2012 MLB Free Agents: Who Would Put the New York Yankees Back on Track?
Despite all of the preseason hype proclaiming the Boston Red Sox as the team to beat in the American League East this season, the New York Yankees surprised many by winning the division crown and finishing with the best record in the AL.
All of the Yankees' hard work in the regular season went for naught, though, as they lost to the Detroit Tigers three-games-to-two in the ALDS. A host of poor performances both offensively and on the mound in the postseason has already prompted many to call for sweeping changes in the Bronx.
The truth of the matter is, however, that the Yankees were among baseball's best teams once again in 2011 and only a few moves are necessary this offseason in order to make them World Series contenders in 2012.
Here are five possible free-agent acquisitions that could make the Yankees king of the baseball world for a 28th time next season.
RP Javier Lopez
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While the Yankees certainly had one of the best bullpens in baseball this season, it would have been much more well-rounded with another left-handed specialist in the fold. Boone Logan was the lone southpaw in the Yankee pen for much of the season, and while he was solid, he wasn't exactly dominant.
The Yanks had high hopes for free-agent acquisition Pedro Feliciano who pitched tons of innings for the New York Mets as a lefty out of the bullpen over the past few seasons, but he didn't record a single frame with the Yankees due to a shoulder injury.
Feliciano underwent rotator cuff surgery last month and there is a very real possibility that he could miss the entire 2012 season as well. With that in mind, the Yankees could really use another situational lefty in the bullpen to mix and match with.
San Francisco Giants reliever Javier Lopez would be a perfect fit. He has had a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the past two seasons and is familiar with the AL East as he pitched for the Boston Red Sox for four seasons. With Lopez in the fold, the Yankee bullpen would essentially be flawless.
SP Mark Buehrle
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It was quite apparent in the Yankees' Game 5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS that they sorely missed the presence of legendary starting pitcher Andy Pettitte. For years, Pettitte was the starter who the Yankees counted upon to pitch in the biggest games and on the biggest stage.
The Yanks were forced to start rookie Ivan Nova who gave up two home runs in the first inning and was forced to leave the game after just two innings with forearm tightness. The start in a series-deciding game normally would have been reserved for a bulldog like Pettitte who would have gutted out six or seven innings, even without his best stuff.
One pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason who would seem to compare favorably to Pettitte is Chicago White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. While Buehrle doesn't have the greatest stuff and won't blow many hitters away, he's a true battler that you can trust to throw strikes in big situations.
With a new era of White Sox baseball seemingly on the horizon, there is a good possibility that Buehrle will be looking for a new locale. Buehrle had his best season since 2008 at the age of 32 and seems capable of pitching for many more years. He would make for a very solid signing.
SP Hiroki Kuroda
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Despite reports that the Yankees made several runs at him, starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has been rumored to be hesitant to waive his no-trade clause with the Los Angeles Dodgers. As he enters free agency, however, it will be interesting to see whether he changes his tune a bit.
There have been whispers about Kuroda returning to Japan, but money talks, and the Yankees certainly have the funds necessary to persuade Kuroda to come to the Big Apple. Kuroda had his best major league season by far in 2011 as he had an ERA of just 3.07 and struck out a career-high 161 batters.
Kuroda's 13-16 record was not indicative of how well he actually pitched as he lacked run support in most starts. That obviously wouldn't be a problem with the Yankees as he seems to have the tools to be a No. 2 starter for the Yanks and might even have 20-win potential.
Re-signing CC Sabathia will be the main priority for the Yankees if he decides to opt out of his contract, but once that is inevitably taken care of, another top-line starter is needed. Ivan Nova could certainly be that type of pitcher, but it is better to let him grow into that role. Kuroda would be a nice fit in the meantime.
1B Carlos Pena
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At 40 years of age, Jorge Posada's days as a New York Yankee and perhaps a Major League Baseball player could be over. While Posada hit well down the stretch and was probably the Yanks' most reliable hitter in the playoffs, his 2011 season was mostly a miserable one.
Rookie catcher Jesus Montero was very impressive late in the season and figures to be New York's designated hitter next year against left-handed pitching. He isn't yet reliable against righties, though, so the Yankees may look for somebody who can platoon with Montero in that role.
The ideal fit would be Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena. The Yankees actually claimed Pena off waivers during the season, but they were unable to work out a trade with the Cubs and he was pulled back. His lefty power stroke that has produced at least 28 home runs in five straight seasons would be perfect for Yankee Stadium.
Whether Pena would be willing to be involved in a platoon situation is questionable, but the Yankees would surely be able to pay him handsomely for it. Pena is also an excellent fielder at first base and could spell Mark Teixeira without the Yankees seeing a huge drop-off defensively.
SP C.J. Wilson
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Although New York's patchwork starting rotation that included the likes of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon held up well over the course of the season, most observers would agree that the Yankees are still in sever need of another top-of-the-rotation starter.
Not many of those are going to be available in free agency, but the crown jewel will certainly be Texas Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson. The Rangers would obviously love to re-sign Wilson, but the Yankees are sure to be a big player for him, as will many of the league's higher-spending teams.
Wilson built upon an excellent 2010 season (his first as a starter) by going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 223.1 innings. The Yankees already have one dominant southpaw in CC Sabathia, but they would have an unmatched combo of lefties if they were to secure Wilson.
Unless the Yankees can work out a trade for an ace-type starter, then Wilson will be their only chance at getting a top guy. New York missed out on its guy this past offseason in Cliff Lee, but I certainly wouldn't bet on it happening two seasons in a row.