Take or Trash: Ranking Each Yankee Free Agent's Chances of Returning in 2012

Scott LoganContributor IINovember 6, 2011

Take or Trash: Ranking Each Yankee Free Agent's Chances of Returning in 2012

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    With the chilly November weather in the air and the World Series over, the summer atmosphere and the baseball season have both come to ceremonious ends. But baseball-related fun will continue all the way until spring training. The hot stove season has just begun, and the Yankees front office has a lot of decisions to make.

    So far, some major Yankees have been retained. GM Brian Cashman was signed to a new three-year deal. The team exercised its club options on Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. C.C. Sabathia signed an extension to stay with the club instead of opting out and becoming a free agent. Rafael Soriano, after a less-than-stellar first year in the Bronx, did not opt out of his contract, and will try to return to form in 2012.

    But the Yankees have plenty of guys hitting the open market. Jorge Posada, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and many more will hit free agency and can sign anywhere.  We'll take a look at who will be taken back and who will be trashed and have to find a new home.

Freddy Garcia, SP

1 of 10

    Following his impressive 2010 season with the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees signed Garcia to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Little did they know just how well Garcia would perform.

    Through 146.2 innings, Garcia posted a 3.62 ERA and a 12-8 record. Not bad for a guy who didn't even have a roster spot guaranteed when he signed. Though he started the season as the Yankees No. 5 starter, Garcia had the second-best ERA at the end of it, behind just ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

    According to Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, there is interest on both sides for a reunion next season. Right now, Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova seem like the only locks for a rotation spot next year. Phil Hughes would currently hold a spot, but the Yankees may have him on a short leash, especially considering how underwhelming of a starter Hughes has been for the past two seasons after being a dominant reliever in 2009.

    Garcia seems likely to fill one of those open rotation spots. The only things keeping me from estimating a higher probability are (a) the notion that the Yankees will likely set their sights on C.J. Wilson first and (b) Garcia's history of injuries. However, expect him back in the Bronx in 2012.

    Take or Trash: Take.

    Probability of Return: 80 percent

Andruw Jones, LF

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    The Yankees 2012 outfield is set up the same way it was in 2011: Brett Gardner in left, Curtis Granderson in center, Nick Swisher in right. But the Yankees will still need a fourth outfielder, and none of their minor league outfield prospects seem anywhere near major league ready.

    Enter Andruw Jones.

    Jones would serve the same role he did this year: a minor offensive threat off the bench with above-average defensive skills. He hit a respectable .247/.356/.495 triple slash to go along with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs over just 190 at-bats.

    The Yankees are likely interested in bringing back the veteran. But it's not out of the question that another team will be more interested in his services and be willing to give him more playing time than the Yankees can offer. In that case, Brian Cashman would likely not enter a bidding war just to hold on to the 34-year old. Still, I imagine there's a good chance the 10-time Gold Glover will be back.

    Take or Trash: Take.

    Probability of Return: 60 percent

Luis Ayala, RP

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    File Luis Ayala under the "Secret Weapons of the Bullpen" folder. Despite injuries to Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees had four relievers with ERAs of 2.10 or lower in 2011: David Robertson (1.08), Mariano Rivera (1.91), Cory Wade (2.04) and Ayala (2.09). 

    After not pitching at the major-league level in the 2010 season, the Yankees took a chance on Ayala, signing him to a minor league deal on Feb. 9, 2011. He would go on to post a 2.09 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 56 innings. After reaching ERAs over 5.00 in 2008 and 2009, Ayala seemed to return to being the dominant reliever he was with the Expos/Nationals from 2003-2007. 

    Based on his 2011 performance, Ayala could be in line for a major league contract this winter. Other teams have certainly taken note of his revival, but the Yankees would be wise to consider bringing him back for another year. If Rafael Soriano's 2011 season is an indicator of things to come, the Yankees could use some more bullpen help. Plus, no one knows quite what to expect as Joba Chamberlain returns from Tommy John surgery.

    I don't think the Yankees will be in a huge rush to re-sign him, so he could have time to explore the open market.

