New York Yankees Initial Depth Chart for the 2014 Season

Peter RichmanCorrespondent IDecember 4, 2013

New York Yankees Initial Depth Chart for the 2014 Season

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    The New York Yankees enter the month of December in much the same way they exited the 2013 regular season—with many more questions than answers about the future of the roster.

    Only now, the emotionally charged climax that saw the departures of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte has turned to the more heartless, calculated transactions surrounding Major League Baseball's Hot Stove.

    As we take a look at the Bombers' initial depth chart for the 2014 season, four numbers are most significant for our consideration—189, 40, five and one. 

    The Yankees are aiming to keep payroll under the $189 million threshold to avoid another 50 percent luxury tax for 2014.

    Though this goal may quickly escape them as the winter months progress, if it were met, New York could reset its tax penalty to only 17.5 percent for 2015 (the tax penalty is reset if not exceeded).

    That luxury-tax threshold, of course, concerns the construction of the 40-man roster.

    Currently, the Yankees have about two-thirds of the starting positions answered, but enormous uncertainties surround the remaining holes. They are locked for catcher, first base, shortstop, left field, center field and right field.

    Five is the number of starting pitchers the Yankees would hope to have confirmed by Opening Day—though two is the dismal current number. 

    Finally, New York will need a closer.

    The question here is not who can become the next Hall of Fame shutdown arm in the Bronx, it is whether the ninth-inning man will be a current Yankee or will be acquired in free agency.

    As we find ourselves less than a week from the Winter Meetings in sunny Orlando, Fla., here is a first look at where the Yankees currently stand at each position and the corresponding targets they are after.

     

    All statistics and metrics were obtained from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, respectively, unless otherwise noted. 

Starting Pitchers

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    Where They Currently Stand

    CC Sabathia 

    (2012-16) 5 Years/$122M +1-Year Option; 2014 Salary: $23M

    No surprises here.

    CC Sabathia is the undeniable ace of the Yankees staff and is likely to continue his role as the No. 1 starter. The looming question is whether the big lefty will rebound from a disappointing 2013 season, his 13th in MLB. His 14-13 record doesn't tell the full story as he posted a stellar 175-65 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 

    But CC put up a career-worst 4.78 ERA, he surrendered 112 earned runs, 28 home runs and he gave up 224 hits in 211 innings.  

    The picture becomes darker when you consider his three-year decline since 2011.

    His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching;"average" around 4.00), which measures what his ERA should have been given league-average performance on balls in play, increased from 2.88 in 2011 to 3.33 in 2012 and to 4.10 in 2013. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement; "MVP-caliber" around 6+, "All-Star" 4-5, "role player" 1-2) dipped from 6.5 in 2011 to 4.6 in 2012 to 2.7 in 2013.

    Need something more visual? Sabathia, who came under much discussion for the effects of his weight loss on his performance, saw a decline in the velocity of his fastball from 93.9 mph in 2011 to 92.4 in 2012 and 91.3 in 2013. 

    For a workhorse like CC who dealt with elbow issues, and at season's end, a hamstring injury, these downwardly trending figures and his age could be cause for concern.

     

    Ivan Nova

    (2013) 1 Year/$575,600;  2014: Arbitration-Eligible

    The 23-year-old right-handed Dominican completed his third full season in the Bronx (seven starts in 2010).

    Coming off a 2013 season in which he started 20 games, went 9-6, posted a 3.10 ERA and a 116-44 strikeout-to-walk rate, Nova should earn a nice payday in arbitration and stay with the Yankees.

    2011 was a strong breakout season as he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 2.4 WAR and his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) was .283. He pitched a career-high 170.1 innings in 2012, went 12-8 and saw his ERA jump to 5.02 and FIP increase to 4.60. In 2013, he posted both his lowest ERA and FIP, a good sign moving forward.

    With Pettitte retired, Phil Hughes signed by the Minnesota Twins and an offer on the table for Hiroki Kuroda, Nova currently represents the No. 2 spot in the 2014 rotation.

