The New York Yankees were certainly busy this off season. While not quite outdoing the off season where they acquired 3 all stars that led them to a World Series title, the Yankees did their best to improve their ball club.
The Yankees first priority was to resign Yankee great Derek Jeter. Everyone in the baseball community knew it was a matter of time before Jeter resigned.
While his numbers had certainly dropped in the 2010 season, he still put up respectable numbers, hitting .270 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs. More importantly, he kept a nice .340 OBP. Before last season, the last time Jeter hit under .300 was in 2004, and in 2009, he hit .334 with a .406 OBP.
My point being, this last season does not properly reflect his talent. Consider last season an outlier in his storied career. He finalized a deal with the Yanks, signing for $51 million over 3 years.
While Jeter was not a fan of how the negotiations process was, this was a good deal for both, but better for the yanks. Originally, Jeter wanted about $22 - $24 million per year with about 6 years.
This deal locks him up until he is 39, as opposed to when he is 42. Not many 42 year-old players get paid $24 million in a year, and as of now, neither will Jeter.
The Yankees next target was Cliff Lee. The biggest arm on the market would have fit perfectly in the Yankees rotation. By perfectly, I mean, the Yankees could have really used him.
At this point, due to the leaving of Javier Vazquez and retirement of Andy Pettite the only 3 guaranteed starters are Sabathia, Burnett, and Hughes.
If the Yanks had acquired Lee, he would have fit great behind Sabathia, giving the Yankees a second ace.
However, things didn't really go as planned, and he signed with the Phillies, leaving the Yankees to fill in a big hole. So who will compete for the last two spots in the rotation?
Newly acquired players Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were signed to minor league deals. Sergio Mitre, and Ivan Nova have also seen time in the rotation before.
Not exactly Cliff Lee level players. Mitre is definitely not a suitable alternative to Cliff Lee. The yanks missed out on this one, and missed out big.
While missing out on their first target, the yanks wouldn't enter the spring training empty handed. The signed former all-star dodgers catcher Russell Martin. Now this is a significant signing.
Not only does it mean Jorge Posada will no longer be taking full time behind the plate, but the Yankees number 1 prospect, Jesus Montero, will likely spend more time in Triple A this season.
It could also mean the Yankees may be willing to use Montero as a trade chip to acquire a starter. Martin has had good numbers in the past, but has been slowed due to injuries.
Overall, this is a good signing as it is not much risk and high reward. He signed a one year deal, so if he doesn't return to his old form, he won't have a lingering contract.
If he gets hurt again, the Yankees still have Posada, Cervelli, and Montero to take his place. If he does return to his old self, the Yankees signed an all-star catcher for relatively cheap.
Although against Brian Cashman's wishes, the Yankees came to terms with former Rays Closer Rafael Soriano. I've always been a fan of Soriano, and last year he had a huge season, leading the league in saves.
However, he was a type A free agent, meaning the Yankees will have to relinquish their first round draft choice. Now it was clearly worth giving up for Lee, but what about Soriano? They already have Mariano Rivera, one of the best closers in the game, so Soriano will only be a set up man.
There were cheaper options available or they could have looked in their farm system. While Soriano greatly improves their bullpen, and now have one of the best in the majors, they could have improved it without giving out too much money and a draft pick. Something like the Feliciano deal made sense.
Pedro Feliciano signed a 2 year deal with the Yanks. He has played in the Mets bullpen for awhile now, and his numbers have reflected exactly what the Yankees are looking for.
He had 92 appearances for the Mets, holding on to a 3.30 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. What is especially interesting about Feliciano is his effectiveness against left-handed hitters.
Lefty-hitters hit a meager .211 against him with a .297 OBP. They struck out 35 times, and walked 10 times. He is a very effective pitcher that will contribute immediately to the Yankees bullpen.
Another interesting signing was that of Mark Prior signing a minor league deal. The former Cubs ace has been playing independent league baseball, and has apparently done well enough to catch the Yankees eye. Could he return to his old self? Probably not. But he does have a shot at redemption.
Recently, the Yankees traded minor leaguer Adam Olbrychowski to Washington for outfielder Jason Maxwell. Not exactly a huge trade, as Maxwell is only a .201 career hitter, but he is still relatively young at 28. There may be something interesting in Maxwell that Cashman sees.
Speaking of old stars and outfielders, the Yankees have agreed to a 1 year deal with OF Andruw Jones.
At 34, it has been some time since his glory days with the Braves, where he once led the league with 51 homer runs and won 10 straight gold glove awards. He will act as a fourth outfielder to the Yankees, and Marcus Thames's replacement.
The Yankees led Thames go, as they wanted a fourth outfielder with a strong defensive game.
Overall, the Yankees addressed their issues. Their captain, the rotation, the bullpen, and role players. They took some low risk/ high reward signings, and made some big signings as well.
I would have given them a better grade, had they not lost out on Lee and have no real back up plan to him. Also, the Red Sox have gotten much better, and if they stay healthy, can be very competitive in the AL East.
If Cliff Lee had not been a Free agent, I give them a B+. However, with the Red Sox getting even better and missing out on Lee, the Yankees deserve a low B or high C. They didn't do too badly, but they have done better in years past.
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