It depends upon what the meaning of the word “big” is

Fan Confidence Poll: December 9th, 2013
Joe Torre unanimously elected to Hall of Fame by Expansion Era committee
Keep spending, Hal. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Keep spending, Hal. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Despite a spending spree to open the off-season, the Yankees’ roster still has plenty of needs. We can expect that they’ll reach out to GMs and agents this week in an attempt to fulfill those needs and make the 2014 roster situation clearer. Nothing is guaranteed, as Brian Cashman will tell you until you’re sick of hearing it. But the Yankees clearly have motivation to make their moves and get a better grasp of where they stand.

A few of the remaining free agents make sense. Omar Infante fits as a second baseman who plays acceptable defense and can hit for about league-average numbers. Masahiro Tanaka could get posted. Even if he doesn’t the Yankees have needs in the rotation and could seek one of the free agent pitchers (about whom it appears teams are less than enthralled). However they choose to pursue additional players, it remains certain that they’re needed for a robust 2014 roster.

They might not fill out the roster with any of the remaining free agents, or at least the household names. Joel Sherman quotes a “key-decision-maker” for the Yanks: “we are certainly done with the big free agents this off-season.” So does that mean the Yankees will prioritize the trade route rather than the remaining free agents?

In a way it makes sense. Even if A-Rod‘s suspension stands, the Yankees are butting up against their $189 million payroll goal.* Letting off the gas at this point might make sense, especially considering that they’ve spent $299 million already this off-season. But on the other hand, why go gung-ho and then not finish the job? The Yankees have helped improve the club this off-season. There seems little sense in beefing up the roster, only to skimp when it comes to the complementary pieces.

*So it appears that they did spend money without regard to A-Rod. Neat.

This could be a bluff, of course. Then again, I’m not sure any team would buy a Yankees bluff at this point. Teams know that they’re going to do what’s necessary, and that could very well mean picking up another free agent. Sherman’s source did say “big free agents,” a term open to wide interpretation. Is Infante a big free agent? Is Grant Balfour? Raul Ibanez? Or are big free agents limited to guys like Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Unbaldo Jimenez? If the latter is the case, sure, the Yanks appear out on those guys.

For two years we’ve heard about Plan 189, and for at least a year we’ve bemoaned moves, or lack of moves, that push the Yankees in that direction at expense of the on-field team. The Yankees restored some faith this off-season by spending some dough to beef up the roster and create a contender for 2014. But they’re not done yet. They’ve pulled no punches to this point. Why not finish the job the way they started it?

Fan Confidence Poll: December 9th, 2013
Joe Torre unanimously elected to Hall of Fame by Expansion Era committee
  • John C

    I’d be estactic if they can get Tanaka and then trade for Homer Bailey in a package headed by Gardner.

  • Eddard

    Jacoby, Beltran, McCann. Isn’t that big enough for you? The biggest FA was Robbie but I’m glad we didn’t sign him after we heard that he wanted to put his brand first rather than the ballclub’s. Wanted to bat 4th instead of 2nd even though that’s what was best for the ballclub all because he wanted to increase his FA value. I would be just fine with them going after smaller team players in FA than a big name that only cares about himself.

    • John C

      Not eonough when they still need to address pitching

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      “Jacoby, Beltran, McCann. Isn’t that big enough for you?”

      No. It isn’t enough to make them relevant in 2014 yet.

      Also, I wouldn’t say that Robbie’s main concern was his “brand” in making his decision. There’s a good chance that has lost some value in his move to Siberia.. I mean Seattle. His salary appears to be more of a concern to him, which is fine. To each his own.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        I would bet you my year’s salary that this roster would be “relevant”. With the 2nd wild card, you don’t need to win 90 games to be “relevant”.

        • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?


  • JJ

    I still think they should focus on trading for Nick Franklin from Seatle. He is expendable with Cano signed and shouldn’t cost too much. Would Seatle go for Gardner? He is definately an upgrade for them, but only for a year. They may even have interest in Ichiro, but obviously in a package as he has little value. May be something like Almonte/Nuno/Burawa (who is most likely gone in the rule 5 anyway)?

    • Bavarian Yankee

      Nick Franklin strikes out a ton and is a well below average defender. He also didn’t hit that much in the majors. Are you sure he’ll be any better than Kelly Johnson? Also it just takes $ to sign Infante or Ellis. If they trade Gardner they should trade him for a SP or 3B, not for a 2B when there are decent short-term options on the FA market. I mean if you really wanna trade for a 2B then trade for Kendrick.

      • Kosmo

        Franklin will be 23 next year. He posted a 2.3 WAR in 100 games in 2013. He has decent power for a middle INF. He would be a fine pickup.

