The Yankees didn't get their man this winter, but who might be heading to the Bronx next offseason?
Cliff Lee is a great pitcher and makes the Phillies the clear cut favorite to win it all next season in my opinion, but the Yankees are still a very talented team, and if they can swing a few trades here and there, they could easily wind up right in the middle of the playoff picture.
But as for next offseason, the Yankees should be major players for the top free agents out there, and here are the potential big names out there.
Not to pick on the St. Louis Cardinals, but they have two players in particular that GM Brian Cashman will have his eye on.
The first one you probably know, and that would be three time MVP Albert Pujols. Providing he doesn't agree to a contract extension with the Cardinals, who I think won't be able to afford him, he will be a free agent and will be looking for A-Rod money at the least.
Pujols could play first base and Mark Teixeira could slide into the DH role with Jorge Posada out of the picture after next season, or Pujols could be the primary DH. Pujols has also had playing time in the outfield and with Nick Swisher's contract set to expire, right field might be another possibility.
The other potential free agent from St. Louis is pitcher Adam Wainwright, who has quietly emerged into one of the best starters in the NL. He is 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA over the last two seasons. He has also struck out 425 while walking only 122 batters in those seasons.
Wainwright would certainly be a major upgrade to the Yankees' rotation, but he has a $10 million vesting option for 2012. I believe he would elect free agency over a return to St. Louis. The Cardinals would like to sign both Pujols and Wainwright, but I don't see them being able to afford both of them, so that means one will for sure be out there, plus Chris Carpenter is a free agent as well.
As I mentioned before, Nick Swisher's contract is up after the 2011 season, and if he has a bad year and the Yankees don't bring him back, then Jose Bautista is a viable option.
He slugged 54 home runs in 2010, by far the best in the league, and also drove in 124 runs. I certainly don't expect him to continue at that pace, but if he has a good season and hits 35-45 homers with 100 or so RBIs, I think he would be a great fit in right field for the Yankees.
Like Pujols, another prominent NL first baseman that is a free agent next offseason is Prince Fielder, who is almost certainly out of the Brewers' price range to retain him and he could be on the move this year at the trade deadline.
Fielder would be an exclusive DH for the Yanks and almost every other AL team, so that might be a little bit of a concern, especially if you're going to invest 20+ million dollars in him. But with him being a left handed bat, one can only imagine the amount of home runs he would hit well past that short right field wall at Yankee Stadium.
Roy Oswalt has a mutual option with the Phillies after next season, but he is certainly a pitcher that the Yankees might want to look at if he is available. He pitched extremely well in Philadelphia for the final two months of 2010 and if he has a good year in 2011, then I would think that Cashman would consider him, even at age 34.
Remember that these are all potential free agents, and could get contract extensions with their current teams or sign an extension with a team they might be traded to in the near future.
But those would be the stars of next year's free agent market and the Yankees look like they will have plenty of money to spend, and I think you all know what that means.