Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees
For the second time after only the last 19 seasons, the New York Yankees found themselves watching October baseball rather than playing it. The main theme for 2013′s shortcomings was the constant ravaging injuries inhibiting the team from getting where they hope to be by season’s end: the World Series. The loss of many key players also exposed the Yankees’ organization in regards to the lack of top-talent within the farm system. For the longest time, the Yankees have been wheeling-and-dealing to get the quick-fix, big-name player with little regard to foster a farm system as a safety net for whenever the club would have to transition from fading stars to blue-chip prospects.
At this moment, the club is now finally at a crossroads with the likes of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retiring; Derek Jeter could see his time come to an end sooner rather than later at his current declining rate in production and health. Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira, three key players who are already on the decline, are still in the middle of their bloated, lengthy contracts. Assuming that the Yankees still want to get under the $189 million payroll threshold, in order to avoid paying the MLB‘s luxury tax for yet another consecutive year, the previously mentioned contracts will hamper the team to spend elsewhere.
The club has gotten off to a good start this offseason after re-signing manager Joe Girardi to a four-year deal worth $16 million. It was a vital move, but one that many did not expect to not happen.
The following are the remaining amounts of dollars owed to Rodriguez, Sabathia, and Teixeira from the Yankees starting in 2014 (per Spotrac.com): Rodriguez – $86 million through 2017, Sabathia – $96 million through 2017, and Teixeira – $67.5 million through 2016.
The following players are arbitration-eligible for 2014: catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, infielder Jayson Nix, outfielder Brett Gardner, left-hander David Huff, right-handers Shawn Kelley,Ivan Nova,Michael Pineda, and David Robertson.
The following key players are expected to hit the free agency to start the 2014 season: second baseman Robinson Cano, outfielder Curtis Granderson, corner infielders Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds, first baseman Lyle Overbay, designated hitter Travis Hafner, right-handers Joba Chamberlain, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, and left-hander Boone Logan.
With the Yankees missing the production from Russell Martin behind the plate in 2013, Chris Stewart did an admirable job filling in, granted that he is nowhere as talented as Martin with all due respect. Stewart did everything asked of him and he should be commended for that. Francisco Cervelli played in only 17 games due to suffering a fractured a right hand after a fouled pitch from Rajai Davis back in April. Cervelli would also later be exposed for performance-enhancing drug-usage within Biogenesis documents. He eventually accepted his 50-game suspension back in August. While it is considered a luxury to have a catcher of Martin’s caliber, I could see both Stewart and Cervelli returning on one-year deals, and platooning at catcher for 2014 while the Yankees wait on the ongoing developments of Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.
Jayson Nix may find himself back in the Bronx to provide some depth at the shortstop and third base positions with the uncertainty of Derek Jeter’s ability and health, and Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension still looming over him even while he appeals it. Even if Nix returns, the Yankees need to find a legitimate every-day player at one of the positions. If the Yankees were to somehow retain Robinson Cano and his production at second base, the club could try and re-sign infielder Brendan Ryan who is just a wizard with the glove.
Brett Gardner should be a near-lock to return. The outfield will already consist of the declining Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki. With Gardner, the Yankees get a player with a skillset that maintains a very respectable on-base percentage, can be a terror on the basepaths, and plays great defense (has a career 23.0 UZR/150 per Fangraphs).
Curtis Granderson will hit the open-market and initially was not expected to be retained, but the Yankees will lack a lot of power from the position group so bringing him back on a one-year deal could be a reasonable move – given that he played in only 61 games and may want to take another chance in New York to redeem his value by the time he hits the open market for the 2015 season.
Granderson’s at-bat per strikeout ratio has been on the rise since 2008 – after transforming into a dead-pull power-hitter. Per the Chicago Sun-Times, the White Sox are expected to make a “push” for Curtis Granderson.
