'Tis the holiday season, and all through the House of Steinbrenner, the Yankees are making plans for how to retool their division winning team to prepare for a World Series run in 2013.
Brian Cashman is planning for a conservative winter; he's not necessarily giving Yankee fans coal for the holidays, but they shouldn't be expecting a pony either.
The team has plans to get its payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million before the 2014 season, so with three players (Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira) already due about $70 million the Yankees are not in a position to offer large contracts to this year's free agents.
Given those limitations, here are three players on Brian Cashman's wish list for this holiday season.
Cashman acquired Ichiro from the Mariners this summer and the right fielder made the Yankees' general manager look like a genius.
He hit .322 for the Yankees in 67 games with 14 stolen bases and gave the team a small ball-type player it was missing with Brett Gardner hurt.
Gardner should be fully healthy in 2013, but Ichiro still would give the team what it needs.
The Yankees are not in the market to give a long-term deal to an outfielder and at 39 years old, Ichiro would probably not require more than a one- or two-year deal. They also have plenty of power in their lineup and could use another contact hitter with above-average speed.
The market for a reliable outfielder who will come cheaper than a Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton or Nick Swisher will probably have several teams, but Cashman would surely like to bring back Ichiro for 2013 on his terms.
In five full seasons with the Royals, Soria was twice an All-Star closer and has 160 career saves.
His value has taken a hit, as he struggled towards the end of 2011 and missed all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Soria is likely to start 2013 on the disabled list while finishing his recovery, but the Yankees would love to get their hands on him.
Soria will turn 29 next year and could be signed for cheaper than other free-agent relievers like Rafael Soriano. He would probably like to sign a one- or two-year deal to rebuild his value as a relief pitcher before signing a more lucrative contract as a closer.
The Yankees, in turn, would get a historically good reliever who could get up for Mariano Rivera when healthy and also try out to step in to the closer role when Rivera retires, presumably after 2014.
Kuroda was a godsend for the Yankees in 2012 when they needed reliable and consistent starting pitching. He was their most consistent starter, making 33 starts with a 3.32 ERA and posting 16 wins.
He only signed a one-year deal and now has the Dodgers, Japan and other teams trying to sign him, but Brian Cashman would surely like him back in the short term.
Kuroda proved he could handle the New York media and AL East hitting in a way that most free-agent starters coming to New York could not have achieved.
While the Yankees let Ivan Nova develop and also wait for Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and other minor leaguers to develop, Kuroda is exactly what the team needs in the big leagues.
In past years, players like Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton would complete the Yankees' holiday wish list. But this year, Brian Cashman and the Yankees are on a mission to get their payroll under $189 million by 2014 while still fielding a winner. Ichiro, Soria and Kuroda are players who would help them achieve both goals.