Oct
30

Thoughts prior to the start of free agency

By

(Elsa/Getty)

We’re still a few days away from the beginning of true free agency, in which players can actually sign with new teams, but that’s kind of a pointless date anyway. Baseball isn’t the NFL or NBA or NHL, when the best players typically sign on the first day of free agency. We’ll have to wait a few weeks before the hot stove really picks up. Until then, here are some scattered thoughts on the upcoming offseason…

1. I’ve mentioned a few times already that I’d like to see the Yankees acquire a few more contact-oriented hitters this offseason, but I feel like I should explain why. It has to do with Alex Rodriguez‘s continued decline and Mark Teixeira‘s continued devolution, which have robbed the Yankees of two all-around hitters. One or two low-average, high-power players is perfectly fine, but five or six is pushing it. Adding a player (or two, preferably) capable of hitting for a high average to balance things out seems like a pretty good idea. I’m not a fan of going in extreme opposite direction and getting an all-contact/no-power guy, so in a perfect world they’d find a Johnny Damon-type who can hit for average/make contact and drive the ball out of the park. Those guys are few and far between though, which is why Johnny is a borderline Hall of Famer.

2. It’s going to be very important for the Yankees to have a strong bench next year, specifically a good utility infielder. Alex Rodriguez is going to miss several weeks with an injury at some point, that’s a given these days, plus Derek Jeter will be coming off his ankle surgery and might not be able to step back into the field full-time right away. Having someone (better than Eduardo Nunez) capable of stepping in and playing the left side of the infield for a few weeks at a time seems imperative. Jayson Nix did a fine job in 2012, but I doubt he’s that guy. The Yankees always have trouble signing bench players, so a trade may be the only way to go.

3. The construction of the bench is going to depend quite a bit on right field. If the Yankees bring in another left-handed hitter for that spot, they’ll absolutely need a right-handed hitting outfielder on the bench. Adding a right-handed (or switch) hitter creates some flexibility though. The fourth outfielder could be lefty or righty, ditto the backup infielder. Heck, if the fourth outfielder is the lefty bat off the bench and Eric Chavez retires, maybe bringing Casey McGehee back to serve as the backup corner infielder makes sense. It won’t be easy to do much better in free agency, and he could step in at first or third and play everyday no problem in case of injury. McGehee will be non-tendered (or traded before the non-tender deadline) in all likelihood, but there is a scenario in which the Yankees could keep him.

4. Don’t underestimate the minor league contract market. Even if the Yankees bring back Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte, there will still be concern over Michael Pineda‘s injury and Ivan Nova‘s brutal second half. Bringing in a starter or two as minor league free agents and stashing them in Triple-A for a few months — the new Collective Bargaining Agreement implemented a uniform June 1st opt-out date, remember — makes sense. Same goes for the bullpen, the extra depth to bring the gap between big league bullpen and MLB-readiness of Chase Whitley and Mark Montgomery will be a nice thing to have. There’s no such thing as too much pitching, you know that.

  • steve (different one)

    Re: #4, plus it will give us all something to flip out about when they sign a mediocre retread to pitch in AAA.

  • 0 for infinity and beyond

    I keep looking at MLBTradeRumors.com’s list of free agents and non-tender canidates and no one looks that appealling and I don’t see to many trader chips the Yankees have. This could be a long and cold hot stove season for the Yankees.

    • Murderers’ Row Boat

      Oh come on, you know Josh Hamilton will be a Yankee.

      • 0 for infinity and beyond

        Yeah that makes me feel so much better!! :)

        • Alex

          Yea and while we are at it we are going to complete the trifecta of craziness and sign BJ Upton AND Zach Greinke!!!!! (It’s still sarcasm month right?!)

    • Robinson Tilapia (Safe and sound)

      If we know anything, it’s that the best acquisitions are those which none of us could predict.

      • 0 for infinity and beyond

        I know but it’s still fun to look

  • Russ

    Should be a very interesting offseason. Cashman will have to be as shrewd as ever in addressing needs with an eye on the budget.