Ivan Nova should see himself back in New York given that the starting rotation is in flux with Phil Hughes expected to be gone after an abysmal 2013 season, Andy Pettitte retiring, and CC Sabathia’s ineffectiveness becoming a trending theme. Hiroki Kuroda is expected to receive another one-year offer from New York since he is reliable arm to hit 200-innings by seasons’ end. and given his age (he will be 39 on 2014 Opening Day) I am sure Kuroda is willing to take everything on a year-by-year basis regarding when he wants to retire.
Michael Pineda, general manager Brian Cashman‘s trade-prize after dealing away Jesus Montero years back, has not been given up on (just yet). If Pineda can catch a lot of luck in regards to his health, he can potentially be a darkhorse candidate to fill the middle of the Yankees’ 2014 starting rotation.
David Robertson should be back to assume the closer role going into 2014, while Boone Logan can potentially emerge as a regular setup-man rather than being just considered the “lefty specialist”. Joba Chamberlain’s career as a Yankee should end. Many consider Chamberlain to be mishandled during his years in the New York that consisted of him bouncing from the bullpen to the rotation and then back to the former.
Mark Reynolds would be an ideal player to retain given his flexibility playing both first and third base – positions that are currently manned by players who are coming off injuries and/or having suspensions looming. In 36 games, Reynolds hit .236/.300/.455 with six home runs and 19 runs batted in so he will add some pop to the lineup.
Last and definitely not the least thing to be discussed about is the Robinson Cano-situation. Cano is a legitimate star in this league. He is considered as the game’s best second baseman considering the power that he brings at such a traditionally power-deprived position. He finished 2013 hitting .314/.383/.516 with 27 home runs and 107 runs batted in.
Cano and his camp are reported as to be asking for a 10-year contract worth at least $300 million. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner immediately shot down the notion of giving him that sort of deal. “I don’t feel this organization is ready to do something like that, ” said Steinbrenner (ESPN Radio). However, Steinbrenner also said that the Yankees will try their best to keep Cano.
Hal Steinbrenner, while cut from the same cloth as his boisterous father George, goes about the family business in a different way. While George was an almost unlimited-spender, Hal believes in budgets and even jokingly admitted that it is what he is best at.
“I’m optimistic and I know that we are going to make him a very, very good offer,” said Steinbrenner. “Is anybody an absolute must-to-sign? No. And that’s nothing against Robby. [It's] just not reasonable to assume that about anybody. We are going to do what we can. We’ve certainly conveyed to Robby we want him back and we want him to be a career Yankee. We’ll just have to see what transpires here.”
I do not expect any team to offer Cano the mega-deal in the one that he is asking for, to start off his open market eligibility. While the Los Angeles Dodgers have become a new empire in the MLB in regards to cutting checks, owner Magic Johnson has said that he does not plan to pursue Cano. “You know that guy [Cano] in New York is going to get paid,” said Johnson. “Probably not by us, but he’s going to get paid. Hey, when you’re a superstar, you get paid” (Anthony McCarron, New York Daily News).
However, just because Johnson has come out publicly to say this does not mean that the Dodgers will not be suitors. These comments never even should have taken place because the MLB wants their free agent players to have a market cater to their players’ values without any sort of tampering. The league actually looked into these comments and the Dodgers at one point since there is a potential chance that Johnson actually influenced how the market will invest in Cano. But Johnson’s comments come after Cano’s expectation of receiving this massive deal, a deal that many, if not all, expect to never come to fruition.
It is hard to speculate whether Cano returns or not but it has to be assumed that the Yankees are the favorite. Cano has played all of his MLB tenure as a professional baseball player for the Yankees. He also is expected to be built around as the team transitions from the core-four era. Despite Cano being an elite player, the Yankees still struggled with attendance in 2013 and did not really take off until Alex Rodriguez returned from injury. While A-Rod is no doubt well-past his prime, he still draws attention and buzz to the ballpark – something that Cano has not done as much despite his ability to swing the stick.
Cano just turned 31 years old this past October. If the Yankees can reach an agreement for six years with the slugger, with potentially an option for another year that becomes activated based on performance. I think if the Yankees can meet Cano and his reps at that sort of deal, that would be a big win for the Yankees. The longer that Cano remains on the open market, the likely his value should go down – at least one would figure.
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