A Timeline of Yankees' Best and Worst Offseason Moves, Non-Moves

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2013

A Timeline of Yankees' Best and Worst Offseason Moves, Non-Moves

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    The 2012-13 offseason will not go down as one of the more memorable winters in the history of the New York Yankees.

    There haven't been any major trades or major signings. In fact, the biggest piece of news involving the Yankees this winter was the news of another hip surgery for Alex Rodriguez. Beyond that, many of the bolder headlines they've occupied have concerned mere rumors that ended up going nowhere.

    It's almost over now. Pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks' time, and then it's on to the exhibition season and Opening Day. Whether it's followed by a good season or a bad season, the winter will soon be ancient history.

    If you're looking for a keepsake, here's a condensed look at the Yankees' offseason as it unfolded, complete with judgments for both their moves and their non-moves.

    Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Salary and contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Oct. 31, 2012: Rumored Interest in Torii Hunter

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    The first big name the Yankees were linked to this offseason was that of Torii Hunter.

    Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported in late October that the veteran outfielder interested the Yankees, in part because he wasn't slated to receive a qualifying offer. Sure enough, he didn't get one and entered the market with no ties to draft pick compensation.

    Though Hunter overachieved offensively in 2012 due to an abnormally high BABIP, he would have filled the Yankees' need for a solid right-handed hitter with power for their outfielder. He also would have been a quality addition to their outfield defense, as Hunter can still go get it.

    However, Feinsand reported a couple of weeks later that the Yankees didn't want to offer Hunter more than one year. He ultimately signed a two-year contract worth $26 million to join the Detroit Tigers.

    A contract such as that would have compromised the Yankees' plans to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014, so they had sound financial reasoning for not matching Detroit's offer. In choosing not to match it, they also sent a clear signal that they were only going to be doing one-year deals.

    Until they ultimately gave Ichiro a two-year deal, that is. They signed him for half as much money as the Tigers signed Hunter, but they also gave a two-year deal to a player who's two years older than Hunter and less powerful.

    The Yankees' lineup will have less balance and less power with Ichiro than it otherwise would have with Hunter. He would have been worth the extra dough.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

Nov. 2, 2012: Said to Want Russell Martin Back

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    From the moment the offseason first began, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Yankees would bring Russell Martin back.

    It felt like more of a foregone conclusion after Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported in November that the Yankees were hoping to retain him. They viewed him as a viable starter for 2013, and they apparently didn't like the other options on the open market.

    The Yankees ultimately whiffed on re-signing Martin. He inked a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates later in November.

    The Pirates gave Martin two years and $17 million. Not surprisingly, David Waldstein and Tyler Kepner of The New York Times reported that Martin was told that the Yankees didn't want to do more than one year and that they didn't have the money he wanted.

    It was probably the money that spooked them more than the years, as they likely didn't want to pay $8.5 million per year for a guy who hit .211 in 2012.

    However, the incentive to match the Pirates' offer was there. The Yankees lack a viable starter for 2013 and beyond. Martin would have been a relatively low-cost, low-risk solution to hold down the fort for top prospect Gary Sanchez.

    Now the bridge to Sanchez is very wobbly, and it's clear that no quick fix is forthcoming at any price.

    Verdict: Bad non-move

Nov. 12, 2012: Rumored Interest in Mike Napoli

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    While Martin was still a free agent, the Yankees were rumored to be checking out possible replacements.

    It was inevitable that the Yankees would be linked to Mike Napoli at some point. Sure enough, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported in mid-November that he was on their radar.

    Napoli would have been a decent fit for the Yankees on a surface level. They could have stashed him behind the plate on a semi-regular basis, and he would have given them plenty of pop from the right side. Per FanGraphs, Napoli ranks behind only Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton in ISO since 2011.

    But all these weeks later, we know that Napoli was never a realistic fit for the Yankees.

    For starters, there was no chance of the Yankees offering Napoli anything even remotely close to the three-year, $39 million offer he initially agreed to with the Boston Red Sox. That would have been too rich and too long for them, and understandably so.

    The Yankees could have matched the one-year, $5 million deal Napoli eventually signed with Boston, but they would have been wasting their time. The hip issue the Red Sox discovered in Napoli's physical is going to keep him from catching, and it could impact his ability to be a productive everyday player.

    The Yankees probably never were serious about Napoli, but they dodged a bullet.

    Verdict: Good non-move

Nov. 20, 2012: Hiroki Kuroda Signs

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    The first big move the Yankees made this offseason was to secure one of their own, re-signing veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $15 million.

