Yankees' General Manager Brian Cashman
In the event you haven't heard, the New York Yankees are no longer in the World Series hunt. We're not sure if word has gotten out about that so, in an attempt to perform a necessary civic duty, we felt it would be productive to point things out.
As any Yankee observer will tell you, you can bet that changes are inevitable any time a Yankees team goes home without the big cookie at the end of the year. In fact, change is inevitable even when they do go home winners, as evidenced by the jettisoning of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera and others after the 2009 World Series victory.
This offseason, though, promises to be more active than most, even by Yankee standards. Yankee GM Brian Cashman did not personally oversee any major additions following the 2010 season, though the Yankees organization did of course pursue and ultimately land Rafael Soriano, this despite Cashman's misgivings regarding both the length and heft of the contract.
It was Cashman's choice, rather, to plug holes in the pitching staff and on the bench with relatively low-cost additions such as Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones among others. Additionally, the signing of Russell Martin at catcher was another example of Cashman's low risk, low dollar approach, as Martin's $4 million dollar agreement fit rather easily into the Yankee budget.
The strategy did prove successful by most measures, especially in that the Yankees were able to take their division's crown and were not forced to trade any of their blue-chip pitching or hitting prospects. In the final analysis, though, the Yankees did not advance past the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
Holes in their lineup and pitching staff were exposed, and poor performances from some of their most critical offensive contributors made it clear that the Yankees' offense, so capable of feasting on mediocre pitching, will need a huge infusion of talent if they are to overcome the typically stellar pitching staffs encountered in the playoffs.
Here, then, are 10 players that the Yankees will pursue this offseason, via trade or free agency, to supplement an undermanned rotation and an aging, underperforming lineup. Players are ranked in order of least likely or capable to acquire to most likely or capable to acquire.
Yankees' General Manager Brian Cashman has said countless times that Felix Hernandez is not being made available. This is true, of course, however times do have a way of changing. This is not to suggest that Hernandez is now suddenly on the block, rather that Brian Cashman is a patient man and knows that Seattle will have to at some point realize they need to get better on offense.
In Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez the Yankees have two pieces that Seattle needs immediately, specifically a high-ceiling bat, Montero, and a legitimate every day shortstop that can provide some pop, Nunez.
Additionally, the Yankees can throw in a legitimate top-tier pitching prospect and possibly a second-tier pitching prospect to round out a four-for-one swap. Whether it's Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos going to the Great Northwest is irrelevant to the Yankees, as having Felix Hernandez in their rotation for years to come negates the need for both prospects to develop as Yankees.
Montero going to Seattle would amp up the urgency surrounding the Yankees other major need, specifically an impact bat to replace Nick Swisher in right field or at least limit their reliance on him in the middle of the order. Montero could be that guy, and may wind up being that guy when all is said and done, but if he is in Seattle the Yankees will need to think hard about how they will supplement an aging lineup.
If only to up the price for the Red Sox, who have at least over $25 million coming off the books if they so choose, the Yankees will make a play for Fielder. To not get in this game would be a dereliction of duty, and any amount of money the Yankees add to the bidding war for Fielder would serve to either keep him away from Boston entirely, or make it more difficult for them to hold on to other important pieces.
The Yankees, perhaps feeling a bit queasy about the mega-deal they signed Mark Teixeira to, do in fact have a need at first base in the sense that Teixeira has proven to be a complete bust in the postseason for three years running.
At 31, he should still be a force for years to come, however his lack of production from the left side of the plate has become alarming, so alarming, in fact, that it has cast doubt on his reliability as a middle of the order threat when the games get serious.
Teixeira, though, is not going anywhere for another five years due to a full no-trade clause. In other words, the Yankees are unlikely to aggressively pursue Fielder in that they truly have no room for him other than DH. Fielder has said that he would consider the DH role, however the Yankees need to reserve DH time for Alex Rodriguez and others due to age and injury issues.
Thanks to a Tweet by Buster Olney, which said that the Reds “... are fully prepared to listen to offers” for Joey Votto, we have to include this name on our list. Votto is too good not to look into if you have the goods to deal, and the Yankees have those goods.
To start, Votto would demand two top-tier prospects in return, with the definition of top-tier being the best prospects an organization has to offer that are acknowledged by neutral sources to be of the can't miss variety. Additionally, other, second-tier prospects would have to be thrown in the mix, and the Yankees have those as well.
Votto, of course, is a first baseman by trade, however unlike Prince Fielder, he can at the very least be asked to play another position. That other position would be right field, as it is now incontrovertibly true that the Yankees must either replace Nick Swisher entirely, which putting Votto in right field would do, or find a way to make sure his bat is not ever found anywhere near the middle of the lineup again.
With that said, the relatively small area that is right field in Yankee Stadium would be able to hide whatever deficiencies Votto might have, at least for 81 or so games per year. Considering that Jesus Montero would certainly be one of the prospects going the other way, freeing up the DH role, the Yankees could also see to it that Votto wouldn't be exposed defensively on the road by using him as the DH in certain opposing parks.
Is this a stretch? Without question. If Votto is seriously in play though, the Yankees would be well-served to pursue his services aggressively. He is young, healthy, consistently brilliant and cheap over the next few seasons. Quite a few good reasons to want to bring him to The Bronx.
The Yankees need starting pitching, no doubt, and they will inquire about Oakland's Cahill. He's young and has experienced some success, specifically a great 2010 season that saw him go 18-8 with an ERA under three. He just signed a very attractive contract (4 years, $30 million) by Yankee standards that takes him through 2015.
