The New York Yankees are looking to spend big this offseason, and that means there will likely be at least one big-time contract handed out by general manager Brian Cashman by the time spring training rolls around.
The Bombers have a ton of holes to fill if they hope to contend in 2014. There's a major power shortage behind the dish, the starting rotation appears to be in shambles, manager Joe Girardi still doesn't know who is going to close out games, the left side of the infield is a question mark and there might also be room to bring in a big bat as a corner outfielder.
It'll be difficult to address each area of need, but Cashman and Girardi will start the process when the winter meetings begin in Orlando, Fla. next week. Expect the Yankees to be linked to all the top free agents, but don't be surprised if they sneak their name into the fray on a few big trades as well.
Look for the Yankees to be one of the top players of early free agency.
Note: This list includes players solely from outside the organization. Re-signing Robinson Cano remains a realistic possibility, but I instead chose to include other free-agent/trade targets.
Winning the Bid and Signing Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka is the top free-agent starting pitching available, and nobody has ever even seen him throw a pitch at the major league level before. He was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan this past season, though, so it's obvious why he's being sought after.
Reports by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports suggest that it might take a posting fee of $75 million just to win the rights to negotiate with Tanaka, but the Yankees appear to going full steam ahead with their pursuit of the Japanese righty.
Tanaka would then feasibly become the most expensive Japanese import of all time, exceeding the large posting fee and contract that Yu Darvish commanded from the Texas Rangers.
Will the Yankees sign Tanaka?
Signing Tanaka is a realistic possibility for the Yankees. The failed Kei Igawa experiment scared Cashman away from going too big on Darvish, but seeing his success for Texas, Cashman will definitely be reconsidering his stance on foreign pitching this offseason.
This move works for more than one reason. For starter's, the giant posting fee doesn't count against the team's luxury tax. This makes staying under $189 million in 2014 a possibility, even if the team's intentions are unclear on that number at this point.
Plus, Tanaka would slot right behind CC Sabathia in the Yankees rotation. With Hiroki Kuroda an uncertainty to return, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and David Phelps are the only starters left.
The Yankees need Tanaka.
Signing Shin-Soo Choo
The Yankees hate to lose, so expect big changes this offseason. One of the biggest moves Cashman could make would be to bring in outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo is going to command big money, as agent Scott Boras is reportedly seeking a deal larger than the seven-year, $126 million he got for Jayson Werth a few offseasons ago. That would seriously limit the market for Choo, but it could also create a bidding war amongst the top teams.
Choo would fit in well at Yankee Stadium. As a left-handed bat, he'll see his power numbers soar. In right field, he has the arm and defensive skills to make a serious impact.
Should the Yankees go after Choo?
As a result of signing Choo, the Yankees would have to figure out what to do with Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki, though I'm sure that's a problem Cashman won't mind having. Getting rid of Wells would appear to be the priority, as Ichiro has shown that he still has something left in the tank.
It won't be easy to find a suitor for Wells, but again, that's just collateral damage. Signing Choo outweighs the risks you have in finding a trading partner for Wells.
As arguably one of the top names available, the Yankees will be linked with Choo until he signs somewhere this offseason. With all the interest he's garnering, I wouldn't be surprised if he's the first big-name free agent of the board at the winter meetings.
Trade for Jason Motte
This one is entirely speculation on my part, but targeting the former St. Louis Cardinals closer makes a ton of sense.
Trevor Rosenthal will undoubtedly open the season for St. Louis as the closer after his fantastic showing in the role during 2013, making Motte expendable for the Cardinals. He's in the final year of a two-year, $12 million contract, and that makes him even more attractive for Cashman.
Is targeting Motte a good idea?
Motte didn't throw a single pitch in 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he was dominant in his first season as a full-time closer in 2012. He posted a 2.75 ERA over 72.0 innings with 42 saves and 86 strikeouts.
The Yankees could grab the 31-year-old closer for cheap. A middle-level prospect like pitcher Nik Turley or infielder Corban Joseph would be enough to make the Cardinals interested, though it wouldn't take much more than that to nab him.
St. Louis has serious bullpen depth, and losing Motte wouldn't necessarily hurt all that much. The Yankees stand to gain a ton from bringing him in, though, as they aren't sold on David Robertson, and the free-agent market for closers includes many expensive arms.
Having Motte for approximately $6 million in 2014 is not a big hit on the payroll, and his production could far exceed his cost. It's a no-brainer for Cashman.