Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees

The Yankees' offseason is all about their search for starting pitching, though they'll look to add bench help and a second left-handed reliever as well.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Contract Options

  • C.C. Sabathia, SP: can opt out of four years and $92MM remaining on current deal (Type A) 
  • Nick Swisher, OF: $10.25MM club option with a $1MM buyout (Type A) 
  • Robinson Cano, 2B: $14MM club option with a $2MM buyout (Type A) 
  • Rafael Soriano, RP: $11MM player option or a $1.5MM buyout (Type A)

Free Agents

The success of the Yankees' offseason hinges on Brian Cashman's ability to build a strong rotation. Low-risk signings such as Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon helped the Yankees reach the postseason again in 2011, but Cashman will pursue bigger names this offseason. His starting point? A 97-win team that was among the best in baseball at scoring and preventing runs.

Before the offseason starts in earnest, Cashman himself must sign a new contract. Once the sides sign the deal — it could happen within the week — Cashman will continue addressing the Yankees' needs.

C.C. Sabathia will be a top target for the Yankees and it makes sense for them to pursue free agents C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish along with the best starters on the trade market. The Yankees are rarely outbid for a player they truly want, so their chances of retaining Sabathia seem good (Sabathia's former teammate, Cliff Lee, is the exception to prove the rule).

Retaining Sabathia will require an extended commitment in terms of years and dollars and the Yankees have some concerns about the left-hander's weight, but his numbers are tremendous. He has averaged more than 230 innings since joining the Bronx Bombers three seasons ago, with a 3.18 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in that stretch. FanGraphs' version of wins above replacement suggests Sabathia has been baseball's fourth-best pitcher since signing his current contract. He's going to get paid and if the Yankees want him, they must be prepared to spend, even if they're wary of having too many aging stars on the team a few years from now.

Darvish is an intriguing possibility because the Yankees need starting pitching and they have the resources to outbid the 29 other clubs. The last time the Yankees invested in a Japanese pitcher it didn't work out, but Kei Igawa's failure should push the Yankees to better understand the transition across the Pacific, not to shy away from Japanese pitchers with significantly greater upside than Igawa. If the Yankees are still negotiating with Sabathia when bids for Darvish are due, they'll have to place their bid at a time of great uncertainty.

Wilson, who posted a 2.94 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 223 1/3 regular season innings for the Rangers before struggling in the playoffs, remains an appealing free agent option. He will cost a top draft pick and may not be a proven ace at the level of Sabathia and Lee, but Wilson stands out as one of the top options available. Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda are among the free agent alternatives to Wilson, but Jackson has been inconsistent and Kuroda appears to prefer Los Angeles to other possible destinations.

Presently, the Yankees' rotation consists of Ivan Nova and A.J. Burnett. They may also count on Phil Hughes, but he will need to stay healthy and return to his 2010 form, manager Joe Girardi said. Otherwise, they'll need multiple starters this offseason, assuming they're not ready to turn starting roles over to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos just yet. They could bring Garcia back to fill out the rotation, but another deal for Colon seems unlikely after he faded in the second half. Garcia, the Yankees' lone ranked free agent, could obtain an offer of arbitration if the Yankees are prepared to offer him a roster spot in 2012. Even if the Yankees aren't interested in bringing Garcia back, they could set up a handshake agreement and obtain the extra pick.

The Yankees could pursue John Danks, Ricky Nolasco, Wandy Rodriguez and others if they become available on the trade market. In the unlikely event that Seattle takes offers for Felix Hernandez, the Yankees will call.

If the Yankees turn to the trade market for pitching, Jesus Montero's name figures to come up constantly. Cashman has held onto Montero for this long and the powerful backstop is now ready for the Major Leagues, so a trade seems unlikely. However, the Yankees have a wealth of catching depth behind Russell Martin and could consider parting with Austin Romine or Francisco Cervelli.

Longtime backstop Jorge Posada probably won't return after 22 years and five World Series titles with the Yankees organization. Montero will collect some of Posada's plate appearances at designated hitter and Girardi will rotate established players such as Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter into the DH role when they need rest. Red Sox fans probably don't have to lose too much sleep over the possibility of David Ortiz coming back to haunt them in pinstripes.

The rest of the Yankees' lineup is essentially set for 2012, assuming they exercise Nick Swisher's option. There's no question that Robinson Cano's option will be exercised. The Yankees broke their own rules to extend Cano four offseasons ago, so they could consider another extension with the Scott Boras client. Curtis Granderson, who is also under team control through 2013, would be an extension candidate on most teams, but the Yankees will likely abide by team policy and wait until he hits the open market to start negotiating.

The rest of Cashman's offseason will consist of finding a second left-hander for the bullpen and finalizing the bench. Andruw Jones could return as a fourth outfielder and right-handed bench bat. Eric Chavez also appears to be a fit for a bench job, if he decides against retirement.