        Ellis is always on crutches. Yanks don´t match up well with the Angels. Infante will cost at least 30 million over 3 years.

        • Bavarian Yankee

          fWAR >>> bWAR ;)

      • RetroRob

        I’ll take Franklin. #1 draft pick, rated as a top-50 prospect, just made the Majors this year at 22-years-old, has some power and a decent eye. I’ll buy the vision and future!

        Problem is he is going to be traded for something better than what the Yankees can provide.

  • BamBamMusings

    With regard to Infante, he’s a ‘Big’ FA from what’s left out there. Though I wonder about Tanaka? Since Tanaka technically is not an outstanding FA currently, he may not be part of the conversation.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      I think you’re overanalyzing this a bit. I see this more as the megadeal kind of players.

      Tanaka may very well wind up being that, but you have to think he’s the exception rather than the rule here.

      • BamBamMusings

        Maybe. I really hope we don’t let Tanaka slip us by. Still miffed that we never made a run at Yu Darvish.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

    I mean… has to be something beyond “if,” at this point. Finishing the job could be the difference between a team that was able to improve, despite losing one of the best players in baseball, and one who’d have the displeasure of spending $250 million plus, yet barely treading water.

    I guess being done with “big free agents” is a matter of semantics. There’s no reason to pursue Choo, of course, unless the grand plan is to just not field a second baseman and have a softball-style floater out there. Garza/Jimenez may get paid as big guys, but they’re decidedly mid-tier kind of guys. Should they take the plunge on Garza? I’d rather they overspend on him early than be panicking later for an extra starter. You don’t wait on Tanaka. You keep some extra money in a box somewhere for him for if it happens.

    I don’t mind them going relatively cheap on bullpen help. I always liked the Veras reunion idea, but that’s the kind of pitcher I hope for….not someone who’s necessarily DRob insurance, but someone who is more Shawn Kelley insurance.

    Trade Gardner? Only if the opportunity to truly upgrade emerges. I like what they’ve got going with the four outfielders right now. That’s a strength you should be looking to keep intact.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Tanaka isn’t technically a free agent :)

      • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

        He might as well be one at this point. It’s going to feel the same way.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          I was actually commenting on your “semantics” argument.

          The Steinbrenners can still go after Tanaka without violating the “no more big free agents” clause.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

            Watch it, peckerhead. I’ll dump more snow on you.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    I’d like to see them in play for Tanaka and Anderson from the A’s. Keep Pineda and the rest of the back-up gang at AAA for the inevitable Nova/Kuroda ineffective crash-and-burn, or if Tanaka/CC can’t find their stuff.

  • LarryM Fl

    My wish maybe different than other Yankee fans but the job is half done. The 2013 team was such a train wreck mostly a factor of injuries. Somewhat healed with the new FA signings. So we need to go forward with a second baseman full time. Acquire another SP is paramount. Bullpen help either setup or closer type to have in our pocket. Reynolds might be a player who can platoon with Johnson at third in Arod’s absence which may border on a year.

    Would I trade Gardner? Yes, if it brought us a pitcher to plug in the rotation better than our internal solutions. Gardner to me is very important. Beltran and Soriano need rest from the field and Ellsbury has to be kept healthy. So a four man rotation can be useful for health and freshness enhancing the play of all parties. Since there are 486 games in the outfield roughly 122 games per player in the rotation. This should keep them healthy and sharp. But Gardner can go if Almonte builds on his taste of the big leagues in ’13.

    My hope is Infante at second. I did not mention Ichiro. 122 games for him in the OF would be fruitless. I hope for his trade and Wells release. I prefer Almonte as indicated above.

    Jeter to third base is another consideration. Less lateral movement is needed and moving in should be OK for him. He catches everything he can reach. Also he still has good hands. This is my Yankee 2014 list of wishes.

    • Kosmo

      I´d also prefer Almonte who can handle the COF positions. BTW has raked in Winterball.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

        I think a fringy young guy like Zoilo should do just fine getting Ichiro’s at-bats.

        • Nick Social


          And I wish there were more talk about moving Jeter to 3rd.

  • mitch

    I have a gut feeling they’ll be involved in a pretty big trade before the off season is over.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      It’s possible. It seems like all of baseball wants to avoid dropping 5/80 on Garza and Jimenez. There’s not a third base option out there on the market. There may an opportunity to re-earn the Cashninja moniker just yet.

      I just hope they maintain their outfield flexibility unless an offer they can’t refuse comes along.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        I have to add a so far* clause to your Garza/Jimenez sentence.

        Despite the flurry of action, today is the first day of winter meetings. I think someone’s paying Garza, at least. Maybe not Jimenez.