You'd have to ask why, however, the Yankees would want to relinquish any of their top assets to acquire a finesse pitcher who regressed considerably in 2011. The Yankees have several highly-rated pitching prospects, some of whom we'll reference later on in the slideshow, and they can acquire better talent through free agency without surrendering anything but dollars.
Gonzalez is worth a long look by the Yankees, and depending on the asking price he would be a huge addition to the rotation. He is very young, just 25, strikes out just under one batter per inning, and does not give up a lot of hits, 175 in 202 innings this past season to be exact.
Most importantly, he fulfills a major Yankee need in that he's a lefty, and the Yankees need lefties in their rotation, among other reasons, to remain competitive with the Red Sox and their lefty-dominated lineup. His control is a bit suspect, over 90 walks in roughly 200 innings in each of the past two seasons, however his stuff is good enough to overcome this reality as his low ERA numbers suggest.
Two questions remain, however, and they have to do with where he plays in terms of his home park and his division. The Coliseum is not exactly hitter friendly, not with roughly two miles of foul territory to contend with, and with the exception of the Texas Rangers the West Division does not boast very good hitting teams.
Can Gonzalez handle the demands of the AL East, or is he simply a guy with good stuff who needs certain advantages to succeed?
The free agent to be is a true workhorse, capable of periods of brilliance and mediocrity in equal measure. He has pitched more than 200 innings in 11 straight seasons, and so any team interested in him goes into things knowing that one of two things is for certain; he will either continue to throw 200-plus innings going forward or his arm will fall off.
He is, consequently, a risk, however he would be a decent addition to the Yankee staff and they will inquire as to what it will take to land him and for how long.
The operative word, though, is decent, as the Yankees don't necessarily need or covet a soon to be 33-year-old pitcher who is more than likely several years past his prime.
As a one year or two-year stop gap measure, the Yankees would be wise to bring him on, however Buerhle will demand more length than that and the Yankees will more than likely walk away.
Matt Kemp, coming off of an MVP-quality season with the Dodgers, solves a number of Yankee issues immediately. He is just 27 years old, athletic, can hit for average and power and has the ability to steal bases regularly.
He is not the best defensive option, of course, but he would be playing right field in Yankee Stadium half the time and, to be sure, there are any number of lesser athletes who can handle that small amount of turf with ease.
If the Yankees are serious about landing Kemp, they will be asked to surrender their top-hitting prospect in Jesus Montero for sure, as well as several other major pieces of the team's future. If Kemp can continue producing as he did in 2011 then the trade will be worth it. If not, the Yankees just may regret the cost.
As we've stated, Nick Swisher cannot be relied upon as the Yankees' right fielder any longer. He is a serviceable bat for the regular season, and his numbers over the past three seasons are quite respectable, however his postseason performances have simply been intolerable.
It was clear against Detroit in the ALDS that the Yankees lineup ended after Robinson Cano in the three-hole and didn't pick back up again until reaching Posada in the seventh slot. Between those two spots in the order were Rodriguez, Teixeira and Swisher, and the Yankees have no way of extricating themselves from either Rodriguez or Teixeira.
They can jettison Swisher, however, as they own a team option on him, and jettison him they must. This would create a void in right field, and we've already touched on two options in Matt Kemp and Joey Votto to fill that void.
While the Yankees would prefer to have either of those players in right field, the reality is that acquiring them will take a great deal of talent going the other way, presuming of course that either Kemp or Votto can even be pried away from their respective teams. This is where Ethier comes in.
Ethier is in fact a less attractive option than Swisher statistically at this point in their respective careers. Having said that, Ethier has proven to have the ability to rise to the occasion in critical moments and, if nothing else, he isn't Swisher.
Additionally, the package that would be required to bring him aboard would be considerably less than it would be for either Kemp or Votto, and so look for the Yankees to pursue Ethier sincerely.
Look for the Yankees to go after C.J. Wilson with a vengeance. As stated earlier, the Yankees need lefties in their rotation ASAP and Wilson fits the bill on all fronts. He will be a free agent after the 2011 playoffs wrap up and though he will be expensive, he will not demand a prohibitive number.
An added bonus to signing Wilson would be that in doing so they would be taking him away from Texas. There is no love lost between the respective ownership groups of these two franchises due to some verbal back and forth after the Cliff Lee saga of last season, and signing Wilson would be a nice thumb in the nose from the Yankees' perspective.
Wilson slots in nicely into either a No. 2 or 3 starter in the rotation, depending on whether the Yankees want to throw two lefties in a row, with the presumably returning C.C. Sabathia being the other lefty, or break them up by putting Ivan Nova in the second position.
Going again with the replace Nick Swisher or bust theme, the Yankees will seriously inquire about Carlos Beltran. Beltran is getting up there in age, he's 35 to be exact, and he is about as injury-prone as any player can be, however the Yankees have limited needs in right field and Beltran does in fact fit those needs.
It will all come down to length of contract. If Beltran demands more than two years the Yankees will more than likely walk away. At two years, though, Beltran could serve as the every day right fielder in year one and take on a limited role the following year if other options present themselves.
He still has power, and we tend to forget that he was a a Gold Glove outfielder for three consecutive years until injuries derailed his career. He is healthy now, as healthy as anyone with two extremely brittle knees can be that is, and so he may be worth the risk.