Offseason Moves the New York Yankees Should Have Made Going into 2014
After an offseason that saw the New York Yankees spend money as if it were burning a hole in their pockets, the team currently sits at a modest 23-20 as the season reaches its quarter mark.
While it may be good enough for first in the American League East, it is certainly not a record that reflects well on a team with championship aspirations.
Despite the high payroll and surplus of star power and talent, the Yankees still have holes that could have been addressed in the offseason. Now, general manager Brian Cashman does not have a crystal ball to see into the future, and as they say, hindsight is 20-20. However, injuries and a lack of depth at several positions have depleted the team, something that was easy to foresee coming into the year.
Looking back on it now, the Yankees probably should have made the following moves this past winter in an effort to solidify the roster.
The Bullpen Could Have Used a Veteran
With David Robertson new and unproved in the closer role, it would have made sense for the Yankees to add a veteran reliever with closing experience to back up the 29-year-old.
Instead, the Yankees went with an overall young and inexperienced bullpen. Matt Thornton was brought in, but only to serve as a lefty specialist. Shawn Kelley, who had never been more than a middle reliever, was handed the setup role. When Robertson hit the DL in April, it was Kelley who took over as the closer.
So far this season, the Yankees pen has overachieved. With that said, a veteran pitcher like the one described above could provide some more faith in the relief corps down the road.
Chris Perez, Brian Wilson, Edward Mujica, John Axford and Joaquin Benoit are all former closers currently serving as setup men who were available this past winter. The Yankees attended showcases for Joel Hanrahan, but he was picked up by the Detroit Tigers.
Any one of those relievers could have made made a huge difference for the Yanks, and none would have cost the team much.
If New York changes its mind, Kevin Gregg, Ryan Madson, Octavio Dotel and Brett Myers are all former closers who could be viable late-inning options.
The Rotation Needed an Insurance Policy
Ivan Nova had season-ending Tommy John Surgery. Michael Pineda will be out until at least June with a back strain. CC Sabathia has an inflamed knee sidelining him.
The rotation has been hit with the injury bug, and the staff is currently in shambles. Vidal Nuno, David Phelps and Chase Whitley are doing all they can to assist Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka in stabilizing the rotation. At the the same time, Nuno—and to a greater extent Phelps—is hurting the bullpen by not being a part of it.
Had the Yankees planned for an emergency, there was a better alternative for dealing with injured pitchers: the minor league deal.
A minor league deal for a veteran means having an experienced player be able to step in when necessary or needed. A quick glance at this past winter's free agents shows that there were several pitchers who took minor league deals.
None of those pitchers have been better than Aaron Harang, who has a 4-3 record and a 2.98 ERA with Atlanta. Before signing a major league deal with the Braves, the Indians picked up Harang for a minors deal, only to release him following spring training.
Other possible insurance policies the Yankees should have looked into include Chris Young, Randy Wolf, Erik Bedard and Chris Capuano, all veteran starters who would have made for nice replacements in this wounded rotation.
They Should Have Upgraded the Infield
Letting Robinson Cano walk in free agency was the right move, considering the money he got from the Seattle Mariners.
The problem was not finding a suitable replacement for the star second baseman or making any significant upgrades to the infield at all.
After eight years in the minors, Yangervis Solarte has emerged out of nowhere, holding down third base for the Bombers. He has been a blessing sent by the baseball gods for sure. However, the infielders the Yankees brought in via free agency have been disappointing. Brian Roberts has one home run and only nine RBI while Kelly Johnson is fighting to stay above the Mendoza Line.
Had there been no one else available, these two would have been smart low-risk, high-reward signings. Of course, better players were available. In fact, better players are still available.
After rejecting a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Boston Red Sox, SS Stephen Drew has yet to find a home. It has been reported that Drew and agent Scott Boras are looking for a multi-year deal worth around $14 million a year. Whatever team signs him would be forced to surrender its highest draft pick, one of the reasons Drew has yet to strike a deal.
Even with a somewhat high asking price and the forfeiture of a pick, the Yankees made a mistake by not bringing Drew aboard. With the way the infield looks now, they may want to reconsider.
Lucky for them, it's not too late.
All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.com.
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