    Take or Trash: Take.

    Probability of Return: 55 percent

Eric Chavez, 3B

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    Six-time Gold Glover Eric Chavez had to settle for a minor league deal with the Yankees last winter after 13 seasons with the Oakland A's. For the first few seasons of his career, Chavez was one of the top third basemen in the league. But injuries began to be a problem, and have never stopped. Chavez hasn't played 100 games in a season since 2006. 

    It's safe to say, however, that the Yankees were pleasantly surprised with Chavez when he played. Operative phrase: when he played. He missed nearly three months of the season with a fractured foot, but he was a treat at the plate and in the field when he got the chance. He batted .263/.320/.356 with two home runs and 26 RBIs as a backup infielder.

    But signs don't point to Chavez immediately returning. Eduardo Nunez is a younger player and a more promising hitter (.265 average, five home runs, 22 stolen bases in 2011) than Chavez, but his defensive skills need work. He figures to be the primary backup infielder, along with Ramiro Pena and Brandon Laird. Chavez could be the odd man out.

    Also, Chavez may end up retiring. Early in the offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Chavez was "leaning heavily" towards retirement, but a few weeks later, Chavez's agent claimed his client will make a decision "at some point" this winter. He also adds that Chavez would be interested in returning to the Bronx in 2012. The Yankees might not wait for him.

    Take or Trash: Trash.

    Probability of Return: 40 percent

Bartolo Colon, SP

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    Although he didn't win AL Comeback Player of the Year, Bartolo Colon was certainly the biggest zero-to-hero story of the 2011 season. Colon had last pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 2009, when he made just 12 starts and owned an uninspiring 3-6 record and a 4.19 ERA. After sitting out the 2010 season, the Yankees inked Colon to a minor-league contract on January 26.

    Colon's season was a mixed bag. Through his first 14 starts, Colon had a 2.88 ERA and a 6-3 record on July 2. But he would end the year with a 4.00 ERA and an 8-10 record. Still, that's likely much more than the Yankees thought they were going to get out of the chubby 38-year-old pitcher.

    Colon will gain some interest in the free agent market, but all teams will take note of how he broke down at the end of the season for the Bronx Bombers this year. Fans would probably want to see Colon come back, but there are better options out there. The Yankees would probably be OK running with a rotation of Sabathia-Burnett-Nova-Hughes-Garcia, with Hector Noesi acting as a sixth starter. If the Yankees don't re-sign Garcia and/or want to look for another starter, there are better options than Bartolo.

    Take or Trash: Trash.

    Probability of Return: 30 percent.

Sergio Mitre, SP/RP

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    Nicknamed "The Experience," Sergio Mitre threw just 5.1 innings for the Yankees this year, but he was a staple of the bullpen in 2010. After a miserable 2009 campaign that saw him post a 6.79 ERA in 51.2 innings over 12 games (nine starts), Mitre rebounded in 2010, posting a respectable 3.33 ERA over 54 innings.

    Mitre competed with Colon and Garcia for a rotation spot in spring training 2011, but to no avail. The Yankees traded him to the Brewers on Mar. 25. Milwaukee got a nice surprise in Mitre, who posted a solid 3.27 ERA over 33 innings for the eventual NL Central champions.

    And then he was designated for assignment on June 27. He returned to the Yankees and posted an 11.81 ERA over 5.1 innings before being shut down for the year with a shoulder injury.

    Don't get me wrong. There's plenty of talent here. He even has the ability to eat innings as a starter or long reliever. But is there enough potential here that the Yankees will make a big effort to bring him back? With the emergence of Hector Noesi and guys like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos getting even closer to being Major League-ready, probably not. "The Experience" is not worth the inconsistency and injury concerns.

    Take or Trash: Trash.

    Probability of Return: 25 percent

Jorge Posada, DH

7 of 10

    It's over. By all accounts, it's over. The career of one of the most beloved Yankees ever is probably over. In pinstripes, at least.

    In 14 seasons as the Yankees regular catcher or DH, Posada has had a batting average of .274. In 2011, it was .235. He averaged 19 home runs a year. In 2011, that number was 14. He averaged 75 RBIs. This year, just 44.