  • jon

    Hey Mike,
    Can you offer some suggestions with you comments? I like to know what you would do to address issues 1-4 mentioned above

    Thanks!

    • Steve

      I’d prefer he not, to be honest. Nothing against Mike, but I remember John Danks being a Cy Young candidate around these parts last year because Mike said he liked him.

  • Joe M

    I’m skeptical of the notation that the Yankees have trouble signing bench players. I think Yankee fans expect the Yankees to sign other teams’ starters as their backups, but that is not a realistic scenario. Being able to sign players like Chavez, Jones and Ibanez show that the Yankees are more than capable of signing an adequate bench.

  • Rev Max

    The minority position in the Yankee world is not to go overboard. This is the right offseason strategy. Let the high minor talent take care of the utility roles and bullpen,musing either Mo or Soriano; Build a lineup as if Arod were the full time DH, and find the premier SS/3B/1B righty; go all in in, trade or FA, on all around OF who is manageable thru 2014 (Melky being prototype). Trust the signed starters will improve and get Kuroda and Andy back. Age didn’t hurt the Yanks this year, contact injuries and lack of balance did….

    • dalelama

      No choking did.

  • http://riveravenueblues Brian T

    Should the yankees just retool the whole team? Get rid of everyone except jeter and let him show the new guys the yankee way

    • Slugger27

      nobody wants the guys the yankees would want to get rid of.

  • Eddard

    1. YES! Contact hitters are the way to go. You saw Gardner, Ichiro and Nunez have the best ABs in the Detroit series. You saw the Giants and Marco Scutaro win a WS with a contact oriented offense. The Detroit defense is one of the worst in baseball. Put the ball in play and good things generally happen.

    2. Right. Nuney can play everyday but Jeter won’t be able to so they’ll need a utility guy to play for Jeter and occasionally spell Nuney. Scutaro is a FA.

    3. I think Ichiro will be our starting RF next season, thus they’ll need a RHB off the bench that can play in RF against lefties. It won’t be Andruw.

    4. Re-sign Andy, re-sign Hiroki and go with CC, Andy, Hiroki, Hughes, Phelps. Don’t rely on Pineda coming back.

    • CP

      The Detroit defense is one of the worst in baseball. Put the ball in play and good things generally happen.

      Of course, the Yankees also have to play the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays in order to get to the playoffs, and all three of those teams are above average defensively. In particular, the Rays are consistently one of the best defensive teams in baseball. I don’t see much benefit in building a team on the hopes that you play a bad defensive team in the playoffs (St Louis was the only other below average defensive team to make the playoffs).

      • Francesa

        The Blue Jays ranked 9th, Orioles 10th and Tampa Bay ranked last in fielding percentage in the AL in 2012. BTW, Detroit ranked 7th and NY ranked 3rd. You could look it up…or maybe watch the games.

        • Steve (different one)

          Fielding percentage is fairly useless

          • TomH

            And the other indicators are rotten with subjectivity passing as its opposite.

        • Brian S.

          LOL Fielding Percentage.

    • Mister D

      We were 10th in the majors (7th in the AL) in SO%. Not sure its a huge problem for this team.

  • Greg

    Blow the budget. Sign Hamilton and Greineke.

    • 0 for infinity and beyond

      Hank Steinbrenner, is that you?

    • Francesa

      But are you the REAL Greg?

      • MannyGeee

        Artificial Gregs take notice….

  • The DonSlaught

    Ethier is on the market – could be a nice Swish replacement. Maybe get Hairston back.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      Ethier? Good god no. The Yankees have no need for another platoon guy. Plus he’s bad on defense, he’s very slow and he has one of the worst contracts in all of baseball.