    The Yankees had competition for Kuroda. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that he was drawing interest from the Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels and from his native Japan.

    Kuroda always was willing to take a one-year deal, but it was going to have to be worth more than the $13.3 million qualifying offer the Yankees made him. He was looking for a raise, and he had plenty of leverage to work with to eventually get one.

    That the Yankees managed to re-sign him for less than $2 million more than the qualifying offer is therefore somewhat impressive in retrospect, especially in light of how much money the Dodgers and Angels have thrown around this offseason. The Yankees may have gotten a discount.

    Regardless, Kuroda should be able to earn his salary in 2013. He gave the Yankees 219.2 innings and a 3.32 ERA in 2012 and was a rock in a rotation that was wrecked by injuries for a good portion of the season.

    Kuroda will turn 38 in February, but he's been trending upwards as a pitcher for three years now. There's no reason to think he'll suddenly start trending downwards.

    Verdict: Good move

Nov. 28, 2012: Andy Pettitte Signs

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    Soon after Kuroda was signed, the Yankees re-signed veteran lefty Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal worth $12 million.

    Pettitte made only $2.5 million in his comeback season, so he got a nearly $10 million raise in his new contract. Which was surprising, of course, because he did little in 2012 to actually earn it.

    Pettitte was limited to 12 starts by a fractured ankle that he suffered in late June. While he pitched pretty well while he was healthy, posting a 2.87 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, he did nothing to prove to the Yankees that he'll be able to make 30 starts and cover 200 innings in 2013.

    To be sure, Pettitte should pitch well when he's able in 2013, but he's going to turn 41 in June and he hasn't made more than 30 starts in a season since 2009. He hasn't pitched more than 200 innings since 2008. The Yankees are basically taking it on faith that he'll be able to handle a heavy workload.

    Still, I get the sense that the Yankees were so hot to bring back Pettitte because few other free-agent pitchers were open to signing a one-year deal. Those who were probably didn't strike the Yankees' fancy at all.

    They may not get 30 starts or 200 innings out of Pettitte, but the Yankees at least know what they're going to get out of Pettitte on the mound and in the clubhouse. This sense of familiarity probably could have been bought for $10 million, but Pettitte likely made the Yankees up their offer to keep him from retiring again.

    Verdict: Decent move

Nov. 30, 2012: Mariano Rivera Re-Signs

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    Mariano Rivera was the next member of the "Core Four" to re-sign, inking a one-year deal worth $10 million a few days after Pettitte signed.

    The Yankees are going out on a limb with Rivera's contract. His track record speaks for itself, but he missed the final five months of the 2012 season after tearing his ACL in early May. It generally takes a year to fully recover from an ACL tear. It may take longer for 43-year-olds like Rivera.

    However, the Yankees could be placing their chips on a worse number. It's not Rivera's arm that's recovering from major surgery, and his low-effort delivery will help save his knee from further wear and tear.

    The Yankees could have pursued other options aside from Rivera out on the free-agent market, but their options left much to be desired. A reunion with Rafael Soriano was out of the question given his contract demands, and Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria or Brian Wilson would have come with alarming medical red flags of their own.

    The Yankees may be rolling the dice with Rivera, but he's the safest gamble they could have made for their closer's role.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 3, 2012: Rumored Interest in Scott Hairston and Cody Ross

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    The Yankees didn't stop looking for a righty-hitting outfielder after Hunter signed with the Tigers. According to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com, their attention turned to Scott Hairston and Cody Ross.

    Ross wasn't a practical target for the Yankees. He was looking for a three-year deal, and he eventually got one from the Arizona Diamondbacks worth $26 million.

    A deal like that would have been a foolish for the Yankees. Ross is a solid player, but he boosted his value higher than it had any right to be by mashing at Fenway Park in 2012. He had a .921 OPS and a .684 OPS on the road in his only season for the Red Sox. Half a season's worth of games at Yankee Stadium would have resulted in much more level splits.

    Hairston was a far more practical target. He never was going to be too expensive, yet he would have filled their need for a righty-hitting outfielder better than Ross. Hairston hit a career-high 20 home runs in 2012 despite playing half of his games at Citi Field.

    Hairston signed with the Cubs for two years and $6 million this week. That's a price the Yankees would have had to beat in order to lure Hairston to New York, as they would have been asking him to be a part-time player rather than a full-time player.

    Two years and $8 million may have gotten it done. Two years and $10 million surely would have gotten it done, and even the Yankees, in all their newfound cheapness, could have made a contract like that work.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

Dec. 5, 2012: Said to Be Front-Runners for Nate Schierholtz

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    The Yankees' outfield search this winter was centered mainly around righty hitters with power, but they did take close look at the lefty-hitting Nate Schierholtz.