        • Preston

          I think most teams view Tanaka as the more desirable acquisition. But only one team can sign him. The market for the other guys will warm up as soon as the Tanaka mess is cleared up.

    • Ey yo

      Agreed. There’s still a “big” domino to fall….

  • Ralph

    My concern here is that the Yanks won’t finish the job. They’ll go halfway again. They needed to either be all in on trying to win or focus on getting under 189 and making moves that will make them better in 2015 and beyond. If Sherman is right and they are now less likely to make a strong run at Tanaka then I feel like the moves to get Ellsbury and especially Beltran were a waste. Tanaka has the potential to have more long term impact on the Yanks then Beltran and he cost us a pick. If they weren’t going to go all the way in 2014 then you ensure you lock up Tanaka, and McCann made sense, but they should’ve held onto the draft picks in that case. So I am hoping they do everything they can to finish what they started.

    • Mike HC

      Agreed. It would be a head scratcher if they didn’t go all out after Tanaka, if available. I could understand passing on Santana, Jiminez and Garza though.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      I don’t understand why we continue to treat a wildcard like Masahiro Tanaka as a given and must. I think that, IF he is posted, some of that wildcard status is now lost, as it will probably come down to the best sales pitch and/or highest offer, but the Yankees can’t wait on this guy. They need to acquire that third starter despite him. Tanaka should be the extra luxury item that re-signing Robbie was supposed to be.

      • Mike

        Some team might blow us out of the water to grab Tanaka. Are we willing to go over the cap to grab Tanaka?

        • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

          I’d absolutely be. I think they’ll be too.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          A) The bid doesn’t count against the cap.
          B) Even if it did, the bids are capped this year.

          • Mike

            Tanaka can negotiate with all top bidders. We can still be blown away like what happened with Cano.

            Would you want to pay crazy money and go over the 189 cap to get Tanaka?

    • Dick M

      All you need to know about the way this organization is run is that the job isn’t finished even after a 300 mill spending spree.

  • Darren

    It’s not a mystery, they need pitching, whether they get it via free agency or a trade. But I could see them standing pat until the ARod situation resolves itself and to see how Pineda shakes out. If they have payroll flexibility due to a lengthy suspension they could potentially take on a big pitching contract mid-season. Although of course now with the second wild card, it makes it less likely. I’d be down with a Halladay contract but he bet he gets at least $10mm (with easy to reach incentives).

    • Mike HC

      Halladay just retired.

      • Darren

        Damn, that’s too bad. Would have loved to have seen him be able to recover and pitch well for another few years. Great career though.

  • TWTR

    They moves they made to this point have been good, unlike last offseason when they were awful.

    They really don’t need another LH bat, especially one that can’t play the OF.

    I really hope they don’t trade Sanchez.

  • mike

    IMO its just a matter of time until Garza joins he Yanks….i think all pitchers/teams are waiting until Tanaka decision happens -and the loser of that auction will cause the dominos to fall.

    I can see Garza 5/$75 to the Yanks….and Im in support of that, especially as it will then free up Phelps to be traded with Gardner, or even Nova for a bigger fish.

    CC, Kuroda, Garza, Nova/Trade, Phelps/Nuno/Pineda/Trade is fine by me…if CC doesn’t pitch well it doesn’t matter who else is on the staff anyway.

    Tanaka is icing on the cake

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      I wouldn’t be jumping for joy at 5/75 on Garza, but I’d do it. I think he could be a mid/back mainstay throughout, at least.

      Absolutely agree on Tanaka being the icing instead of the actual cake.

      Gotta keep Nova right now. That fish better be HUGE if Nova is leaving. Getting him right is huge right now.

    • Mike HC

      My guess is that these pitching contracts are going to be just as inflated as the hitting contracts. The AJ Burnett, John Lackey overpay would now be a bargain for Garza.

    • LarryM Fl

      5/75 sounds steep. I was thinking more like 10/12 million per year. He is unknown against MLB hitters.

      • Mike

        The new posting rules allow for Tanaka to negotiate with various teams. If you want to treat Tanaka like a middle of the rotation pitcher, another team will simply offer him more and grab him.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

        Tanaka’s getting more than 5/75. I agree with the principle, but this is going to be something. Against my better judgement, yes, I think the Yanks should be involved.

  • TopChuckie

    I would sign Infante and Reynolds and the offense is complete.

    Do what you can/must with Ichiro and Wells, but they wouldn’t be on the opening day roster.

    Go cheap on the bullpen.

    Sign one of Tanaka, Jimenez, Garza in that order.