    Barring Kuroda signing and the Bombers landing Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, we have (promptly) reached the end of the confirmed starting pitching depth chart.

     

    David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and David Huff

    These players round out the current crop of potential starting pitchers currently on the Yankees' 40-man roster. 

     

    Players They Are Targeting

    Hiroki Kuroda

    (2013) 1 Year/$15M; 2014: Free Agent

    The 38-year-old Kuroda rejected the Yankees' $14.1 million qualifying offer prior to free agency, though, according to ESPN New York on Monday, they have made a one-year offer for 2014 (figure is unknown).

    In 2013 he posted an 11-13 record and 3.31 ERA in 32 starts. In 201.1 innings, he compiled a 150-43 strikeout-to-walk rate, a 3.56 FIP and a 3.8 WAR.

    Unfortunately for the Yanks, Kuroda appears to be in limbo between the Bronx, Japan and retirement.

    The Yankees would hope to have a front end of Sabathia and Kuroda, followed by Nova and ultimately, the next pitcher in this discussion.

     

    Masahiro Tanaka

    Rakuten Golden Eagles, Japan's Pacific League

    The key words here are "posting fee."

    It appears only big-market clubs like the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are willing to pay Rakuten the posting fee in order to acquire the 25-year-old split-finger phenom (Yu Darvish's posting fee was $51.7 million).

    The good news for the Yankees is that the fee does not count against the luxury tax.

    New York would be sitting pretty with Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova and Tanaka for 2014. The barriers are the other bidders and the potential that Rakuten could decide against posting him.

    In 27 starts a season ago, Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He struck out 183, walked 32 and surrendered six home runs in 212 innings. According to the Daily News, he lost one game—Game 6 of the Japan Series—and threw 160 pitches. The following night he closed out the clincher.

    The same article reports a scout who said Tanaka hits 97 mph with his fastball—his best pitch—and possesses an arsenal including a curve, slider, changeup, cutter and splitter.

     

    Brett Anderson

    Oakland Athletics (2010-14) 5 Years/$20.5M + 1-Year Option; Arbitration Eligible

    For over a month, the 25-year-old southpaw has been mentioned in Oakland trade discussions.

    On Tuesday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote that the Yankees are among multiple teams interested in trading for Anderson, with a deal likely ensuing come the Winter Meetings. 

    He has battled injury over three seasons and comes as a high risk, though the corresponding low cost is appealing to a team like New York. Given the Yankees have a fair amount of uncertainty about the rotation already, it is unclear whether they would risk Anderson's continued health.

    He owns a career 3.81 ERA in 84 appearances with 73 starts. In 2010, his last full season, he pitched 112.1 innings, posted a 2.80 ERA, 112 hits, six home runs, 3.21 FIP and 2.4 WAR. 

     

Catcher

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Brian McCann

    (2014-2018) 5 Years/$85M

    The Yankees made their first splash of the offseason when they signed the 29-year-old free-agent catcher.

    McCann is a seven-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and has played all nine of his MLB seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

    Any way you want to look at it, McCann is an enormous offensive upgrade from the 2013 season, which saw Chris Stewart (now a Pittsburgh Pirate) as the primary backstop and Austin Romine as the second option. Stewart's 2013 line was .211/.293/.325, with only four homers, 25 RBI and 28 runs.

    His wOBA (Weighted On-Base Percentage; "average" around .320, "excellent" around .400), which measures overall offensive value by weighing varying types of hits in proportion to their run values, was .261. His wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus; "average" around 60, "excellent" around 120), which measures offensive value via runs and compares it to league average, was 58. His WAR was just 0.5.

    McCann, by comparison, put up these 2013 numbers—.256/.336/.461, 20 homers, 57 RBI, 43 runs, .347 wOBA, outstanding 122 wRC+ and 2.7 WAR.

    And what excites the Yankees, fans and McCann even more?

    The short porch at Yankee Stadium for his bat. The 30-home-run mark seems an inescapable talking point with the 6'3", 230-pound left-hander coming to the Bronx.

