Yankees Rumors: Ranking New York's 14 Biggest Targets, Chances of Signing Each

Phil WatsonCorrespondent INovember 12, 2012

Yankees Rumors: Ranking New York's 14 Biggest Targets, Chances of Signing Each

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    It was no shocker on Friday when the three free agents who were extended one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offers by the New York Yankees opted to reject them.

    The Yankees were never going to re-sign outfielder Nick Swisher, who is looking for a lucrative long-term deal. Rafael Soriano wants to close and he wants huge money to do it and will likely take his classless “untuck” routine somewhere else.

    There is still a chance Hiroki Kuroda could be back in the Bronx, but the 37-year-old right-hander has drawn interest from other quarters as well. Kuroda’s return is not quite the slam-dunk it appeared to be a week or so ago.

    As general manager Brian Cashman goes through the process of piecing together a roster for 2013, here is a look at some of the free agents New York might be targeting and its chances of landing each.

Josh Hamilton, <1 Percent

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    2012 stat line: .285/.354/.577, 43 HR, 128 RBI, 103 R, 162 K in 148 G, 636 PA

    Josh Hamilton, the American League’s MVP in 2010, is—at least statistically—the top position player in this year’s free-agent class.

    Over the last three years, Hamilton has a .952 OPS with an average of 33 homers and 107 RBI a season. But there are questions about his long-term durability given his injury history and his status as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.

    Hamilton’s asking price is reportedly seven years and $175 million. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported last week that the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers were potential players in the Hamilton sweepstakes and that the Texas Rangers had some interest in retaining him.

    There are still some reports out there linking Hamilton to the New York Yankees, but most of those are doing so almost automatically based on New York’s history of being big players in free agency.

    With the much discussed austerity measures in place and designs on getting payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014, there’s virtually no chance Hamilton comes to the Bronx.

Ryan Dempster, 3 Percent

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    2012 stat line with Cubs: 5-5, 2.25 ERA, 16 GS, 104 IP, 1.038 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, 7.2 K/9

    2012 stat line with Rangers: 7-3, 5.09 ERA, 12 GS, 79 IP, 1.435 WHIP, 9.7 H/9, 9.1 K/9

    Ryan Dempster was a hot target of the New York Yankees at the trading deadline before the Texas Rangers acquired him from the Chicago Cubs on July 31.

    There are reportedly several teams in play for Dempster. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported from the GM meetings last week in California that the Milwaukee Brewers were interested in the 35-year-old right-hander.

    Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweeted Thursday that the Boston Red Sox had shown “preliminary interest” in Dempster. Darren Wolfson, a contributor to 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis, tweeted the same day as Lauber that the Minnesota Twins have inquired “officially” about Dempster, as well.

    Jason A. Churchill of ESPN Rumor Central (Insider subscription required) speculated Saturday that the Cubs might be interested in bringing Dempster back and that the Los Angeles Dodgers could get interested, but were more focused on other starting pitchers.

    Churchill also said Dempster could fit with the Baltimore Orioles or the Rangers and that the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays and Yankees could all be in on Dempster. However, given Dempster’s desire for another multi-year deal, the Yankees would have to be considered an extreme long shot, at best.

Juan Pierre, 10 Percent

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    2012 stat line: .307/.351/.371, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 37-44 SB, 59 R, 130 G, 439 PA

    Juan Pierre, at age 35, hasn’t slowed down much and is only two years removed from leading the American League in stolen bases in 2010 as a member of the Chicago White Sox.

    He wasn’t a full-time player with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, but still managed to steal 37 bases. The downside on Pierre is that he’s not an on-base percentage guy, something the New York Yankees value.

    The upside, however, is that Pierre is one of several outfielders who could provide a cheap, short-term solution to the New York outfield situation, where the Yankees need to replace Nick Swisher in right field as well as Andruw Jones and possibly Raul Ibanez off the bench.

    Still, Pierre is a less patient, older version of Brett Gardner and, as GM Brian Cashman said so eloquently after the postseason, the team is not going to become “the Bronx Bunters” in response to the nearly team-wide batting struggles in the playoffs. Pierre is a long shot, a fall-back option if other, more highly sought-after players end up elsewhere.

Grady Sizemore, 20 Percent

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    2012 stat line: Did not play due to injuries

    Grady Sizemore was a three-time All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, but those appearances were in 2006, 2007 and 2008, several years and even more injuries ago.

    Bleacher Report MLB lead writer Ian Casselberry laid out the rationale on Friday on why Sizemore might be a “low-risk, high-reward” addition to the New York Yankees, but only on a minor-league deal with a spring-training invitation attached.