The Yankees won 97 games without a dominant rotation, so they know as well as any team that it can be done. But if Cashman's offseason goes according to plan, his top acquisitions won't be working under minor league contracts or battling for jobs in Spring Training. They'll be established pitchers who seem capable of leading the Yankees to their 17th playoff appearance in the last 18 years.

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10 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees"

3 years 10 months ago

all these coments are very interesting. but lets face reality, and there are those who either love or hate the yankees I for one love them for 46 years now and they will always be in the lead for at least  achance at a title next year the yankees will upgrade pitching improve bench get ayoung star (Montero) in line up eat your heart outs yankee haters this is reality!

3 years 9 months ago

There are a lot of people on here with terrible grammar and very little baseball knowledge. First we should probably start with what the Yankees should do. It’s very simple go hard after Prince he is 27 and willing to be a DH, he has no injury history and if you look at what Granderson did with the RF porch just imagine what Prince could do (we could finally wipe Bond’ name off the record books). Then we would trade Montero to Seattle and finally go after Felix like we should have been doing every season. If you look at Felix’ game log he has literally taken away wins from the Yanks by himself the past three years. Doing these two things would make us both younger and better. However neither will happen cause people are just not that smart and we will most likely sign yet another 30 year old disaster. So in reality the only smart thing to do this offseason is to do nothing at all much like last winter. Maybe go after Darvish only because he is a younger Japanese pitcher unlike most others have been. There isn’t room at all to make any moves offensively (which is what this free agent class is full of) so there is really no point. However next offseason is a different story, there are YOUNG players both in pitching and hitting. I think in a lot of ways Cain is alomst as good as lincecum and we’re all about to see that because this is his contract year. Kemp would make an amazing asset in center so if the Dodgers are dumb enough to let him test the market we would be just as foolish to let him go. Granderson isn’t even the best centerfielder on the Yanks so I seriously doubt if he wants to come back he’d have a problem playing right next year. 

Well thats my take 

3 years 9 months ago

Ooops!  You have to add “slugging pct.” to your OPB, which yields OPS.  Then you got it all, except who’s doing the clutch hitting.  Toronto’s Jose Bautista led the majors in OPS.  Our team must get him.  It is an obscenity that Bautista is not in pinstripes. 

3 years 9 months ago

Agreed.  Some of Sean’s wished for position players are not even all-stars.  And that just won’t do.

With regard to Sean’s apparent lack of grammatical skills, I wouldn’t worry about it. Why? Because in Major League Baseball, money talks and grammar walks. I shouldn’t have to say that to a professional-level baseball commentator, such as yourself.

3 years 9 months ago

Hi, Chinaman

My guess is that Pacos_Drifter spends a lot more of his time in the Best Little Wh—house in Texas, rather than down at the football game.

3 years 9 months ago

Agreed.  It’s a crying shame because we had a lot going this year.

Often, for instance, top of the inning pitches right down Broadway were called balls.  Bottom of the inning, our good Yankees pitchers were given called strikes on pitches that were half a foot off the outer edge of the strike zone. 

Unfortunately, the umpiring was scrupulously fair during the postseason.  This contrast, of course, penalized our Yankees more than any other team.  Selig is to blame, because he is afraid of the umpires’ union. 

3 years 9 months ago

God will get you for that unfortunate comment.

3 years 9 months ago

Agreed.  Only trouble is that Cash can’t buy luck which often comes into play in these short series.  However, I don’t blame Cash or the Steinbrenner boys; I blame George, himself.

George was always the visionary.  He knew “luck” tended to even out over the long 162-game season.  But to reiterate, you can’t buy luck.  So what George should have done after he passed–to overcome any possibility of Yankee bad luck–was to sell his soul to Old Nick in order to raise sufficient capital to bribe God. 

If you’ve already done this George, it’s not working.

3 years 9 months ago

Reyes makes some excellent sense if you’ve got the extra money to spend , but Montero isn’t ready to catch every day and Russell Martin played extremely well for the Yankees.

If you want to add Reyes, you probably have to figure on subtracting someone other than Martin, probably one of the corner outfielders, to keep Montero’s bat.

(and you still need another starter, Banuelos isn’t quite ready and Hughes shouldn’t be counted on to start for the full season.)

nick tarantola
3 years 9 months ago

I don’t understand the idea that Montero isn’t ready to catch in the big leagues. I mean he’s been in the organization for five years, the bombers have Girardi, Pena, Jorge, and Martin schooling this kid, yet he can’t catch in the big leagues? I’m not arguing your point that he’s not ready, but if he really isn’t ready then someone in the organization needs to be held accountable. Also, I don’t see the problem with rotating Montero and Martin at catcher in the beginning of the season and also rotating A Rod, Jeter, and Montero at DH as well. God knows, Jeter and A Rod will need their fair share of breaks throughout the season (especially a rod).