      • 0 for infinity and beyond

        He’ll fit right in then! :)

      • 0 for infinity and beyond

        He’d fit right in then! :)

    • Slugger27

      ethier would be a curious decision for the yankees. giving up prospects in exchange for a player worse than swisher, who costs more money. if they did that rather than sign swisher, pay him less, and give up nobody… then id certainly want an explanation.

  • Ted Nelson

    1. Maybe every team should take that advice: try to find borderline HOFers… but why stop at borderline? Pujols and Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey are also great contact hitters with some power.

    Production is production. I would need a lot more of an argument to agree adding more contact hitters without power is a good idea… though you seem to say they should be contact hitters with power… so I’m not sure what you’re saying. Find good hitters?

    And what position do you want these guys at? Hitting Cs are rare. Are you looking for a RF or DH with no power? Ichiro is a legit possibility.

    2. Every team has trouble signing good bench players, because they tend to find starting jobs. Finding someone “better than” Nunez or Nix is going to be difficult, and for any one season probably require luck as much as skill (even good UTL tend to be volatile year-to-year). Nunez can hit and play SS… I know you hate the guy, but he’s still young and has plenty of potential. Nix has defensive versatility and can kind of hit. Perhaps Adams and/or CoJo steps up… maybe they get a marginal improvement on Nix… otherwise what you’re talking about is signing or trading for a starter to play on the bench.

    3. They should find someone better than Nunez and Nix, but they should consider keeping McGehee? He hits about as well as those two, but plays on the corners…

    4. Definitely. They’ve done a good job with MiLB deals and veteran minimum guys recently. (Of course, it is easier to sign these guys when you’re the Yankees.)

  • Robinson Tilapia (Safe and sound)

    I do think a better utility guy would serve this team well, although having both Nix and Chavez around served this team well this season. Two guys who can cover both the corner and middle infield spots will be important.

    Yes, I think a “balanced” solution to RF is a good one, which is why I think the Ichiro idea being floated around just is not a good one (it’s actually one of many reasons so.) It’s also why the best solution, if the price was right, might still be Nick Swisher, and why I’m not opposed to seeing what a year of a 40 HR/high K at a good salary would bring in return.

    Agreed on the MiLB market. It’s where the players that will get you through when the dominoes begin to fall will come from.

  • Neil

    If we’re making A-Rod the DH, how about Nunez for full-time 3B ?

    RF Ichiro
    SS Jeter
    1B Tex
    2B Cano
    DH A-Rod
    CF Granderson
    -C Martin
    LF Gardner
    3B Nunez

    Big change from the power lineup. Speed game is nice tho.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      2 problems I see right away with this:

      1) Jeter should bat in front of Ichiro to keep away from as many double plays as possible (Jeter 1, Ichiro 2)

      2) playing Nunez at 3B hurts your defense. Keep ARod there. If you want Nunez to play, use him at DH. You still get his speed, but eliminate the defensive negatives when he DH’s.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        You want the guy with the broken ankle to hit in front of the guy that damn near makes a living by slapping grounders?

    • jjyank

      Nah, I don’t think that happens (at least in 2013). If Nunez is the full time 3B, they’ll need to bring someone in to play short. And as for A-Rod being the full time DH, that takes the spot away to give guys like Jeter and Granderson a DH day every once in awhile.

    • MannyGeee

      We keep assuming A-Rod as the full time DH, as if A-Rod has a problem fielding.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        He had a big split between DH and 3B in his hitting. Do those splits get larger or smaller as players age and deteriorate?

    • Alex

      It doesn’t make sense to put someone who struggles defensively at the hot corner. At least up the middle there is more reaction time off the bat but sometimes at third base you rely on pure reaction and skill. The one positive of A-Rod right now is that he can still play a good 3rd base and that doesn’t break down much with playing time. If we are going to survive this obsurd contract we need to mild Alex for all he has and we would do more with playing him more at 3rd base and taking his defense than we would puting him as a full time DH (not that we would really enjoy doing either).

  • tbord

    It’s the starting pitching that will make or break the Yankees next year. There are a whole lot of question marks right now. THAT IS BULLET ITEM @1 not the hitting!

