Yeah, I think I’m ready for the offseason to be over with. This no baseball thing kinda stinks. Unfortunately, pitchers and catchers still don’t report for three months…
1. I was looking through some transactions logs yesterday when I noticed that since the CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira spending spree in December 2009, the Yankees have signed just four free agents to multi-year contracts. Mariano Rivera (two years) and Derek Jeter (three years) are two of ‘em and they were never really threats to sign elsewhere. The other two went to Pedro Feliciano (two years) and, on ownership’s orders, Rafael Soriano (three years). Furthermore, the Yankees have only signed five free agents to deals worth $10M+ regardless of contract length during that time. Mo ($30M), Jeter ($51M), and Soriano ($35M) got three of them while the other two went to Andy Pettitte ($11.75M prior to 2010) and Hiroki Kuroda ($10M). They did re-sign Sabathia, but he was never actually a free agent and they didn’t have to get in a bidding war to retain him. Four multi-year deals and five eight-figure deals for free agents in the last three years, that’s it*.
* Obviously they went after Cliff Lee during the 2010-2011 offseason, but there really haven’t been many other free agents who fit their needs in recent years. Matt Holliday, Yoenis Cespedes (no MLB track record), and Yu Darvish (no MLB track record) are the only ones that really stand out as players who fit what the Yankees needed at the time.
2. I still have no idea what the Yankees will do behind the plate if Russell Martin signs elsewhere. Yesterday we heard that they are in on Mike Napoli, but again that strikes as me driving up the price for the Red Sox more than actually pursuing him. The free agent catcher market is a wasteland outside of Martin and A.J. Pierzynski, and I hope the Yankees don’t sign the latter for numerous reasons. Soon-to-be 36-year-old catchers with over 13,000 career innings behind the plate who are coming off career years offensively (118 wRC+) are a very safe bet to perform worse the next year. Plus he’s a jerk. The trade market has little to offer as well, which is why I think they’ll make a strong push to re-sign Martin. I just can’t see the Yankees opening the season with a catching tandem featuring two of Chris Stewart, Austin Romine, Frankie Cervelli, and Eli Whiteside.
3. The Yankees have taken two relievers (one right-handed and one left-handed) in each of the last two Rule 5 Drafts, but I wonder if they’ll grab an outfielder this time around. Not necessarily someone who they’ll just hand the right field job, but someone to compete in Spring Training. It doesn’t even have to be a kid, remember they took the veteran Josh Phelps to be the backup first baseman/platoon DH back in 2007. Taking a Rule 5 outfielder wouldn’t stop them from signing an established big leaguer at some point either, it would just given them extra depth in case things don’t break right with Plans A through like, E. It wouldn’t be an ideal way to replace Nick Swisher, but it would be interesting. Rule 5 Draft success stories are very rare these days, especially on the position player side.
4. I’ve been thinking about the Yankees’ renewed focus on makeup and character lately and there’s a chance I’ll write a longer post on it at some point this offseason, but I do wonder if they overdo it a bit. Not necessarily at the big league level, but when it comes to amateur players. They clearly valued Cito Culver’s makeup in 2010 and Dante Bichette Jr.’s in 2011, but those two have done little as professionals. Meanwhile, the club’s three best prospects according to Baseball America (Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Gary Sanchez) all have had some kind of makeup concern in the recent past. Given the new draft restrictions, I feel that the Yankees have to focus on talent and put makeup on the back-burner with their top picks. They’re not just drafting for themselves, they’re drafting for other teams (by virtue of trading prospects) as well. If you can get a talented kid with strong makeup, great, but talent should never take a backseat to makeup though, not in my opinion. The Yankees figure to have some extra first round draft picks next year and I’m curious to see how they handle them given Culver’s and DBJ’s disappointing career so far.