With the World Series in the rear view mirror and the 2013 baseball season a long, cold winter away, I wanted to do something that would occupy some time but still satisfy my baseball fix. With that said, I figured I would take a look at some of the issues and questions that will face the Yankees during the 2012-2013 hot stove season.
1. Who will be the right-fielder?
This question is one that could go in a few directions. The Yankees could look to unload some prospects or even a few Major League players and make a splash in order to acquire a quality young outfielder. This allows the Yankees to get younger and better, something that Brian Cashman would love to be able to do. Who that young outfielder could be depends on what the trade market looks like. Will the D-Backs make Justin Upton available again? If so, the Yankees would have to kick the tires. He is coming off a very so-so season (2.5 fWAR, 2.1 bWAR, 108 wRC+) and his contract no longer looks like the bargain it was a few seasons ago when he hit for an .899 OPS and a 130 wRC+ during his age-21 season.
Justin Upton Update: The Diamondbacks are in 'active discussions' about a trade involving Justin Upton. This seems to happen every year, which is why I considered it a possibility in the first place, but this one seems as serious as it was in 2010. One executive placed the chances of Upton returning to Arizona at 20%. Trevor Bauer has also apparently been made available, which could make things pretty interesting. If you're Brian Cashman, do you at least toy with the idea of making a legitimate offer in an attempt to acquire both Bauer and Upton?
Outside of the trade market, the Yankees can look to sign a free agent or even two. If Ichiro returns for his first full season in New York, the Yanks will in all likelihood look to platoon him with a right-handed power bat. Torii Hunter is an option, and now that the Angels have declined to make him a qualifying offer, he becomes a bit more enticing. The other options available at this time are either unrealistic (Josh Hamilton) or are not very good baseball players.
2. Make a phone call to Dan Haren’s agent.
Dan Haren is a free agent and just turned in his first truly bad season. He had an ERA+ of 87 and failed to reach the 200-inning plateau for the first time in a season in which he appeared in more than 14 games. His value has plummeted, and heading into his age-32 season, questions about how effective he will be moving forward are fair. Haren is a west coast boy and may want to stay there, but if he is looking for a 1-year deal in order to reestablish value and hit the free agent market one year later, New York could be a great place to do that (H/T to William, who put together a great piece on Haren).
The Yankees have already made Hiroki Kuroda a qualifying offer that he is expected to accept. That would leave the Yankees with CC Sabathia, Kuroda, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova in the rotation. Haren obviously solidifies that, but first...
3. Talk to Andy Pettitte about his future.
Can Andy truly hang it up after his performance in 2012 (2.87 ERA, 3.48 FIP in 12 starts)? I haven’t heard many rumors surrounding him, but I think it would be hard for a competitor like Pettitte to leave the game knowing that he still has a lot of gas left in the tank. With Pettitte in the rotation, we would have a repeat of last season’s starting five come Opening Day: CC, Kuroda, Andy, Hughes, Nova/Phelps.
4. If the phone call to Haren's agent leads Haren in pinstripes and Pettitte and Kuroda return (lots of ifs, yet still plausible), they will need to make a decision about the futures of Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.
Phil Hughes hits free agency after 2013 and Ivan Nova will return after a meadiocre at best 2012 campaign. If the Yankees rotation looks something along the lines of CC, Haren, Kuroda, Pettitte, Pineda/Hughes/Nova, decisions will need to be made. There won’t be a 7-man rotation.
Hughes and Nova immediately become pretty attractive trade chips in this scenario. Could they be used in a package deal for that potential young outfielder? That might not be a terrible idea, given that Hughes may not be in the long-term plans of the club. Moving Nova would hurt a bit more, as he is one of three Yankees’ starters that the club controls following the ’13 season.
Will the budget allow for CC, Haren, Kuroda, and Pettitte to be in the same rotation, though?
5. Find a dependable, healthy corner infielder to play 3B on A-Rod’s DH days, 1B when Tex needs rest, and DH.
This will probably be Brian Cashman’s most difficult task. With A-Rod making $28M and Mark Teixeira pulling in $22.5M, the Yankees could have to commit $60M+ into corner infielders. A quality guy here won’t be cheap, and there aren’t many quality guys available. The most attractive option may be Kevin Youkilis (Youk and attractive in the same sentence seems wrong, but whatever), but he may be too expensive, especially if the Yankees add Haren into the mix. The Yanks could easily come back to Eric Chavez as well, but 2013 will be his age-35 season and he’s made of glass as it is. Someone more durable is preferable, but may not be realistic.
I figured these five topics could make headlines over the winter, and since I wanted to talk baseball, I wrote this up. What do you all think about the upcoming hot stove season? Could you see any of these scenarios working? Which would you like to see the most or least?
Also, off topic, but I hope everyone stayed safe during Hurricane Sandy.