The New York Yankees spent on a much smaller scale this offseason than what fans are used to, and there's a good possibility that they could be gearing up for a huge free-agent class next offseason.
While general manager Brian Cashman will be looking to improve in all areas, the starting pitching could potentially need a huge boost.
Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes will all be free agents following the 2013 season. Kuroda may decide to go back to Japan, Pettitte may retire and Hughes may find himself with bigger contract offers from other teams.
There's no counting on Michael Pineda just yet, nor do we know what kind of consistency we'll see from Ivan Nova or David Phelps.
This could make things difficult for the Yankees in 2014.
Unless, of course, Cashman considers these five pitchers after the season ends.
The great facial hair would have to go, but I think that's a sacrifice Matt Garza would be willing to make if he was given the chance to play for the Yankees.
Garza, injured for all but 18 starts in 2012, has a history of providing a sub-4.00 ERA (every year except his rookie season) and making at least 30 starts (five of the past six seasons).
The Cubs could very well trade him before he hits the open market, or they could look to extend him. If they don't do either, the Yankees should be one of the first teams to come calling.
He's a power pitcher that can pitch close to 200 innings per season and stay healthy throughout. For an aging team like the Yankees, adding a pitcher in his early-30's would be a smart move.
He wouldn't have the pressures of an ace thrust upon him with CC Sabathia in that role, and that could bode well for his time in New York.
Going after Garza should be an easy decision for Cashman.
Tim Lincecum won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, establishing himself as one of the most dominant young pitchers in the game.
His 2010 and 2011 seasons were not as strong as his Cy Young seasons, but they were still strong all the same.
Then, 2012 came.
His season can be summed up by not even being a part of the World Series rotation (he pitched out of the bullpen), and he's looking to rebound big time in 2013.
He did make 33 starts last season, but he lost an NL-high 15 games, recorded a 5.18 ERA and failed to compile more than 200 innings for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2007.
If Lincecum bounces back in 2013, his value will skyrocket when he hits the open market. Even if he doesn't improve, he has two Cy Young Awards on his resume. He'll likely be expensive because of this, but he could potentially form a lethal one-two punch with Sabathia atop the rotation.
With the goal of staying under $189 million on the payroll, bringing in Lincecum could be difficult, but it could also be worth it.
I'm a big supporter of Shaun Marcum, and I think the one-year deal he signed with the New York Mets will be one of the most underrated moves of the past offseason (kudos to you, Sandy Alderson).
Marcum has always had trouble staying healthy, and that's been the only thing standing between him and a four- or five-year contract.
He'll be 32 years old when he hits free agency again next offseason—likely his last chance to get that type of deal. With a healthy campaign in 2013, there are definitely teams that will line up to give it to him.
The Yankees could be one of them.
Marcum's best season came in 2011 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He went 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 200.2 innings. He made a career-high 33 starts.
He made just 21 starts in 2012, but still pitched to a 3.70 ERA despite injury.
Yankees fans are likely familiar with Marcum from his time with the Toronto Blue Jays, and many know full well what he's capable of.
Marcum could be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter in New York.
Despite what his record shows, Tim Stauffer had a very strong three seasons with the San Diego Padres from 2009-11.
A lack of offense can be blamed for his sub-.500 career record (23-31), but it's really hard to argue with his career 3.94 ERA and 1.322 WHIP. He's not at all a dominating pitcher, but he can easily get the job done and provide quality innings.
His best season came in 2011 when he went 9-12 and made 31 starts. In 185.2 innings of work, he had a 1.255 WHIP, a 3.73 ERA and 2.42 K/BB ratio—I'll take those numbers at the back end of my rotation any day.
That's why the Yankees should look into signing him to a two-year contract when he hits free agency.
He'll be just 32 years old when he hits the open market and a two-year deal won't do anything to hurt the future of the club. If for some reason he doesn't pitch well in the rotation, he can be moved to a middle relief role—a role that saw him pitch to a 1.87 ERA in 2010.
He only pitched one game in 2012 due to lingering elbow issues, but he seems on track for a healthy 2013.
Go get him, Cashman.
Jason Vargas, now a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has had three straight solid seasons as a member of the lowly Seattle Mariners. The thing is, he still doesn't get the credit he deserves.
The Angels traded first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales for him this offseason, and he may finally get the recognition he's due while playing in a bigger market.
Last season was the best of his career. He started 33 games and pitched 217.1 innings, posting an ERA of 3.85 and a record of 14-11.
He didn't allow many runners to reach (1.178 WHIP), mostly because he averaged just 2.3 BB/9.
The most impressive thing about Vargas is that he's able to do this without posting strong strikeout totals (just 5.7 K/9 for his career). He allows his defense to make plays and the guys behind him are always ready for the ball to come their way.
Vargas is another guy that will be just 31 years old when he's a free agent, so a two- or three-year deal wouldn't be a bad move by Cashman.
Adding another lefty in the rotation would also be beneficial to the team's success in the future.