7 Rock-Solid Players New York Yankees Should Save Their Payroll for in 2014

Jim MorisetteCorrespondent IIIJanuary 1, 2013

7 Rock-Solid Players New York Yankees Should Save Their Payroll for in 2014

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    Recently, ESPN writer David Schoenfield wrote a detailed feature about the New York Yankees and their success in spite of old age.

    Rebuking doomsayers, Schoenfield time-traveled 18 seasons (to when Jack McDowell wore pinstripes) to show why it would be unwise to count the Yankees out in 2013.

    Absorbing the chart Schoenfield provides in his feature, he makes a valid argument. After all, it is tough to argue with a 1,731-1,163 team record and an average plus-148 run differential since 1995.

    What is debatable however (and not mentioned in Schoenfield’s work) is that this present Yankees ball club fields one of the oldest Yankees teams in the past 18 years.

    Frankly, Yankees fans accused of grumbling have every right to grumble. As the recent signings of Ichiro Suzuki and Kevin Youkilis can attest, it seems the Yankees look like a team one year away from a monster overhaul.

    Double-strength aspirin in the medicine cabinet—could there something deeper going in the Yankees front office?

    More specifically, is Brian Cashman and Co. simply buying time until the Yankees’ core of home-grown prospects is ready for the show? Or is pinstripe's brass hoarding a bomber load of cash to make a few huge free-agent landings in 2014?

    With the Yankees, answering these questions is always a challenge. Perhaps a hybrid of events is occurring here.

    But should the Yankees be looking to enter splash mode, this slideshow will highlight seven in-their-prime free agents that might be available come 2014. 

Jon Lester

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    Some say the Yankees gave Boston Red Sox nation a whitewash when the pinstripes signed former BoSox third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

    Why not do it again in 2014 by signing left-handed starter Jon Lester?

    Starters Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda will be free agents in 2014.

    Should these guys sign elsewhere, the Yankees (though younger) will be left with some major holes in its rotation.

    While the Yankees do have David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Brett Marshall, and Schaefer Hall waiting in the wings, none of these guys hold a candle to Lester.  

    Should the Yankees sign Lester, he would immediately join Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia in a rotation that will need a young but proven star. 

    Lester, 28, is 85-48 in his career with a 3.76 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.  He is 1-2 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in six postseason starts.

    While Lester is fresh off the most disappointing year of his career in 2012, he is a fierce competitor who will look to erase memories of 2012 with a gem of a season in 2013.

    Lester’s stock would skyrocket, should he bounce back with fury this year. According to NESN, Lester signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the BoSox in March 2009.

    But should Lester catch fire at the right time next season, he may become a trade target for other big league teams at the deadline. If Lester wards off a trade and makes it to free agency in 2014, the Yankees brass should pounce.

Jacoby Ellsbury

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    But why should the Yankees stop there? How about a scenario where the pinstripes steal both Lester and 29-year-old Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury?

    Talk about an intriguing story line while entering the 2013 offseason.

    Ellsbury is a career .297 hitter who would give the Yankees a strong left-handed bat, solid defensive skills and disruptive speed on the base paths (189 stolen bases in 581 career games, per ESPN).

    Ellsbury could also be Curtis Granderson’s replacement in center, should Granderson be traded or leave as a free agent in 2014.  

    Yet for all his upside, Ellsbury has battled injuries the past few years.

    Ellsbury is also represented by super-agent Scott Boras.

    And come time for the MLB trade deadline this summer, Ellsbury (like Lester) may go on the trading block so the BoSox can improve its young baseball team.

    But should Ellsbury be available, it may be tough for the Yankees to lay off this dynamic ballplayer.

    That is, unless one of the Yankees top outfield prospects erases the need for Ellsbury.

Brian McCann

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    Unless Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart or Austin Romine emerge as the Yankees catcher of the future, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann will become a very attractive option for the pinstripes in 2014. 

    At 6'4," 240-lbs, McCann brings toughness Yankees fans appreciate. 

    McCann also bring some strong left-handed lumber to the plate. A five-time Silver Slugger, McCann is a career .279 hitter with 156 homers and 604 RBI.

Martin Prado

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    Barring a shocking transaction, the Yankees' first priority after the 2013 season will be to lock up Robinson Cano.

    Even if the Yankees do this, they should still go after Braves super utility player Martin Prado.

    A career .295 hitter, Prado would add depth to a Yankees team that has been prone to injury. Still just 29, Prado has played second and third base at the big league level. He has also played the outfield.

    In 2012 Prado batted .301 with 10 home runs and 70 RBI. Prado’s 186 hits and 42 doubles were both 11th best in the major leagues (per ESPN).

Matt Garza

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    In November, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reported Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza has been cleared by doctors to partake in his normal offseason routine.

    Garza, 29, is working to rally from a season-ending elbow injury that occurred before the 2012 MLB trade deadline.

    Do not let this 6’4", 220 lb. right-hander’s career numbers (57-61/3.84 ERA/1.29 WHIP) fool you. Placed in the right situation (such as, with a contending team) Garza can unleash his true skills.

    Garza is a fierce competitor who could be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the Yankees' rotation in 2014.

    Garza has also performed pretty well in the postseason, going 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in five starts.

    Like Lester, Garza’s stock will climb big time if he is able to muster a solid season for the Cubs. 

Eric O'Flaherty

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    Yankees' free agent reliever Rafael Soriano is as good as gone.

    Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan will be eligible for free agency in 2014.

    And the 2013 season for future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera may be his last.

    With this reality, Braves setup man Eric O’Flaherty may bubble to the top as a high-priority target for the Yankees' front office come 2014.  

    If the Braves were smart, they would lock up this guy long-term. But should Atlanta fail to reel in the 27-year-old Walla Walla, Washington, native, the Yankees should start pinging his agent.

    Fresh off outstanding back-to-back years O’Flaherty has tomahawk-chopped his way to a career 17-9 record with a 2.87 ERA and 1.26 WHIP (per ESPN stats).

    O’Flaherty’s best season came in 2011, when he posted a 0.98 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 73.2 IP for the Braves.

Tim Lincecum

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    It is hard to imagine that All-Star San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum is just 30 years old.

    With two World Series titles to join his many other achievements, it seems like this guy has been around forever.

    Now I know Lincecum has had a rocky two years since pitching a gem of a final game of the 2010 World Series.

    Since 2011, Lincecum is 23-29 with a 3.86 ERA.

    But looking bigger picture, Lincecum has been a solid pitcher for the Giants in his six-year career. In 189 starts, Lincecum is 79-56 with a 3.31 ERA.

    Lincecum has been great in the playoffs, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.47 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 12 postseason games.

    Like Lester, if Lincecum is able to return to top form in 2013, the Yankees should open their wallets wide for him in 2014. 

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    Mongoose Morisette is a Featured Writer for Bleacher Report. He is also the founder of the Basebook Social Network (BBSN). 

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