The New York Yankees have had a busy offseason to date, but the effectiveness of their offseason exploits will ultimately be defined by the moves general manager Brian Cashman makes in the weeks leading up to spring training.
Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and many others are now donning pinstripes for the first time in their respective careers. Cashman was quick in attacking the free-agent market to improve the team's lineup, though he failed to address his starting rotation.
Outside of re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, Cashman has been inactive in regards to starting pitching. The next month or so will be when that changes. The Yankees are in the mix for several of the top starters yet to be signed, and given their aggressive nature this offseason, the team will probably sign at least one.
Here are a few names being floated around.
Competing clubs have until Jan. 24 to sign the most highly sought-after free agent left on the market.
Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka is in Los Angeles meeting with several clubs during this second week of January, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and the Yankees are said to be one of several clubs scheduled to see him.
Tanaka is obviously going to cost a pretty penny. Aside from the $20 million posting fee—that will now be split into four separate installments over 18 months—teams will likely need to shell out upwards of $100 million for the ace, believes Bill Madden of the New York Daily News.
With a rotation currently headlined by CC Sabathia, Kuroda and Ivan Nova, the Yankees have serious question marks in regards to pitching. An ideal scenario would see Sabathia and Kuroda line up as Nos. 1 and 2, with Tanaka taking over No. 3 from Nova and Nova moving to No. 4. Then, the likes of David Phelps, Adam Warren and oft-forgotten Michael Pineda would compete for the No. 5 spot in spring training.
Tanaka should be the No. 1 priority for Cashman leading up to Jan. 24.
Should the Yankees miss out on Tanaka, expect the chase for Ubaldo Jimenez to heat up. But, then again, they'll have serious competition for him as well. Every club that misses on Tanaka will race to sign Jimenez, Matt Garza or Ervin Santana. That will drive the price sky high.
The Yankees aren't afraid of the money aspect, though I'm sure they'll make sure Jimenez has perfect health before giving him a deal in excess of five years.
He cites the Cleveland Indians as a long shot given Jimenez's asking price (which is now, reportedly, $14 million per season). If that's really what he's looking for, then it's hard to see any other team but the Yankees willing to dish that type of money out.
Agents for Ubaldo Jimenez telling clubs that he still expects to sign a multi-year deal at $14 million-plus annually.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 7, 2014
There doesn't appear to be a scenario that would see the Bombers sign both Tanaka and Jimenez. While that would result in arguably the deepest rotation in the American League East, it wouldn't be financially feasible given their other offseason commitments to date.
Jimenez is strictly a fallback option.
Lefty Johan Santana is a guy who could be signed regardless. If either Tanaka or Jimenez sign, then Santana would be a nice buy-low signing who could prove helpful to the Yankees' trek back to the top of the AL East.
Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports that the Yankees are monitoring Santana's offseason. Santana missed all of 2013 after undergoing his second anterior capsule surgery, and that makes him an understandable risk for general managers.
A healthy Santana would be an upgrade to any rotation, though. He likely won't be able to throw until June or so given his rehab timetable, but that would give the Yankees an opportunity to see what they have in Phelps, Warren and Pineda before activating him.
With Phelps and Warren having experience coming out of the bullpen, this makes a transition to Santana easy. Should Pineda resurrect his major league career as the No. 5 starter, then the Yankees will need to make a tough decision between the two.
But that's a decision manager Joe Girardi can make if (or when) it becomes a reality. For now, the team should just focus on bringing Santana into the fold.