    In early December, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Yankees were the early front-runners to end up with the former San Francisco Giant.

    Schierholtz would have been an intriguing pickup for the Yankees. He's been a major league regular since 2009, but he hasn't yet been given an opportunity to be a full-time player. He's still on the good side of 30 and he's compiled a .744 OPS and a 110 OPS+ over the last two seasons, so there's reason to believe he still as some untapped potential.

    It wouldn't have cost the Yankees too much to find out. Schierholtz made only $1.3 million in 2012, and he had little leverage to negotiate a huge raise after struggling down the stretch in Philadelphia.

    The Yankees ended up whiffing on Schierholtz too, as he signed a one-year deal with the Cubs for $2.25 million.

    If the Yankees were serious about making a play for Schierholtz, they must have deemed him as a player worth less than what the Cubs paid him. However, they could have very easily matched Chicago's offer, and they would have had a very worthwhile one-year experiment on their hands as a result.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

Dec. 5, 2012: Said to Be Hot After Jeff Keppinger

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    The Yankees found out in early December that A-Rod was due for another hip surgery. That put the need for an infielder at the top of their list of priorities.

    According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, the man atop the Yankees' wish list was Jeff Keppinger, who they apparently "really" wanted.

    Keppinger is primarily a second baseman, but he's logged a fair amount of time at both third base and shortstop. He thus could have stepped in for A-Rod and Derek Jeter, too if his surgically repaired ankle (or just his age) were to act up in 2013.

    Keppinger is typically not an offensive threat, but he did hit .325 with an .806 OPS in 2012 with the Rays. He also had a solid year in 2010 with the Houston Astros, hitting .288 with a .744 OPS.

    However, the Yankees ended up missing on Keppinger, too. He signed a three-year deal worth $12 million with the Chicago White Sox.

    Not matching that offer was the right thing to do. Committing three years to Keppinger would have been overkill, as all the Yankees needed was a one-year platoon player. They may have been able to lure Keppinger to New York by making him a huge one-year offer, but that would have been ridiculous.

    Instead, they made a good choice saving a huge one-year offer for somebody else.

    Verdict: Good non-move

Dec. 8, 2012: Said to Be Hesistant About A.J. Pierzynski

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    Soon after Martin signed with the Pirates, A.J. Pierzynski was immediately fingered as a potential solution to the Yankees' need at catcher.

    But the Yankees didn't go along with public opinion. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, they were hesitant to make a move on Pierzysnki because they viewed him as an average defender.

    Pierzynski certainly is an average defender, and he's also not as good at the plate as he showed in 2012. After never hitting more than 18 home runs in a season, Pierzynski blasted a career-high 27 and finished with a career-best .501 slugging percentage.

    He won't be doing that again. Per FanGraphs, Pierzynski's HR/FB rate was below 10.0 each of the previous five seasons before ballooning to 18.6 percent in 2012. That's not the kind of spike that's sustainable, especially not for 36-year-old catchers.

    Pierzynski also would have been a questionable fit for the Yankees' clubhouse culture. He plays the game with a certain attitude that wouldn't fly as well in New York as it did in Chicago for eight seasons.

    He eventually signed a one-year deal worth $7.5 million to join the Texas Rangers. Heyman said the Yankees never made him an offer, and my guess is that they never even thought to match Texas' offer.

    Wise move. The Yankees' catching situation is iffy, but signing Pierzynski would have required them to pay top dollar for a questionable solution.

    Verdict: Good non-move

Dec. 14, 2012: Kevin Youkilis Signs

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    After a brief search, it was Kevin Youkilis who was eventually tabbed to be Alex Rodriguez's placeholder at third base. The former Red Sox great inked a one-year deal worth $12 million in December.

    The end looked near for Youkilis during his time with the Red Sox in 2012, as he managed only a .692 OPS and four home runs in 42 games. He found new life after he was traded to the White Sox, however, posting a .771 OPS and hitting 15 home runs in 80 games.

    If Youkilis is able to maintain his Chicago production in 2013, then the Yankees have actually found themselves an upgrade over A-Rod at third base on both offense and defense. As a White Sox, Youkilis had better at-bats and hit for more power than A-Rod did throughout the 2012 season.

    The Yankees agreed to pay a pretty steep price to bring Youkilis aboard, as he's barely going to be worth $12 million even if he does pick up where he left off. But because Youkilis had a two-year offer on the table from the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees really had no choice but to up their one-year offer to land him.