    The caveat? His age, of course. The worry is how McCann holds up both health-wise and productivity-wise by years four and five, when he'll be 33 and 34, respectively.

     

    Francisco Cervelli

    (2013) 1 Year/$515,350; 2014: Arbitration-Eligible

    Good news for Frankie, who seems to have locked up the primary backup role to McCann.

    He's hoping his 2014 is better than 2013, when he broke his hand on a foul tip in April and was then suspended 50 games in the Biogenesis scandal. 

    In 201 career games, he is .271/.343/.367 with a .319 wOBA, 93 wRC+ and 2.4 WAR.

    On Monday, Brian Cashman told Mark Feinsand of the Daily News that Cervelli is likely to secure the backup job because sending him down to Triple-A would run the risk of waivers and losing him. He qualified that, "A lot can change between now and spring training."

     

    Austin Romine

    Pre-Arbitration Eligible

    Don't necessarily count out Romine in the backup competition.

    He was the main backup for Chris Stewart in 2013 and showed good signs of offensive improvement.

    But his numbers were far from solid with a .207/.255/.296 line, including 37 strikeouts in 135 at-bats and a negative-0.2 WAR in 60 games after being called up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

     

    J.R. Murphy

    Pre-Arbitration Eligible

    Murphy is the most likely of the catching crop to begin the year in Triple-A ball. He is lacking in the experience department, having only appeared in 16 games in 2013 and just 59 total games in Triple-A.

     

    Keep an Eye on

    Gary Sanchez

    Finished 2013 in Double-A Trenton

    The 21-year-old is considered one of the Yankees' top prospects and was ultimately promoted to Double-A late last season, where he played in 23 games and finished with a line of .250/.364/.380 in 92 at-bats.

     

     

1st Base

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Mark Teixeira

    (2009-16) 8 Years/$180M; 2014 Salary: $22.5M

    The Yankees' Gold Glove first baseman appeared in only 15 games in 2013.

    He had torn a tendon sheath in his right wrist in early March, and then, after missing the first 53 games last season, made his debut at the end of May. But he subsequently underwent an MRI after experiencing inflammation and was shut down for the remainder of the season and scheduled for surgery.

    A recent report by NJ.com says Teixeira is on schedule with his rehab and excited to return for 2014. According to the report, he hopes to swing fully on Jan. 1, swing at 90-mph fastballs on Feb. 1 and prepare for live simulation by March. He told NJ.com, "Once I'm healthy...it should be business as usual."

    While a Yankee, Teixeira has proven invaluable on the defensive side.

    His DRS (Defensive Runs Saved; "average" at zero, "great" at +10, "Gold Glove-caliber" at +15), which measures a player's total defensive value based on the number of runs he saved compared to the league-average player at the same position, was an impressive 17 in his last full season (2012).

    That same year, in which he played 123 games, his line was .251/.332/.475 with 24 homers, .345 wOBA, 116 wRC+ and 2.7 WAR. 

    The Yankees should have no concerns about first base should Tex remain healthy.

     

    Vernon Wells

    Signed through 2014; Los Angeles Angels to Pay $18.6M of $21M

    This may look ridiculous at first, but Wells is technically the only other player under contract (and currently on the 40-man roster) who would theoretically back up Teixeira at first base. 

    Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds split time at first base in 2013, though both are free agents, unsigned and not showing signs of returning.

    First base is definitely one of the (slightly) answered questions for New York in 2014, as they appear to be instead targeting middle or corner infielders in free agency and the trade market. Though, conceivably, should they sign a third baseman (and carry multiple third basemen on the 40-man), they could move one to the backup role at first.

    Additionally, Wells would likely be the backup option in the corner outfield positions, so don't expect to see him in the first base conversation (or on the roster, for that matter) for too long.

     

    Keep an Eye on

    Greg Bird

    Played 2013 in Low-A Charleston

    The 21-year-old Aurora, Colo. native enters 2014 with little-to-no ceiling, as the Bombers lack both depth and prospects at first base. 