    I saw where the Padres and White Sox were talking about a trade for Headley but they broke down when the White Sox refused to trade Jose Quintana. That stings. Yanks got nothing for Quintana and now he would bring them probably their most coveted trade target over the last 2 years.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

      It sucks that a A-ball cast-offs became something that wasn’t expected, but 99 out of 100 guys in that position will never be heard from again after you release them.

      I can’t beat the Yanks too much over this.

  • Nathan

    The whole $189M ordeal. Makes me shake my head.

    I wonder how much things would have been different the past two offseasons if they hadn’t had that number in the back of their minds.

    Yu Darvish is probably in pinstripes…

    • Mike

      I think we’d probably lost out since Texas blew everyone out of the water with the posting bid.

      The posting bid has nothing to do with the cap.

    • RetroRob

      Glass is half full.

      The Yankees had a plan that was built around shifting guys like Banuelos and Pineda into the rotation, and maybe the hopes of one of Heathcott, Austin or Williams to be more of a “sure thing” in the next year. I suppose that may still happen if 2013 turns out to be a blip, but they can’t count on them.

      So be thankful you’re the fan or an organization that recognized Plan 189 wasn’t going to work and are willing to throw it out pretty rapidly. Most organizations wouldn’t do that.

      • Darren

        Is $189mm definitely out the window? I haven’t seen anything to that effect.

      • Nick Social


        I’d be upset if the team had sat on their hands and nothing this off-season.

        That hasn’t happened.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    The Yankees could have a $300M payroll and pay less in taxes than the $58M they lost on ticket sales, no? Plan 189 is dumb. Saving nickels and dimes while throwing away dollars.

    • Preston

      They paid 29 million in tax this season for a 233 million payroll and that is under the old, more tax friendly CBA. So no, I think that they would be paying a lot more than that in tax if they had a 30 million dollar payroll. Not to mention that they’d be paying it on top of 111 million extra in payroll. 189 might not be best in the cost benefit analysis because winning is more important to the overall value of the team. But it is definitely not dumb. Especially since the savings roll over into subsequent seasons.

      • There’s the Door

        A couple more seasons like last year and they’ll be officially harming the $3.5 billion brand. Put that into the financial calculus and you’ll see how dumb 189 is. It’s a long way down.

  • Chiggie

    I don’t get why they are ever pondering Ibanez. What can he give that they don’t already have? Senior citizen? I mean seriously he’s older than the coaching staff. NO!!

  • Ed

    Not that long ago, the Yankees talked about cutting back on payroll. They signed a few big free agents to fill glaring needs, then declared themselves done. The payroll was lower as it stood, like they wanted. Signing anyone else would ruin that goal. Then they signed Teixiera.

    The only thing making me believe they might really be done with big free agents is that there isn’t anyone left that stands out as an obvious fit.

    • RetroRob

      I agree this is a semantics thing, and also timing. Not sure Infante would could as “big,” and Tanaka is not even a free agent yet. So, yes, more signing coming, and maybe even a big one in Tanaka. Not ruling out Garza either. The market for Garza has not developed, and the Yankees could be sitting back figuring he might be this years Kyle Lohse, meaning less years and less money. They’ve already surrendered their #1 pick, so signing someone like Garza is an easier reach.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

        Only Betty Lizard is truly qualified to tell us who qualifies as “big.”

      • Joey D.

        I’m not sure if your aware but signing Garza will not cost a pick at all since Texas picked him up at the trade deadline last year. So he might cost more just off of that fact alone. He would be a good backup plan, and pretty much the only one if Tanaka fails. I’m not a huge fan but unless Gardner and prospects nets you homer bailey, then what else is out there????

        • RetroRob

          Thanks, and good point on Garza. I did know that, but forgot as I was writing the note.

  • RetroRob

    I think there is little chance the Yankees won’t go over the cap, even if A-Rod is suspended for a full season. They still have lots of positions to fill.

    Based on that, if they’re going to go over the luxury tax threshold, why hold back?

    As Sam Kinson once said, if you’re not going to make it to heaven, why miss by an inch?

  • Tom

    At this point the best thing that could happen is the arbiter rules and MLB suspends AROd for 50-100 games and 189mil is done.

    The Yankees need to be making baseball decisions on value – if they are making deals to get cheaper salaries or risk/reward starters to get under 189mil, what happens a month from now if Arod isn’t out all year?

    They basically have no shot of getting under 189mil unless they spend about 10mil combined between 2nd base (or 3rd) and a starter, and ARod is done for the year.

  • Mickeyd7

    Three more moves for the Yankees sign Free Agent Omar Infante to play 2B, sign a late inning Relief Pitcher, and go all in on Tanaka.