    Jason A. Churchill of ESPN Rumor Central (Insider subscription required) agreed that Sizemore could be a value pickup who would require little in the way of guaranteed money.

    Sizemore is 30 now and coming off back surgery and knee problems. As part of a platoon in right field, however, he could make sense in light of the austerity program in place in the Bronx. But given his injury history and the fact the Yankees are still an older, more injury-prone team, it might be decided that Sizemore is too big a risk even if he were to come cheap.

Reed Johnson, 20 Percent

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    2012 stat line with Cubs: .302/.355/.444, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 76 G, 183 PA

    2012 stat line with Braves: .270/.305/.320, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 43 G, 105 PA

    Reed Johnson, who will be 36 next month, is nothing more than the right-handed side of a platoon at this point in his career. He hasn’t been a regular player since 2006 with the Toronto Blue Jays and not even a semi-regular since 2008 with the Chicago Cubs.

    He was part of the trade that sent left-hander Paul Maholm from the Cubs to the Atlanta Braves for the stretch drive last season and didn’t get a great deal of playing time as a spare outfielder in Atlanta.

    But Johnson, much like Juan Pierre (mentioned earlier in this slideshow), could be a valuable fall-back if other options don’t happen. 

Torii Hunter, 35 Percent

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    2012 stat line: .313/.365/.451, 16 HR, 92 RBI, 133 K, 140 G, 584 PA

    Torii Hunter, 37, was not extended a qualifying offer after spending five years with the Los Angeles Angels and would be a nice fit in right field for the New York Yankees.

    However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Thursday that the luxury-tax concerns make even a two-year deal at around $20 million too much for the Yankees to take on.

    There is a chance that Hunter, a 16-year veteran who has never played in a World Series, might be interested in a one-year deal in the Bronx due to the opportunity to play with other players of a similar age with a chance to chase that elusive ring.

    Hunter, however, does want a multi-year contract. According to Dylan Hernandez and Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Hunter’s agent reached out to the Los Angeles Dodgers, not the other way around. His agent has also reportedly had talks with the Yankees, as well as the Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies.

    There’s a chance something could get done on Hunter, but it would likely have to be for one year, not two or more.

Joakim Soria, 35 Percent

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    2012 stat line: Did not play due to injury

    Joakim Soria will be 29 years old in May and is already a proven major-league closer. He made two All-Star appearances for the Kansas City Royals in 2008 and 2010, but missed all of the 2012 campaign due to injury.

    Soria had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last spring and, according to R.J. White of CBSSports.com, will miss at least the first month of the 2013 season.

    FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted  Saturday that the Cincinnati Reds have talked to Soria about joining them as their closer, with the Reds planning to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation next season.

    Soria’s agent, Oscar Suarez, told ESPNNewYork.com last week that Soria was interested in coming to the New York Yankees to set up for Mariano Rivera.

    However, there have been no reports of actual contact between the team and the agent, reducing the likelihood of the right-hander coming to the Bronx. 

Scott Hairston, 50 Percent

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    2012 stat line: .263/.299/.504, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 134 G, 398 PA

    Scott Hairston, 32, knows New York, having spent the last two seasons with the Mets. He is a versatile outfielder who can also play third and second base and could be a piece of the right-field puzzle for the New York Yankees.

    Hairston is yet another potential addition who would be low-priced and would not be in a bargaining position to demand more than a one-year deal. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was on record last week suggesting a right-field platoon of Hairston and Raul Ibanez.

    If the Yankees wind up going the route of a platoon in right field, Hairston would be a decent fit. Otherwise, Hairston could capably fill the role filled the last two years by Andruw Jones as the spare right-handed outfield bat off the bench.

    Call this one a coin flip at this point.

Raul Ibanez, 50 Percent

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    2012 stat line: .240/.308/.453, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 130 G, 425 PA

    Raul Ibanez will turn 41 early in the 2013 season and his stat line above, in his first year as a New York Yankee, does not account for the cult-hero status he achieved late in the regular season and in the playoffs.

    It was Ibanez who helped New York clinch at least a share of the AL East crown on the next-to-last day of the season. He belted a two-run pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to help the Yankees tie the Boston Red Sox. Later, he drove in the game-winner with an RBI single in the bottom of the 12th.

    All he did in the playoffs was become the first player to ever hit at least three home runs in the ninth inning or later in a single postseason.

    So, Ibanez has achieved a special cache among Yankee fans, even amidst the disaster that was the American League Championship Series sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.

    But sentimentality generally leads to bad decisions in the front office and it’s not as if Ibanez is one of those Yankee-for-life types such as Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera.