    In 130 games, he put up a line of .288/.428/.511 with 20 home runs and 84 RBI while leading the minor leagues in walks (107). 

    It is doubtful he'll make it to the Bronx in 2014, but he's a sharp talent to look out for, regardless.

2nd Base

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Eduardo Nunez

    Pre-Arbitration Eligible

    Primarily a shortstop in his career, Nunez suddenly emerges as the top spot for second base at this moment.

    The Yankees hope to have a healthy Derek Jeter, and they just signed Brendan Ryan to back him up, but the situation at second is still uncertain as December begins.

    Over four years, Nunez has appeared in 270 games and has just a .267/.313/.379 to show for it. He has 57 career extra-base hits, 48 stolen bases and 102 strikeouts. In 2013 he played in 90 games and finished batting .260/.307/.372 with a .298 wOBA, 83 wRC+ and awful negative-1.4 War.

    He played two games at second base (no errors), 14 at third (two errors) and 75 at shortstop (12 errors), while posting a discouraging negative-one DRS.

     

    Dean Anna

    Played 2013 at Triple-A Tucson (of the San Diego Padres; affiliate in El Paso for 2014)

    The 27-year-old from Mokena, Ill. is currently on the Yankees' 40-man roster (via trade) and the current second-in-line to Nunez. 

    At just 5'11", 180 pounds, Anna shone on offense in 2013, putting together a line of .331/.410/.482 with 73 RBI, 165 hits and 65 strikeouts in 132 games (498 at-bats).

    He has bounced around the minor leagues for six seasons, going back to 2008, and has prominently been featured in articles questioning the fact that he has yet to be called up. One Hardball Times piece was entitled, "Trapped in the Minors: Dean Anna."

    The bottom line appears to be the feeling that Anna is a Quad-A player. 

     

    Brendan Ryan 

    Ryan would technically be the third option, since he is the second option at shortstop but is able to play any middle infield spot.

     

    Players They Are Targeting

    Robinson Cano

    2014: Free Agent

    Let's cut to the chase here on the (former) $300 million elephant in the room. Derek Jeter faced a similar decision before signing his most recent contract—is it more important to get his cash or to continue to be a New York Yankee?

    At first, it seemed increasingly clear Cano really had no other major player in his courting and would likely end up in pinstripes for much less than the initial asking price.

    But he seemed humbled after a series of meetings with Yankees brass (and his camp's initial 10-year, $300 million figure). He stated on Thursday that he never asked for $300 million, which seemed to point that at least Cano, personally, may have been softening toward a return and a come-down in the price tag.

    As of Monday, the Daily News was reporting that Cano's team had dropped to a nine-year, $260 million deal (with options that would ultimately bring the total to $288 million).

    But it appears the Bombers are unlikely to budge on the seven-year, sub-$200 million range. The latest came in at seven years for $170 million. 

    As of Tuesday evening, however, things became shaky very quickly in the Bronx.

    Suddenly, the Seattle Mariners—the dark horse in the Cano sweepstakes—emerged as a major factor, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPN. He writes that "An industry source with knowledge of the negotiations put the Yankees' chances of retaining the five-time All-Star second baseman at 'less than 50-50.'

     

    Omar Infante

    2014: Free Agent

    Infante is not comparable to Cano, though he would be a solid acquisition as a result of the continued uncertainty about Robbie's return. In 2013 he hit .318/.345/.450.

    The other positive aspect to consider is that the two second basemen are not mutually exclusive on the same club. 

    Fox Sports' Jon Morosi reported Tuesday afternoon that a Yankees offer was, indeed, on the table for Infante.

    The other tremendous upside to signing Infante is not only the insurance he would provide at second, but also the versatility he would bring with the potential to play both shortstop and third base—yet another looming situation as the Yankees head into the Winter Meetings.

     

3rd Base

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Alex Rodriguez

    (2008-17) 10 Years/$275M; 2014 Salary: $25M Base

    The saga continues for A-Rod.