    Couple that with injury concerns (Jorge hasn't played 130 games in a season since 2007) and his ability to catch pretty much gone, and there's not much of a justification to keeping Posada.

    His meltdown when former teammate Joe Girardi dropped him to ninth in the batting order certainly doesn't help matters, either. Even looking past his problems, there's just not much room for Posada on the roster anymore. The Yanks are more than set at catcher; Russell Martin figures to be back next year as the starting catcher. Even behind him, there's young phenom Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli and highly touted prospects Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.

    As far as the DH position goes, it seems like Montero will be the primary DH with Jeter and A-Rod taking over on days they need a little rest. Even if the Yankees want to sign a DH, there are several more desirable options than Posada, like David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Vladimir Guerrero, just to name a few.

    At age 40, it's certainly not a guarantee that Posada returns for an 18th MLB season. If he does, it will be as a DH. That limits his potential suitors to just 14 teams. And the Yankees probably aren't one of them, unless Posada will accept and be content with a part-time DH role. Doesn't seem likely.

    Take or Trash: Trash, tragically.

    Probability of Return: 15 percent

Scott Proctor, RP

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    7.14 ERA on the season. 9.00 ERA with the Yankees.

    Those are Scott Proctor's 2011 numbers. Yikes.

    Proctor began his Yankee career in 2004, struggling through his first two seasons. He posted a 5.40 ERA in '04 and a 6.04 ERA in 2005. But he came around in 2006, when he became a staple of the Yankees bullpen. In that season, he pitched to a 3.52 ERA over 102.1 innings in 83 games. His success continued in 2007, when he pitched to a 3.81 ERA with the Bronx Bombers before being traded to the Dodgers, where he posted a 3.38 ERA.

    Then it all fell apart. Injuries and ineffectiveness took over Proctor's recent career. He struggled through the '08 season with the Dodgers before signing with the Florida Marlins in the offseason and missing the entire 2009 season with after developing an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery.

    And then 2011 came. 7.14 ERA with the Braves. 9.00 ERA with the Yankees. Kind of  explains itself. The market for Proctor will be thin, but someone will take a flier on him with a minor league contract.

    Take or Trash: Trash.

    Probability of Return: 10 percent

Raul Valdes, RP

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    In his second major league season, Valdes put up pretty good numbers. The lefty started the season with the Cardinals, posting a 3.38 ERA over 5.1 innings. Then he came to the Yankees and pitched to a 2.70 ERA over 6.2 innings. 

    Too bad he'll be 34 when next season starts.

    The Yankees do need lefty relief help, but they'll probably look somewhere else than Raul Valdes. In addition to Boone Logan, Pedro Feliciano has another year left on his contract. If he can't give it a go, pitching prospect Steve Garrison might be ready for The Show. Darren Oliver, John Grabow and Hideki Okajima are lefty free agents with more major league experience anyway.

    Take or Trash: Trash.

    Probability of Return: Five percent

Damaso Marte, RP

10 of 10

    Remember Damaso Marte? He was traded to the Yankees in July 2008 along with Xavier Nady in a deal with the Pirates that sent Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen to Pittsburgh.

    Then he pitched to a 5.40 ERA with the Yankees for the rest of the season. Then, the Yankees signed him to a three-year extension. Then, he missed most of the 2009 season, throwing only 18.1 innings and posting a 9.45 ERA. And then he missed most of the 2010 season, when he pitched to a 4.08 ERA over 17.2 innings. Then, he missed the 2011 season.

    Yeah. Pretty forgettable. 

    To his credit, Marte pitched brilliantly in the 2009 postseason, when the Yankees won the World Series, allowing just two hits and striking out five over four innings. But that won't be nearly enough for the Yankees to even think about bringing back this injury-plagued nightmare. Refer to the free agent lefty options I mentioned in the previous slide to see some more realistic options.

    Take or Trash: Trash.

    Probability of Return: Zero percent


    Agree? Disagree? Let me know how brilliant or moronic I am in the comments!