    That isn’t to say Ibanez wouldn’t be welcomed back to the Bronx. But it has to be for the right term (one year) and the right price (something similar to the $1.1 million he got in 2012).

Hiroki Kuroda, 65 Percent

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    2012 stat line: 16-11, 3.32 ERA, 1.165 WHIP, 8.4 H/9, 6.8 K/9, 33 GS, 3 CG, 2 ShO, 219.2 IP

    Hiroki Kuroda, who turns 38 in February, was one of the players who refused the New York Yankees’ qualifying offer on Friday.

    Kuroda has been linked to the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason, as well as reportedly pondering a return to his native Japan. However, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com tweeted on Thursday that the Boston Red Sox have reached out to the right-hander, as well.

    The Yankees want to bring Kuroda back and there was some hope he might accept the qualifying offer. However, with interest from other teams driving up his price, Kuroda opted to refuse the offer. He is said to be seeking a one-year deal if he opts to stay in the U.S. and the chances are still pretty good that he returns to the Bronx next year.

Russell Martin, 70 Percent

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    2012 stat line: .211/.311/.403, 21 HR, 53 RBI, 95 K, 133 G, 485 PA

    Russell Martin struggled offensively for much of the 2012 season before igniting a bit in September and October. The last month of the season was by far Martin’s best, as he his .258/.347/.539 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 102 plate appearances.

    Martin turns 30 in February and the Yankees would like to have him back, but not at the $13.3 million level that would have been necessary to extend him a qualifying offer. The Yankees don’t have a lot of other options at catcher. New York claimed Eli Whiteside off waivers from the San Francisco Giants last week and Chris Stewart backed up Martin in 2012, with Francisco Cervelli stuck at Triple-A. Austin Romine may be major-league ready, but he struggled with a back injury in 2012.

    The Boston Red Sox were thought to be interested in Martin, according to Bleacher Report featured columnist Matt Miller. However, the Red Sox then signed David Ross on Saturday.

    It’s still likely Martin ends up back in the Bronx but there are enough teams that need catching that even in a weak market such as this year’s, Martin may still draw interest from elsewhere.

Ichiro Suzuki, 75 Percent

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    2012 stat line with Mariners: .261/.288/.353, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 15 SB, 49 R, 95 G, 423 PA

    2012 stat line with Yankees: .322/.340/.343, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 14 SB, 28 R, 67 G, 240 PA

    Ichiro Suzuki, who turned 39 last month, enjoyed a renaissance after coming to the New York Yankees in a July 23 trade with the Seattle Mariners.

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported late last month that Suzuki told confidants he wanted to return to the Yankees. Sherman cited “a person close to Ichiro” as saying Suzuki wanted to remain in New York “because he so enjoyed playing in a professional, winning atmosphere with so many contemporaries near his age range.”

    Ichiro played right field for more of his 11.5 years with the Mariners and it’s not a leap of logic to envision a 2013 outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro.

    This one is likely to happen, particularly if Torii Hunter wants too many years for the Yankees’ liking.

Andy Pettitte, 95 Percent

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    2012 stat line: 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 75.1 IP, 7.8 H/9, 8.2 K/9, 12 GS

    Andy Pettitte came back to the New York Yankees in 2012 from a one-year retirement with solid results. However, he missed a large chunk of the season after cracking a bone in his ankle in late June.

    Pettitte is a free agent in name only; Erik Boland of Newsday reported last week that if Pettitte decides to return, the Yankees “unquestionably will be his preference.” In that same piece, GM Brian Cashman said, “I believe (Pettitte) wants to pitch,” but added he has not talked to the 40-year-old left-hander since just after the season ended.

    Manager Joe Girardi echoed those sentiments later last week, as reported by Marc Carig of Newsday. There is also an active effort by CC Sabathia to recruit Pettitte for 2013, according to yankees.com.

    This one is up to Pettitte; if he wants to be back in 2013, the Yankees would take him on a deal similar to last year’s one-year, $2.5 million contract.

Mariano Rivera, 99 Percent

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    2012 stat line: 1-1, 5 SV, 8.1 IP, 0.960 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, 8.6 K/9, 9 G

    Mariano Rivera missed most of the 2012 season after suffering a freak knee injury in Kansas City on May 3.

    The New York Post reported earlier this month that Rivera informed the New York Yankees he wants to return in 2013. Rivera will be 43 later this month and has been a Yankee for his entire career, beginning in 1995. He is the all-time leader in saves in both the regular season and playoffs.

    This one will get done, more than likely a one-year deal at less than the $15 million Rivera made in 2012. The only reason this potential signing did not receive a 100 percent rating is that the only sure thing is a signature on a contract; anything short of that leaves a chance for something strange to happen.