Yankees Rumors: Updating Top Targets for Pitching Staff and Infield

Alex Espinoza@AlexEspinozaIVCorrespondent IIIDecember 17, 2013

FUKUOKA, JAPAN - MARCH 02:  Masahiro Tanaka of Japan pitches during the World Baseball Classic First Round Group A game between Brazil and Japan at Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome on March 2, 2013 in Fukuoka, Japan.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

The New York Yankees have been central figures in the MLB offseason so far.

On one hand, they've inked players like Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million), Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and Carlos Beltran (three years, $45 million) to sizable contracts. On the other, they've seen second baseman Robinson Cano exit the Bronx to Seattle for a 10-year, $240 million pact.

The team still has some holes to fill heading into spring training, including in the rotation, infield and possibly at closer. Here's a look at the recent buzz regarding the Yankees and their pursuit of targets in free agency and the trade market.

Infield Targets

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22:  Mark Reynolds #39 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants during interleague  play on September 22, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Pho
Elsa/Getty Images

With Robinson Cano gone and Alex Rodriguez's status for 2014 unknown, the team could use some help on the infield.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Yankees have interest bringing back Mark Reynolds, while the team is also considering two other veterans:

Reynolds, Michael Young and Brian Roberts are three players past their respective primes. Reynolds and Young are corner infielders at this point with the ability to play first or third, while Roberts has spent virtually his entire career at second base.

It's conceivable that the team could sign Roberts for second base duties while inking either Reynolds or Young to spell Mark Teixeira and Rodriguez.

While these three players aren't what they used to be, all have proven track records and could be worth a flier.

Masahiro Tanaka, RHP

Arguably the top three free agent starters in this year's class, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, remain unsigned. That's because MLB teams are likely awaiting the status of Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, who is eligible to be posted after the league and Nippon Professional Baseball officially agreed to a new posting fee system.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com recently reported the finalized three-year agreement, which will feature a maximum $20 million posting fee.

It's unknown whether Tanaka's team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will post the 25-year-old righty for MLB teams to bid on. But if he does become an MLB free agent, Bob Klapisch of The Record speculated that the Yankees would be major players for Tanaka, but not Garza or Jimenez:

It's notable that Klapisch termed the Yankees' desire for Tanaka as "all in," while the team's interest for the other pitchers has reportedly dropped off.

Behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, New York doesn't have much depth in the rotation. If Tanaka is made available, the big-spending Yankees will be in a good position to acquire his services.

After going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Japan Series champion Rakuten in 2013, Tanaka appears to have convinced the Yankees that he can transition successfully to MLB, separating himself from other free agents in the process.

Bullpen Options

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Pitcher Jonathan Papelbon #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 28, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

In a recent roundup of the MLB hot stove, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe shared an interesting comment from a scout on the possibility of the Yankees acquiring Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon via trade:

He fits pretty well there. There’s two years left on the deal. Not sure the Yankees are completely sold on Dave Robertson being their closer. He’s best suited as a setup man, but Papelbon would get hyped up in New York, replacing Mariano (Rivera). I think it would be a positive thing and a good fit and I would think it’s been explored already.

That's a notable observation from the scout, as the Yankees are one of the few teams who seem like a fit to consider the possible three years, $39 million remaining on Papelbon's contract.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also mentioned former Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney as another option for the back end of New York's bullpen:

Separating fact from fiction is always hard when the rumors are circulating this time of year, but one thing seems sure: The Yankees aren't done spending yet.


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