The New York Yankees have several difficult decisions ahead this offseason, but following a blueprint would help to mitigate the tough choices that general manager Brian Cashman will inevitably have to make.
It wasn't a great season in New York. Sure, recently re-signed manager Joe Girardi did the best he could with a roster decimated by injury, but his team failed to miss the postseason for just the second time in the past 19 seasons. To make matters worse, they had to watch the Boston Red Sox win their third World Series title in the past 10 seasons.
Expect that to light a fire under the members of the Yankees' front office this offseason. They'll be looking to spend, despite initial reports that they were looking to cut costs and get under the $189 million mark for luxury tax purposes.
Needless to say, it will be an interesting offseason in the Bronx. If Cashman can follow this blueprint, then there's plenty of reason to believe that his team will be back in October in 2014.
Re-Signing Robinson Cano
There should be one priority this offseason—re-signing Robinson Cano.
For more reasons than one, keeping Cano makes sense. He'll definitely cost a pretty penny, something that could haunt the Yankees in the long run, but he's simply too good of a hitter to let him walk via free agency.
Plus, the free agent market at second base is exceptionally weak around him. The Yankees have already reached out to Omar Infante to let him know that he's a candidate to replace Cano should they have to cross that bridge, reports Craig Calcaterra of NBCSports.com, but even he can't hold a candle to Cano.
I'm in no way a proponent of giving Cano $300-plus million, but I would not be opposed to something in the $200-220 million range over seven or eight years.
Ultimately, I think that's what he'll get to finish his career in pinstripes.
Upgrading the Pitching Staff
Boy, the pitching staff needs work. Aside from not knowing which CC Sabathia we'll be getting in 2014, there are also questions surrounding Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda. Who knows how well they'll perform next season?
Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent, Andy Pettitte has retired and the Yankees have still yet to make up their mind on what role David Phelps will fill on the team. This leaves two—potentially three—openings.
The big name on the market is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka will likely require a posting fee of at least $50 million, and then it will take even more money to lock him up to a contract.
He's been mentioned as the next Yu Darvish, and after missing out on Darvish a few offseasons ago, I'd bet that Cashman will go all-in for the newest Japanese sensation.
To fill out the rest of the rotation, look for Cashman to go after pitchers who would be willing to accept one-year deals. Bronson Arroyo and Tim Hudson appear to fit that mold, as does the injury-prone Josh Johnson. Johnson is a risk given his injury, but he'll accept a one-year, incentive-laden deal this offseason.
A rotation with these names in it has potential to be one of the top in the league.
Upgrade the Left Side of the Infield
Derek Jeter is back for 2014, but that doesn't mean Jeter should see the field with consistency. In a perfect world, Jeter would start less than 50 games at shortstop and the rest of the games at designated hitter.
He's a liability in the field at this point, and his overall health should be of the utmost concern. Keeping him in the lineup as the DH would allow the Yankees to benefit from his production, and presumably, his better health.
To play shortstop, Cashman should look no further than Brendan Ryan. A wizard with the glove, Ryan is easily one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball. A middle-infield pairing of Ryan and Cano would create for some exciting plays, and hitters will be hard-pressed to get base knocks up the middle.
Ryan would come cheaply, as it's not often that general managers pay a premium for guys that don't hit particularly well. If he hits .220 or higher, then the Yankees will be getting a bonus.
To play third (presumably in Alex Rodriguez's absence), Jhonny Peralta and Mark Reynolds should be considered. Reynolds will be cheaper and likely more willing to accept a one-year pact, but Peralta is very consistent at the plate and has shortstop-like skills at the hot corner.
Bringing in both of these guys would do wonders for a crippled left side of the infield in 2013.
Sign an Outfielder
The Yankee outfield currently consists of Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki—not to mention young guys like Zoilo Almonte—but an upgrade is certainly in order.
Soriano and Gardner are safe in left field and center field, respectively, but the right field position needs some work. Neither Wells or Ichiro can really be relied upon at this point, and looking to dump one or both this offseason for cheap should be an avenue that Cashman explores.
Both Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran make sense as replacements, though it's not easy to choose between the two. Choo brings a great on-base percentage and strong play in the outfield, whereas Beltran is arguably the top postseason hitter of all-time.
It might come down to the cheaper option for Cashman, and in that case, Beltran could be wearing pinstripes in 2014. Choo will take a long-term contract and likely more AAV (average annual value) than the 36-year-old Beltran.
Sign Brian McCann
To top off the perfect offseason, the Yankees need to sign Brian McCann. Any other catcher wouldn't make the impact that McCann would.
Other catchers like A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro can not bring to the table the offense and defense that McCann does. Plus, a three or four-year deal for McCann would be the perfect amount of time for prospect Gary Sanchez to make his way to the bigs.
Solidifying the catcher position should be one of the top priorities for Cashman this offseason. Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy were sometimes serviceable behind the dish, but they lacked overall consistency and thump in the batter's box.
As a left-handed bat in Yankee Stadium, McCann has 20-plus home run potential. In an offseason that will likely see the Bombers let Curtis Granderson walk, bringing in offense in other areas is important.
McCann would do just that.