MLB Trade Rumors has the Elias Rankings for the upcoming offseason, which can be found here. That got me to thinking about the offseason, what the Yankees might need, and who might be available to fill those needs. The following are what I personally would like to see the Yankees go after in the offseason, in order of importance:
1. Starting Pitcher
2. Left-Handed Reliever
3. Designated Hitter
That is all I can see the Yanks really needing at this stage of the game. #1 is obvious: The Yanks pitching in the postseason did not come through for them, and they therefore exited early. The 2nd was something I read Cashman had talked about, and I think it makes sense to have another guy in there with Boone Logan to take care of left handed batters with Damaso Marte gone till the 2011 All Star Break.
And lastly there's the DH. Joe G tried to get by in the DH spot with Nick Johnson, Marcus Thames, Lance Berkman, and rotated some everyday guys to give them a sort of break. Obviously, with Posada getting old, and Jeter getting old, etc. the DH will again see some use as a sort of half-day for the guys, but I think the Yankees should at least take a look at getting a real designated hitter to enhance the lineup. So after the jump I will look at the 2010-2011 offseason free agents available that might fill this need.
Type A Free Agents - AL
1. Vladimir Guerrero - 2010 stats .300/.345/.810 22 HR 84 RBI, 2.3 oWAR - Vlad is a mutual option FA, so its not guaranteed he'll even see the open market, but he had a great year in 2010 for the AL Champion Texas Rangers with RISP (.320/.356/.848 vs Thames .214/.266/.658 Berkman .278/.422/.876) and against lefties (.338/.395/.932 in 151 ABs vs Thames .300/.352/.806 in 130 ABs Berkman in .171/.261/.517 in 82 AB w/HOU & NYY), but of course he is known for his, shall we say, free swinging nature (35 BBs vs 60 Ks in 2010). Coming off an All Star year in his first season as a Ranger, its unclear if Texas will pick up his option. However, if Vlad decides not to pick up his option, he would be an intriguing option for the Yankees, as the bat is certainly there, but the Yankee Way in recent years calls for a much more patient eye. According to LSB, Vlad could accept arbitration from the Rangers, where he would likely fetch between $8-10 million. Would the Yankees be willing to part with that kind of money for the slugger?
2. Paul Konerko - 2010 stats .312/.393/.977 39 HR 111 RBI, 5.4 oWAR - Konerko had one of his best seasons since 2006 this year for a Chicago White Sox team that finished 6 games out in the AL Central, and has a decision to make this offseason. He could cash in big this offseason for a team looking for a big bat to help them over the hump, or he could remain with the ChiSox, a team he's basically spent his entire career with. At 34, a move to DH seems like a logical next step. He, too, outperformed the Yanks' options both with RISP (.323/.411/.962) and against lefties (.339/.441/1.102 in 121 ABs). With those kind of numbers, Konerko could be one of the hotly sought after bats for a team in need of offense, one with slightly different colored Sox. That alone could draw the Yankees to the table. And if the Yankees lose out on a different highly coveted need. But if Vlad is going to command at least $8 million, you have to believe Konerko will at least command $12-15 million.
3. Magglio Ordonez - 2010 stats .303/.378/.852 12 HR 59 RBI, 2.2 oWAR in 84 games - Magglio had a season-ending ankle injury that shortened what looked to be a solid campaign for the Detroit Tigers outfielder. The Tigers have already declined to pick up his option, but his age (36), combined with coming off the injury makes picking him up as a Type A free agent seem like a poor choice for any team. Most likely he'll be Tiger again in 2011.
4. Manny Ramirez - 2010 stats .298/.409/.870 9 HR 42 RBI, 2.0 oWAR in 90 games - Manny is probably never going to be a Yankee, but the slugger is available. However, everyone that has a sports site is reporting that Manny wants to be a Blue Jay, so we will just leave it at that.
Type B Free Agents - AL
1. David Ortiz - 2010 stats .270/.370/.899 32 HR 102 RBI, 3.3 oWAR - I don't know what's funnier, imagining David Ortiz in pinstripes or Papi's desire for the Sox to not exercise his $12.5 million option and instead offer him a contract with more security.
