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Offseason In Review: New York Yankees

The Yankees restructured their rotation with trades, free agent signings and an extension this past offseason.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Even before November began, longtime Yankees GM Brian Cashman addressed his biggest offseason concern, signing Sabathia to a five-year extension hours before the pitcher was expected to opt out of his remaining four years and $92MM.  It's really a six-year, $142MM extension, with protection for the Yankees if the big lefty has a significant shoulder injury in 2016.  The guaranteed portion of Sabathia's new deal is a record average annual value for a pitcher, but I still think he would have found a bigger overall guarantee on the open market, and therefore, the Yankees signed him at a discount.

Cashman neared a deal to re-sign Garcia in late November.  After posting a 3.62 ERA in 146 2/3 innings, Garcia may have had better offers than one year and $4MM, but he preferred to stay.  At the time, he wasn't aware how far he'd be pushed down the team's rotation depth chart.  Even with Sabathia and Garcia in the fold, the Yankees still hadn't matched their 2011 rotation, as Bartolo Colon was a free agent at the time.  The team's starting five projected to round out with Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes.  The Yankees' rotation still didn't seem much improved, but Cashman changed that drastically with a pair of moves on a late January day.

The Yankees first made a bold trade, acquiring Pineda and Campos from the Mariners for Montero and Noesi.  The Pineda-Montero component represented the type of old-fashioned need-for-need swap of young MLB-ready players we rarely see.  If Pineda stays relatively healthy and settles in toward the front end of the Yankees' rotation for the next five years, Montero will have to become an elite designated hitter to match that value.  Campos has more upside than Noesi, so it seems Cashman convinced Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik that Seattle needed to even out the deal.

On the same day, the Yankees secured Kuroda to a one-year free agent deal at a lower salary than he'd been earning with the Dodgers.  Kuroda had a consistently excellent four-year run with the Dodgers, though at age 37, there's plenty of uncertainty as he takes on the American League for the first time.  In trading for Pineda and waiting for a deal with Kuroda, Cashman chose to pass on $80MM+ commitments to available starters such as Yu Darvish and C.J. Wilson.

With a sudden overload of fifth starter candidates, Cashman set out to unload as much of Burnett's $33MM as possible.  The Pirates were willing to take on $13MM of the bill.  After the deal, the Yanks still had a formidable fifth starter battle between Hughes and Garcia.  Cashman, however, could not resist the allure of further boosting his depth with an essentially risk-free $2.5MM minor league deal with the unretired Pettitte.  Pettitte's return after sitting out all of 2011 is a double-edged sword: he has rust to shake off, but the 39-year-old is surely well-rested.  With seven starters for five spots, there's always the chance someone will be unhappy.  But I wouldn't trade Garcia or Hughes now because of Pettitte; the team will need all seven starters to get through the season.

On the position player side, the Yankees entered the offseason with everything locked down aside from designated hitter and bench roles.  Jones and Chavez were retained affordably for the latter, while Ibanez gets a shot at the DH job.  The minimal commitment to Ibanez will give Cashman the flexibility to seek a midseason upgrade if necessary.  Cashman's best minor move may have been the dirt-cheap Aardsma signing.  The hard-throwing righty can be retained for just above the league minimum in 2013, and could provide a second-half boost in 2012 after he recovers from Tommy John surgery.  After dislocating his ankle on a trampoline during Spring Training, Joba Chamberlain seems unlikely to provide an expected second half bullpen bonus.

Perhaps we shouldn't go overboard crediting Cashman for Sabathia and Pettitte -- most GMs would make those moves given the opportunity.  But Cashman did show restraint against dangerous free agent contracts, instead swinging an old-fashioned baseball trade for Pineda.  With a revamped rotation and a returning strong offense, the Yankees are a World Series favorite for many.

Please note that this post was originally written at the end of Spring Training along with the rest of MLBTR’s Offseason in Review series.  The post was written before it became clear that Michael Pineda’s dealing with shoulder issues.

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