    The main issues at hand regard whether he will be suspended for the full 211 games, some of that time or none of it at all. Should he be suspended for the 2014 season, the Yankees would have that $25 million base salary wiped off the books (fingers crossed).

    The difficulty is that the league's arbitrator is unlikely to rule on Rodriguez's appeal anytime soon, with a decision potentially coming as late as mid-January. That means the Yankees will have to proceed for at least the next month as though any scenario were possible.

    In addition to A-Rod's return from hip ailments, 2014 will be his age-38 season, so health will continue to be both a risk and potential issue.  

    Brian Cashman told the Daily News on Monday, "I would be looking for alternatives at third base if we do not have Alex Rodriguez...we'd have to find somebody better than [Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan]."

    He went on to say that he wouldn't want to start Nunez and that he hopes to find someone he feels more "comfortable" with. "Nunez and Brendan Ryan aren't power providing guys," he said, "which is why I would hope to be able to do better than that."

     

    Brendan Ryan 

    Ryan would have to be considered second on the depth chart as a "utility" infielder, should he not be starting at shortstop and should the Yankees miss on acquiring a target to fall back on at the hot corner.

     

    Eduardo Nunez

    Regardless of Cashman's sentiments, Nunez represents the third option at third base on the depth chart as of this moment (there really isn't anyone remaining).

     

     

    Players They Are Targeting

    Omar Infante

    As previously mentioned in the second base discussion, Infante would be considered the prime target to fill substantial time at third in place of A-Rod (or backing up for him).

     

    Other Free-Agent Third Basemen to Consider

    Mark Reynolds, Michael Young, Eric Chavez, Juan Uribe and Kevin Youkilis

    These players are conceivable options for one- or two-year deals while the A-Rod saga continues. 

     

     

     

     

Shortstop

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Derek Jeter

    (2011-14) 4 Years/$60M; 2014 Salary: $12M

    Derek Jeter becomes a free agent in 2015, which means 2014 could very well be his last as a Yankee and a major leaguer.

    Due to consistent difficulties with his left ankle, Jeter played in only 17 games in 2013. Yankee fans also don't want to be reminded that the Captain will turn 40 during June of the 2014 season. 

    But as Jeter remained loyal to New York by agreeing to less money than he would have hoped, so too the Yankees remain steadfast in trusting him (for now) as the starting shortstop.

    In November, Hal Steinbrenner explained to NJ.com of Jeter's return from injury, "So are there concerns? Yes. But we're also confident that he's going to come back."

    Jeter's range up the middle has noticeably shrunken, he clearly doesn't have the speed of three or four years prior and, when all is said and done, he ultimately presents a risk given his chronic ailments in 2013.

    The continued rest and rehab process appears much more significant at this stage than how swiftly he could make his return.

    Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, who retired at 41, recently said to the Daily News, "As you get older, you don’t cover as much ground, so positioning because very pertinent to what you do...But I don’t think that the fact that he’s gotten older is going to lessen his ability to play that position."

    Unfortunately, if you look at Jeter's last three full seasons (2010-12), his UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) tells a different story.

    The metric measures the number of runs a player saved via their fielding aptitude, with "average" UZR at zero, "poor" at negative-10, "great" at plus-10 and "Gold Glove-caliber" at plus-15.

    In 2010 Jeter's UZR was negative-4.4, in 2011 it was negative-6.7 and, in 2012, it was negative-14.0. That's not the right direction to be moving before turning 40.

     

    Brendan Ryan

    (2014-15) 2 Years/$4M +1-Year Option; 2014 Salary: $2M

    That brings us to Brendan Ryan, whom the Yankees re-signed on Monday. Seattle traded Ryan to New York in September 2013, and he was a solid defensive fill-in at shortstop for the final month.

    The Yankees, of course, did not sign him for his bat.