    • jjyank

      I don’t disagree, but I think we tend to focus on it because the pitching has easier solutions. Pettitte and Kuroda coming back fixes that problem for a lot of people.

  • JLC 776

    Pitching will be very interesting next year.

    I’m assuming (hoping) that CC is his normal self and can be counted on for 200 innings.

    I’m bullish on Hughes and think he’ll be a solid number 3 in the rotation.

    Nova is a flip of a coin. I’m hoping that last year was the sophomore slump a lot of starters run into and that he rebounds to be a productive arm for us. At the very least he’ll eat some innings.

    Pettitte and Kuroda – sign them both and hope one of them catches lightning in a bottle again. I doubt they’ll both be as productive as last year, but I’m confident one of them will be. Hell, just to keep the workload down, I’d be fine with them pitching on extra rest only or only at home.

    I’d love to see Phelps continue as a starter. Likely a back of the rotation kind of guy, but every team needs one and a good #5 is important.

    Even with Pineda potentially returning next year, I’d like to see one more low-risk/high-reward signing for the rotation. Cashman has been fantastic at finding junk-sale pitchers that have caught fire in the Bronx. Maybe he can find one more for 2013.

    • Ted Nelson

      If a player produces at a certain level every year, I don’t think you can call it catching lightning in a bottle. Miguel Cabrera doesn’t catch lightning in a bottle every season, he’s just good. Same goes for Kuroda and Pettitte. When were Kuroda or Pettitte ineffective starters? They both gave the 2012 Yankees exactly what they gave in their last season… in fact Pettitte was a bit disappointing, if anything, due to a freak injury.

      • JLC 776

        Probably a poor choice of phrase, but I do believe Kuroda and Pettitte greatly exceeded expectations. Kuroda’s age and move from the NL West were expected to mitigate his decent numbers in LA. And Pettitte – age and a year off? Wasn’t expecting much at all.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          I wonder if that injury actually protected his arm…

  • http://rab.com Mike Cutler

    Yo Mike You need to get over ur hatred of Eduardo Nunez its the same thing you do with Nova u pick them apart as compared to other guys all u do is mention their good points. Brother I hate to be the one to say it but ur a racist against Spanish players, I’ve noticed since I started reading your blogs. Eduardo Nunez could be a 300/25/90 guy for sure with maybe 45 stolen bases. Defense is iffy but will improve. Sorry his name isn’t Mitch Michaels lol.

    • Steve (different one)

      Wow.

    • Nobody in Particular

      Seriously? Nobody is going to come to Mike’s defense? Hey Mike Cutler, go fuck yourself. You are everything wrong with the world. Mike criticized two players who happen to be of a certain extraction and you label him a racist? You’re the same piece of shit that cries racism at every slight, real or imagined. And for every person who reads this blog and is afraid to defend the editors for fear of being called racist as well, shame on you.

  • http://rab.com Mike Cutler

    The Yankees are one or two bad moves from being the worst team in the AL East next year.If they sign Nick Swisher ill never watch another game. He’s by far the most overrrated player we have ever had. I mean Bobby Avery got the boot how do u rationalize signing swisher, cus he smiles a lot? Fuck u give me BJ Upton..

    • Dude

      Wow.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I think we should trade for Kendry Morales to be our DH/Backup right fielder, resign Ichiro, sign Kuroda and Pettitte to 1yr deals, and sign Madson or Soria to an incentive laden 1yr deal. Sign Jeff Keppinger or Stephen Drew to a 1yr deal as well. A really interesting wild card if we went for it would be Michael Bourn. Brett Gardner could then be the 4th outfielder which then you could use him still in about 100 games bouncing around from left to center.

    • Mike

      Right handed hitting OF/bench How about Johnny Gomes

  • Mike

    Right handed OF ?????! Johnny Gomes

  • Alex

    Angel Pagan and Granderson to right.. that is all.