Saturday, “Rivera contacted us and wants to play.”

    The return of Rivera will almost certainly play a role in what the club decides to do with fill-in closer Rafael Soriano, who was extended a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer by the Yankees on Friday.

    Cashman told the Post he plans to work on a contract for Rivera in the coming week. Rivera’s agent, Fernando Cuza, said Rivera talked to both his family and Yankees’ managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner before reaching a decision.

    Rivera had vowed to return in May after he injured his right knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice at Kansas City. But shortly after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers, Rivera was reportedly hinting that he was considering retirement.

Where Does Rivera’s Return Leave Rafael Soriano?

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    Rafael Soriano has until Friday to accept or reject the New York Yankees’ one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer and it is expected that he will reject the deal, although the New York Post reported Saturday there was an outside shot Soriano could take the one-year deal.

    Soriano recorded 42 saves in 46 chances after Mariano Rivera went down with a knee injury in May and opted out of the final year of his contract after the season ended. He is said to be in the market for a multi-year contract and there are teams in the market for a closer.

    But Soriano has been down this road before. He sought a free-agent bonanza after the 2010 season, leading the American League with 45 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees eventually signed him to be a setup man for Rivera after the big money to close for someone didn’t materialize.

How Close Is a Deal with Hiroki Kuroda?

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    Hiroki Kuroda reportedly enjoyed his first year with the New York Yankees in 2012, according to CBSSports.com. Kuroda also received a qualifying offer from the Yankees after setting a career-high with 16 victories this season.

    Kuroda was 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and anchored the starting rotation while both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte spent time on the disabled list. Kuroda made $10 million in 2012 and is said to be open to the idea of another one-year contract.

    The Yankees are hoping he will just accept the qualifying offer at $13.3 million. His performance in 2012 gives him leverage to ask for more; however, his age (38) weakens that leverage at least to some degree.

Nick Swisher Is as Good as Gone

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    Right fielder Nick Swisher was the third New York Yankee to receive a qualifying offer. The New York Post reported Saturday that it is all but a formality that Swisher will pass on the one-year deal.

    Swisher is seeking a longer, richer contract in free agency and such an offer is unlikely to be produced by the Yankees. With Swisher’s repeated postseason struggles, it is the longest of long shots that he will be back with New York in 2013.

    Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe wrote that the Boston Red Sox should take a run at Swisher. Massarotti’s opinion is that Swisher would give the Red Sox flexibility because of his ability to play both corner outfield spots as well as first base. The fact Swisher is a switch-hitter would also be attractive, according to the columnist.

Russell Martin in Huge Demand

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    Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Friday that catcher Russell Martin could be “the most coveted .211 hitter ever on the free-agent market.”

    Martin didn’t get a qualifying offer from the New York Yankees. Heyman reported, however, that the Yankees would like to keep Martin … just not at a $13.3 million price tag. Martin made $7.5 million in 2012.

    Martin is in a group with A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli as the best available free-agent backstops. The rest of the best are David Ross, Miguel Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba.

    So, no, it’s not really a group that invokes memories of Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson or Carlton Fisk.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners are seen as teams who could spend some money to address their catching situation this offseason. But the Yankees don’t have a starter at catcher for 2013 and would like to pencil Martin into that slot, if the price is right.

A Granderson-Gardner Switch in the Offing?

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    According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, sources say the New York Yankees may not be set in center field for 2013 even after picking up Curtis Granderson’s option for next year.

    Instead, there is discussion about moving Granderson to one of the corner spots with Brett Gardner taking over in center field.

    There are defensive concerns about Granderson, according to Knobler, and Gardner came through the Yankee farm system as a center fielder. He shared the spot with Melky Cabrera in 2009 before moving over to left field after Granderson was acquired from the Detroit Tigers the following year.

Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez Might Be Back

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    Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com reported last week that the New York Yankees are interested in bringing back outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez on short-term deals.

    Suzuki, 38, came to New York from the Seattle Mariners in July while Ibanez joined the team as a free agent last winter. Neither player received a qualifying offer from the Yankees on Friday.

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported last month that Suzuki was “very interested” in remaining with the Yankees.

    Ibanez became something of a folk hero with his huge home runs during the playoffs.

Could Torii Hunter Be Switching Coasts?

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    Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported last week that the New York Yankees might also be interested in former Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter. Hunter did not receive a qualifying offer from the Angels and could add a right-handed bat to a predominantly lefty swinging Yankee order.

    Because Hunter didn’t get a qualifying offer, the Yankees wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick in order to sign him.

    Hunter had a solid year for the Angels in 2012, hitting .313/.365/.451 with 16 homers, 92 RBI and 81 runs in 140 games.

    According to Feinsand, Hunter is reportedly seeking a two-year contract as he goes hunting for a chance to win a ring late in his career. Hunter is a 16-year veteran who has never played in the World Series over the course of his career with the Angels and Minnesota Twins.

Shockingly (or Not) No Movement on the Alex Rodriguez Front

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    Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported last week that no one has contacted the New York Yankees about the availability of third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

    Nightengale’s source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Yankees don’t publicly discuss trade possibilities … unless they do so as anonymous sources.

    But another anonymous source familiar with Rodriguez’s thinking told Nightengale there’s not a team out there that the aging slugger would waive his no-trade clause for, anyway.

    It appears that the Yankees and Rodriguez have about 114 million reasons why he’s not going anyway, at least not now.