    He hit .197/.255/.273 with 50 hits and 16 extra-base hits in 104 games in 2013. Looking further at his dismal offense, he put up a .238 wOBA, 44 wRC+ and negative-0.6 WAR (0.1 with the Yankees).

    But even with his value coming in the field, one might be concerned (once again) over Ryan's age (2014 is his age-32 season) and the potential that he could step into a much larger role than a backup if Jeter's health issues linger, or if the Captain gets increased starts as the designated hitter.

     

    Eduardo Nunez

    For all the continued fans out there, Nunez represents the third option on the initial depth chart for 2014.

     

    Players They Are Targeting

    Omar Infante 

    Infante is the one obvious target currently, and he must be mentioned in the shortstop discussion, should he agree to the Yankees' offer.

    Really, Infante could be Girardi's best friend, and ground-ball Swiss Army knife, if there are further injuries in the Bronx in 2014—and, if not, hello, Eduardo!

     

     

     

Left Field

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Brett Gardner

    Arbitration Eligible

    With the Yankees' second big splash of the offseason occurring Tuesday night—with the signing of free agent Jacoby Ellsbury—early indications are of plans to shift Gardner from center field to left and Soriano from left to right field. 

    Gardner has spent all six of his big-league seasons in pinstripes, and 2013 was a solid offensive year.

    His first five seasons averaged out to .271/.354/.363, while in 2013, his line was .273/.344/.416. He totaled a career-high in home runs (eight), triples (10), doubles (33) and hits (147). He also put together a .335 wOBA, 108 wRC+ and 3.2 WAR.

    Ellsbury is a boon for the Yankee center field from a defensive standpoint, whether you choose to use UZR or DRS to compare with Gardner.

    In 2012 and 2013, Gardner had only a 0.5 and negative-0.5 UZR, respectively, and he had one DRS and six DRS, respectively. More to come on Ellsbury's UZR/DRS soon.  

    Regardless of where Gardner plays in the outfield, expect to see him batting ninth, a great spot for essentially a leadoff hitter.

     

    Ichiro Suzuki

    (2013-14) 2 Years/$13M; 2014 Salary: $6.5M

    Ichiro, 40 years old for 2014, will theoretically represent the No. 2 option for each outfield spot, and one could conceivably favor him as the backup in left field or right field.

    Gardner would likely be the backup to Ellsbury in center and, as of now, Wells would hold a similar backup role to Ichiro—for either Soriano in right or Gardner in left. 

    Ichiro has long been known for his durability, and, even in his late 30's, he logged 162 games in 2010, 161 in 2011, 162 in 2012 and 150 in 2013. 

    His 13th season, 2013, was only his third one batting under .300 (.262), and he had his second-worst on-base percentage (.297), second-worst OBP (.297) and second-worst WAR (1.0).

     

    Vernon Wells and Zoilo Almonte 

    Wells and Almonte round out the third and fourth current 40-man options in left field (and, as will be seen, in right too). 

     

     

     

Center Field

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Jacoby Ellsbury

    (2014-20) 7 Years/$153M +1-Year Option

    It's beginning to look a lot like the 2008-09 Yankees offseason with the sudden spending that has transpired.

    On Tuesday evening, according to MLB.com, the Bombers and the former Red Sox outfielder agreed upon a seven-year deal that, with an option for an eighth year in 2021, could bring the grand total to $169 million. 

    Suddenly, the Yankees and fans have something to get excited about—and to give them a temporary break from Cano-induced stress. McCann and Ellsbury, and we haven't even gotten to Orlando yet.

    Although, remember that $189 million luxury-tax threshold? As Pinstripe Alley's Michael Brown aptly puts it, "It seems 'Plan 189' needs to be moved to intensive care after the Brian McCann and Ellsbury deals."

    So what does Ellsbury bring to the Bronx?

    In 2013, he put up a line of .298/.355/.426 with 52 stolen bases and 92 runs. He had a .343 wOBA, 113 wRC+ and 5.8 WAR. Oh, and for a moment, recall the McCann theory relating to left-handed hitters with pop peering at that short porch out of the corner of their eyes. There's no reason to ignore the potential for another 30-home-run-caliber player.