    It should work out for them in the end.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 15, 2012: Said to Have Discussed Vernon Wells

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    One thing the Yankees could have done to solve their need for a righty-hitting outfielder was make a trade for Vernon Wells.

    According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Yankees at least considered doing that. They talked about Wells with the Angels at the winter meetings and were deemed a fit for him after the Angels pushed Wells further down on their depth chart by signing Josh Hamilton.

    Wells is owed $42 million over the next two seasons, but the Yankees wouldn't have had to pick up too much of that. Rosenthal noted that the Angels understood (and probably still do understand) that they'd have to pick up a huge portion of the tab in order to move Wells.

    That Wells still hasn't been moved could be a sign that the Angels don't want to give him up for nothing in a trade. They may only be willing to move him for a worthwhile prospect or an expendable major leaguer.

    If that's the case, the Yankees deserve credit for the fact that Wells still hasn't been measured for pinstripes. He's not worth anything significant, even if the Angels were to pick up the tab. He has a .258 OBP over the past two seasons, and his ISO has been under .200 in five of the past six seasons.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 19, 2012: Ichiro Suzuki Re-Signs

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    The Yankees finally filled their need for an everyday right fielder by going the safe route, re-signing Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year deal worth $13 million in December.

    Ichiro was surprisingly productive for the Yankees after they acquired him from the Seattle Mariners, hitting .322 with a .454 slugging percentage. He hit five home runs down the stretch and then one more in the playoffs.

    A regression is probably in the cards for Ichiro. His BABIP spiked to .337 while he was with the Yankees after being below .300 while he was with the Mariners, and his .132 ISO as a Yankee looks like a fluke in light of his .096 career ISO.

    Also, two years for a 39-year-old player is one too many. George A. King III of the New York Post pointed out that the Yankees have the Phillies and Red Sox to thank for that. The Red Sox gave multi-year deals to Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, and the Phillies made Ichiro a two-year, $14 million offer.

    As such, the Yankees actually got Ichiro at something of a discount. But in getting two years out of them during an offseason that has seen them stick to one-year contracts, he got the better end of the deal.

    Verdict: Overkill 

Jan. 8, 2013: Rumored Interest in Mike Morse

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    After the Washington Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year contract, Mike Morse hit the trade block pretty much immediately.

    According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com and others, the Yankees were among the first to express interest in trading for him. Morse, after all, fit the description of the righty-hitting outfielder with power that they were looking for.

    Morse hit 31 home runs in 2011, and a total of 33 between 2010 and 2012 in smaller sample sizes. He has a poor approach at the plate, but the raw power is there and he's tended to hit lefties very well.

    As such, Morse would have been an excellent platoon player for the Yankees. He was also within their reach, as the New York Daily News speculated that he could be had for lefty reliever Boone Logan. He would have filled Washington's need for a lefty to fit alongside Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.

    The Nats ended up getting a pair of pitching prospects for Morse, a package worth a little more than a mere lefty reliever. All the same, this is yet another offer the Yankees could have matched, as they may have been able to get Washington's attention by adding a young pitcher of their own on top of Logan.

    They must have deemed Morse to be unworthy of such a heavy price, but the potential reward would have been worth the risk. Morse would have given them good power production and he wouldn't have compromised their payroll plans for 2014, as 2013 will be a walk year for Morse.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

Jan. 13, 2013: Said to Be Cool on Justin Upton

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    It often felt like everyone and their uncle wanted the Yankees to trade for Justin Upton this winter.

    But according to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com, the Yankees didn't want to go that route even after it was obvious that Upton could be had.

    On the surface, Upton looked like the answer to the Yankees' prayers. He's a right-handed-hitting outfielder with tons of raw power, he's still young and, perhaps most important of all, he has very reasonable salaries owed to him over the next three years.

    The cost to acquire Upton, however, would have been far too high for the Yankees.

    The Diamondbacks were set to get a top pitching prospect, a top shortstop prospect and a pair of relievers in a deal with Seattle that Upton shot down. The deal they completed with the Atlanta Braves on Thursday got them outfielder/infielder Martin Prado, right-handed prospect Randall Delgado, shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed and others.

    These are offers the Yankees wouldn't have been able to match, meaning they would have needed Arizona to alter its asking price for Upton. Even if that happened, trading for him would have required the Yankees to sacrifice the best parts of their weak farm system.

    Upton going to New York was a sexy idea all along, but always far from a realistic one.

    Verdict: Much ado about nothing

     

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