2. Johnny Damon - 2010 stats .271/.355/.756 8 HR 51 RBI, 1.7 oWAR - The Tigers informed Johnny that they were going to look for a prototypical DH and Damon has since come out saying he is open to coming back to the Yankees. I say thanks but no thanks. The whole point of this exercise was to go through and find the best options for, as the Tigers so eloquently put it, go after that Adam Dunn-like DH (paraphrasing).
3. Hideki Matsui - 2010 stats .274/.361/.820 21 HR 84 RBI, 2.0 WAR - I don't know if Godzilla still wants to play some outfield, but its clear that his knees will no longer allow him to do that. He was, of course, World Series MVP for the Yankees in 2009 but last year was a bad start and his numbers against lefties dipped (.236/.270/.692 in 140 ABs) and a reunion is probably not advisable.
4. Carlos Pena - 2010 stats .196/.325/.732 28 HR 84 RBI, 1.5 oWAR - Pena posts one of his worst seasons at the worst possible time. He still wants to field and will most likely go to a team that needs a 1B desperately enough, but I wanted to be all encompassing.
No Compensation Free Agents Worth Looking At - AL
1. Jim Thome - 2010 stats .283/.412/1.039 25 HR 59 RBI, 3.5 oWAR - The Twins found that Jim still had quite a bat left, even as he gets up near the ripe old age of 40. According to reports, he's leaning toward playing next season, but you obviously can't expect him to sign for more than 1 year. Something to consider for Thome is that he's been to the World Series twice and lost both times when he was with Cleveland. If he was interested in going for a ring, he'll find no team better suited for it. He also could be the 2nd Yankee in as many years to enter the 600 HR club (he's 11 HR away). The likelihood of Thome repeating his performance from this past year, even as a LHB in Yankee Stadium, is pretty low, though, and the Yanks don't need to be looking for a DH again next year if and when Thome decides to hang em up.
Type A Free Agents - NL
1. Adam Dunn - 2010 stats .260/.356/.892 38 HR 103 RBI, 3.9 oWAR - One of the guys teams were throwing themselves at when the trade deadline came along, the Nationals probably made a huge mistake in not signing him sooner and not trading him pre-deadline. Now, they'll have to try convince him to stay or settle for the first round pick(s) they will get for him in return. Personally, it seems like Dunn wants to play the field a little while longer rather than be a DH, and the Yankees already have a 1B.
2. Derrek Lee - 2010 stats .260/.347/.774 19 HR 80 RBI, 0.6 oWAR - The fact that he was made a Type A will likely keep him in Atlanta. If it does not, the Yankees would be better served looking at anyone else on this list before this Lee, who carries the lowest oWAR of anyone in this listing. No thanks.
Type B Free Agents - NL
1. Aubrey Huff - 2010 stats .290/.385/.891 26 HR 86 RBI, 4.4 oWAR - Huff had a big year for the new champion Giants, second only to Konerko on this list in terms of offensive output, but Huff did his damage in a pitcher's ballpark, especially for left handed hitters. He hit well against lefties (.296/.378/.884 in 162 AB) and with RISP (.290/.417/.885) and knows the AL East well, having played 8 years of his career with Tampa and Baltimore. He also could be the cheaper option: He made just $3 million this season as the Giants 1B and some time outfielder.
No Compensation Free Agents Worth Looking At - NL
1. Pat Burrell - 2010 stats .252/.348/.817 20 HR 64 RBI, 1.9 oWAR - He, too, was a part of the offense for the Giants World Championship team, but his bat went quiet for most of the postseason, and was underwhelming the Rays enough for them to release him early on.
Overall, while it seems unlikely the Yanks would work too hard on this part of the equation during the offseason (they did lead the league in offense, after all), I believe any of the following would be worth pursuing this offseason as an everyday DH:
1. Aubrey Huff
2. Jim Thome
3. Paul Konerko
4. Vladimir Guerrero
In that order, based on ability with the stick and cost.
Just to give you guys insight on my thought process on who to discuss, I went with guys who were up there in terms of age or years played (32, 34, 40 in the case of Thome) or who have previously played at the DH position. Also, MLB Trade Rumors also provided a nifty section in a prediction of the Elias rankings that lumped 1B with OF and "DH" candidates in the NL.
But now, its up to you. Let's say that Cashman decides he wants to get a bat, a big bat, and you're the scout he's counting on. Who would you choose?