    Defensively, he is considered one of the premier center fielders in MLB and (see 52 SB) has outstanding speed.

    And Gardner's negative-0.5 UZR and six DRS in 2013 do not even come close to matching Ellsbury's 10.0 UZR and 13 DRS last season.

    Overall, a tremendous pickup for the Yankees and outstanding No. 1 center fielder.

     

    Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki

    Gardner is the likely choice to fill in for Ellsbury and, as previously mentioned, you'd pencil in Ichiro just afterwards.

     

Right Field

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    Where They Currently Stand

    Alfonso Soriano

    (2007-14; Chicago Cubs) 8 Years/$136M; 2014 Salary: 18M (Cubs to Pay $13M)

    With the sudden shakeup of the New York outfield, it seems as though Soriano would make the move to the right field corner.

    He put together a hot stretch when he made his return to the Bronx, and he ultimately proved to be a tremendous acquisition and much-needed bat for the final third of the 2013 season.

    In 58 games for the Yankees, Soriano's line was .256/.325/.525, he hit 17 homers (equalling his first 93 games in Chicago) and he drove in 50 runs (51 RBI in 93 games in Chicago).

    His BABIP last season was .289, he had a .340 wOBA, 112 wRC+ and 2.9 WAR. He also had an above-average 2013 defensively with a 7.0 UZR. 

    The former-and-current Yankee rounds out what looks to be an extremely solid outfield at this moment—of Gardner, Ellsbury and Soriano, left to right.

     

    Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Zoilo Almonte

    Ichiro stands as the No. 2 option in the position he filled for most of the previous season. Wells and Almonte round out right field.

     

    Players They Are Targeting

    Carlos Beltran

    2014: Free Agent

    Although, as of Tuesday, the Yankees were still interested in Beltran, three factors make the signing unlikely. 

    First, the Yanks were appearing to be sitting tight at a two-year deal, while Beltran was seeking three; second, the Yankees just went on a spending spree (hello again, $189 million); third, ESPN's Buster Olney reported Tuesday morning that Beltran had a three-year, $48 million offer from a mystery team (which is probably not the Yankees). 

     

    Shin-Soo Choo

    2014: Free Agent

    Similarly, the Yankees had still shown interest on Tuesday, but the late-Tuesday signing of Ellsbury has seemingly thrown other outfield options to the wayside.

    It looks as though the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers are now the main suitors.

     

Closer

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    Where They Currently Stand

    David Robertson

    2014: Arbitration Eligible

    Nearly a month ago, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Cashman and the Yankees had not been ready to name Robertson as the 2014 ninth-inning man and had wanted to explore proven closers on the market.

    "I'm not sure if Robertson is capable yet. He's never done that before...I think he's earned the right to take a shot at it, and he very well may be the guy. But we're not anointing him the guy," Cashman said.

    As of Tuesday morning, Mark Feinsand of the Daily News was reporting that the Yankees would only be in the market for a closer if they don't eventually re-sign Cano. And, while they were targeting free agent Joe Nathan, ESPN reported Tuesday evening that he and the Detroit Tigers were nearing a deal.

    The situation is beginning to bode well for David Robertson, the best in-house option for closing out games in 2014, and maybe the best option, period, as the market begins to thin out.

    In 2013, the 28-year-old and one-time All-Star Robertson compiled a 2.04 ERA in 66.1 innings, with a 77-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio and three saves. He also had 10.45 strikeouts per nine innings, a .261 FIP and a 1.6 WAR.

    According to Hoch, Robertson admitted in late September, "I don't feel like any of the passing of the torch has been done, because I don't know what's going to happen next year...I haven't been told anything."

    The closer situation in the Bronx appears to be shaping up for potentially a few weeks of wait-and-see. 

     

    Other Free-Agent Closers to Consider

    Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Edward Mujica and John Axford 

    These five players currently represent the best-available free-agent closer options.