10 Free Agents the New York Yankees Will Look at This Offseason
When push comes to shove in MLB's free agent market, the New York Yankees usually do both, jostling their way to the top of every player watch list in their never ending pursuit to assemble the best possible team. This coming winter will be no different. And with very good talent to be had, it may be even more important to land the big name before another competitor does.
Earlier in the summer, I wrote an article naming 10 players the Yankees should seek to better their squad. This, however, is a Dream Team scenario: 10 free agents the Yankees will reach out to for the 2012 season.
Before you question their ability to buy a player or legitimize a reason for getting a player, just remember that anything is possible when it comes to the Yankees.
The Yankees' most important free agent dealing this winter could already be on their own team.
CC Sabathia, New York's unquestioned ace, can opt out of the remaining four years and $92 million of his contract if we feels there is something to gain. This is rather unlikely, but if it does happen, the Yankees have to be prepared for all scenarios, including the most improbable case where Sabathia leaves the team.
To move forward without Sabathia as their ace for the next five seasons is insanity. He has been nothing short of brilliant in New York, winning big games in the regular season, postseason and the World Series, helping them win their first title in a decade. With an always competitive supporting cast, it would be a poor decision for him to leave. Money does talk, however, meaning he may want more of it from the Yankees.
In that case, the team must pay him virtually any price he names. As the Detroit Tigers are proving this season with Justin Verlander, one outstanding pitcher can be the difference between an average team and a title contender. If the Yankees want to be just that, Sabathia must be the one to lead them there.
One unsung bright spot on the Yankees this year has been that of Andruw Jones, who has resurrected his season from the bench, putting in very respectable numbers for basically a pure power hitter. However, it is unlikely he will re-sign, allowing New York to pursue a much better outfielder in Carlos Beltran.
The biggest question would obviously be if Beltran would want to share time with Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher. Honestly, he is a better hitter than either of them, so finding time in the lineup shouldn't be difficult. He is a switch-hitter like Swisher, with better fielding and power statistics, something always valuable. And like any power hitter from the left side, Beltran would quickly fall in love with the short right-field porch of Yankee Stadium.
Not playing every day could be a blessing in disguise for the former Silver Slugger and Gold Glover, whose injuries have turned what looked like a Hall-of-Fame career into just a good one. That career did include seven seasons in New York in a Mets uniform, where he produced very good numbers considering those injuries.
Though he infamously was the last batter of the Mets' golden 2006 season, he can handle the city, and would embrace the opportunity to serve Queens with a side of the Bronx and win a championship with the Yankees.
Nolan Ryan has developed a very good, perennial competitor in the Texas Rangers, led by starter C.J. Wilson. The young left-hander has established himself as a top-line starter in possibly the best hitter's ballpark in baseball.
There would be nothing more the Yankees would like than to slide another lefty behind CC Sabathia in the rotation. Assuming that Ivan Nova is not Dwight Gooden, Wilson would instantly become the No. 2 starter for the Yankees. This would help them combat the left-handed threats in Boston with the likes of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.
If Wilson can pitch similarly to his performances in Texas, the Yankees will become the definite favorite over the Red Sox next season.
One of New York's biggest sports comparisons is between the city's two shortstops, Derek Jeter and Jose Reyes. Jeter usually wins the argument because of his career numbers and heightened popularity, but there will be a time when Jeter is no longer able to play the position.
Therefore, the Yankees will have no choice but to look into signing Reyes. When healthy, the Mets phenom is undoubtedly the most talented shortstop in baseball, mixing good power with blazing speed, turning singles into doubles or triples, both when the ball is in play and afterward with stolen bases. He is the most effective catalyst in baseball and would certainly be able to fit in leading off for the Yankees.
This isn't to say that Jeter is washed up or can't play anymore, but it's almost an offer they can't refuse. Reyes is eight years younger than Jeter, and at this stage in their careers, is a better hitter. It's tough to cope with, but there may not be another Jeter for a generation. Take the next best available option when you can, because it may not appear for a long time.
The Brew Crew has impressed this season, making what appears to be a legitimate push for a World Series, combining tremendous offense with top-line pitching and a solid bullpen. It will be hard to return that team next season, however, and Prince Fielder will be the most difficult ticket to re-sign.
The Yankees already have a first baseman, an excellent one in Mark Teixeira. But if there was ever a time to pay big money for a designated hitter, the time is now for Fielder. His batting skills would be nothing short of devastating in Yankee Stadium, launching home runs into right field with ease according to his highlight reels.
With their current lineup, it would be virtually impossible for him not see pitches with Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano backing him up. They would potentially be the best offensive team in history, with perennial 100-RBI hitters ranging from second to seventh in the lineup.
When the Angels pushed toward a World Series in 2002, young flamethrower Francisco Rodriguez was a lively bullpen addition that helped Troy Percival and the team reach the pinnacle of baseball. Since then, K-Rod has assembled a good career, including claiming the single-season saves record with Anaheim and a good stint with the Mets.
Now playing closer/setup man in Milwaukee, he will play a crucial role in their postseason performance as well. Once 2012 comes, his next act could be in pinstripes behind Mariano Rivera. He is only 30, and his stuff is still well above average. Not only could he set up Rivera, but he could become their next closer as well.
Yes, David Robertson is an emerging arm with electric stuff, but he has downsides. He frequently falls into jams, but he has the stuff to get out of them. This may not be as easy, or tolerable, in the ninth inning when the game is much more in his hands. With Robertson and Rodriguez behind Rivera, their bullpen would be as solid as ever.
The last time New York saw Hideki Matsui in pinstripes, he belted two home runs and had six RBI in the clinching game of the 2009 World Series. He has since traveled to the American League West, playing for both the Angels and Athletics, putting up decent numbers, but not quite Godzilla-like stats of Japan and New York.
With his career tailing off, a return to the Bronx may not be far-fetched and would definitely help the Yankees. He is still a good hitter, and could be a valuable bench player and emergency outfielder if necessary. He is also a huge crowd favorite, something that is very hard to obtain in New York. A second showing in pinstripes would not only be productive, but a heartwarming story for a great player and person, and something the Yankees will most likely look into this offseason.
Possible one the quietest performers in sports, Mark Buehrle has compiled an excellent career with the Chicago White Sox. The left-hander has won 159 games since 2000, posting a very good 3.83 ERA, including a legendary flip to first, a World Series ring and a perfect game.
There is nothing the Yankees don't want in his player package. The 32-year-old would post good numbers, as he has only had one losing season in his career. Behind CC Sabathia, Buehrle would compliment nicely with back-to-back lefties against the likes of the Red Sox.
His other addition would be in the locker room, providing veteran leadership on how to pitch effectively in big spots with consistency. He is a pitcher any team would want, and the Yankees will be at the top of the list.
If Adam Wainwright opts out of his contract this winter, many teams will be after him more than any pitcher in baseball. His 2011 season has been washed due to injury, but it is hard not to look at his previous numbers and expect something close to that, especially with the growing success rate of injury comebacks.
Wainwright has a career 66-35 record and a 2.97 ERA, a set of numbers few pitchers can hold claim to. If the Yankees had the opportunity to sign him, he would not only slide in as the guaranteed second starter, but would probably compete with Sabathia for the No. 1 role. His stuff is electric and his annual numbers have improved every season since 2007, culminating with a 20-11 record and 2.42 ERA last year. With a healthy Wainwright in the rotation, the Yankees would instantly become American League favorites next season.
Let's face it, Albert Pujols may very well be the best hitter we've ever seen, mixing effortless power with an incredible knack for driving in runs and hitting for a high average. He has reached home run totals faster than any player, and now he may be setting himself up for the biggest free agent battle in baseball history.
As stated before, the Yankees have an outstanding first baseman in Mark Teixeira. But this is not just a first baseman; he is a baseball god. He would be voted into the Hall of Fame if he retired tomorrow, and he still has a decade of play left in him. His numbers are ones only comparable to players like Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez, if at all.
If he kept his current pace until the end of his 20th season, Pujols would have nearly 850 home runs and 2,500 RBI, easily the most in each category. He also carries a .329 career average, something hard to find in such a power hitter. He would be inserted into a Yankees' lineup, and with his all-field power, 50-home run seasons are easily in the discussion.
Is it feasible? Well, it is the Yankees, so anything is possible. Is it reasonable? No, probably not.
Probable or not, it would be the greatest spectacle in baseball, and the Yankees will definitely consider it this winter.