After an underwhelming season, with multiple glaring holes and weaknesses, the Yankees enter this off season with a lot of decisions to make. The Yankees have a lot of money coming off the books while there is potential self-imposed, though significant, budget, that may or may not be in play, depending on the day and what the anonymous source du jour has to say. With the free agency period growing nearer, fans and journalists ponder potential acquisitions that can help bring the Yankees back to glory. In that regard a number of names have been bandied about so far. This brings about the question, who should the Yankees sign or avoid signing?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not simple. Aside from possible budget constraints, one of the most important issues the Yankees need to consider is whether they are trying hardest to win for next season or the long term future. (As much as they may want to, they cannot try equally hard to do both, because something has to give.) While the answer to the question must take the budget into consideration, if applicable, it also goes to the upcoming draft. Specifically, aside from trying to re-sign players like Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda, there a number of options that the Yankees are likely to consider, such as Brian McCann, Shin Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Ulbado Jimenez, et al. Notably, many of these players, especially the ones named, are likely to receive a qualifying offer from their teams. Accordingly, the Yankees would have to forfeit their 1st pick of the draft in 2014 to sign guys like the ones aforementioned. Significantly, because of the Yankees less than stellar season, for the first time since the Yankees mistakenly drafted (or poorly developed, depending on who you ask or would like to blame) CJ Henry, the Yankees have a draft pick in the teens (18). As such, the win now versus win long term question is more on the forefront than in recent years. Proof of the sames lies in the fact that, unlike some past seasons, there is no slam dunk "top" signing. Every high end expected free agent is either on the wrong end of their primes, or has produced mixed results and therefore is not trustworthy. So what do the Yankees do?
Fortunately, not everyone who could be of significant help to the Yankees will cost them the top pick. It would seem that there is a consensus that the top free agent to be had by the Yankees is Masahiro Tanaka. While he will cost a nice chunk of change, only a portion of it will be applied to the luxury tax. If he turns out to be a true #3 or better and the salary range is near what is purported, this is a must sign since, with or without Kuroda, there are a lot of question marks in the rotation. Yoon Suk-Min is another pitcher who could be had via the Korean league and would not cost a draft pick. However, unlike Tanaka, there is no real consensus about what this guy can do. Prior to 2012, he was considered better than Hyun-Jin Ryu. Considering the season that Ryu had (though one season does not make for a great career), the Yankees would be ecstatic if Yoon could more or less replicate that. Yet, injuries and a less than sturdy build make this more of a spec signing that only makes sense for spec dollars. Since Jose Abreu and Alexander Guerrero are now off the market, the only Cuban player who currently seems to be generating buzz is Odrisamer Despaigne, but there seems to be no confidence that this guy is a legitimate major league player. Accordingly, only Tanaka is a must sign.
Returning to the available major league players, the real concern is with the guys who would cost the Yankees a draft pick, since those are the same guys that will also significantly affect the budget as well. As mentioned, one of those option is McCann. On the plus side, based on age alone, he should have a few years left on his prime. On the negative side, not only could he cost the Yankees a pick, but he would likely cost them something approachiing $15 million a year for multiple years. Further, as a catcher, he plays the position where the Yankees purportedly have their strongest prospect and who might be as close as two years away. However, with Mark Teixeira a free agent after, 2016, should Sanchez be the eventual Yankees catcher, McCann could move to first, negating the need to replace Teixeira, at least positionally speaking. Yet, there is still the issue of the draft pick lost. What simplify matters is if the Braves, due to the fact that they have their OF set (though not by last year's performance), a solid first baseman and a solid catcher in Evan Gattis, the Braves may not be willing to risk giving a QO to McCann. Unfortunately, I would expect that they would make the QO to McCann because they will likely anticipate him rejecting the same in favor of a long term deal elsewhere. As such, signing McCann or any other QO player makes clear sense if the Yankees go on a more significant spending frenzy for multiple QO players which brings about the other free agent QO options.
Also mentioned earlier were Beltran, Jimenez and Choo. Realistically, the Yankees have only two starting OFers right now -- Alfonso Soriano and Brett Gardner. (ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells have no business starting and I would expect that Wells will be cut prior to the season to make room on the roster.) The Yankees are then left with the option of retaining Curtis Granderson or signing Beltran or Choo. From a hitting standpoint, either of the latter two choices would seem to help the Yankees more than Granderson but by how much? Granderson is historically a healthy player who was befallen in 2013 by external factors. His average has been waning but he has been guy who has killed the ball with the Yankees. Beltran is better all around hitter with similar power, while he defense, like Granderson's, is not what it used to be. However, Beltran does tend to get hurt more often. Beltran is also in his late 30s. Choo is not the power hitter either of these guys are but he runs well, plays solid defense and is great at getting on base. He probably is the best overall option of the three though with Hunter Pence's new and absurd deal, Choo is now likely to be quite a bit more expensive than either of said guys. Choo would still be a great addition, but at 31, is he worth losing a pick? It would seem almost certain that the Reds will give him a QO so losing a pick is likely. Then there is Ulbado Jimenez. In his first three seasons in Colorado, he pitched like a top of the rotation type starter, especially in year 3. However, he was a bust for basically the two and a half years after that, only to all of sudden pitch like a Cy Young caliber pitcher for the latter half of last year. This begs the question, has Ulbado Jimenez rediscovered greatness or was the latter half just an aberration? If the latter half was the result of a change in mechanics, as suggested, and that performance something that can be expected to be repeated, he could be the most worthwhile addition in the off season for the Yankees. At 30 years old, he could have a number of great years ahead. Then again, can you trust that he will not return to the 2.5 years of poor pitching that plagued him?
In some instances, the Yankees can make their lives easier with cheaper alternatives that are less likely to cost them their top pick in the draft and also give them more money to spend on other players. At 29 years old and coming off a solid season in which he only made $4.5 million, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, could be a nice alternative to Brian McCann. While he is not quite as good as McCann, he is a solid catcher with pop and a significant upgrade over the Yankees alternatives. Further, he would likely cost less and no draft pick. If the Yankees sign Tanaka, they really only have to acquire one more starter. In that regard, Kuroda's price would likely be similar to Jimenez'. If so, then signing Jimenez over Kuroda only makes sense if the Yankees believe his second half was no fluke. Otherwise, the older but solid Kuroda would be a better option as the Yankees wait one more year to replace him. As stated, the Yankees probably want someone like Choo or Beltran more than Granderson but the Yankees could do worse than retaining Granderson. Clearly, there seem to be options without giving up the pick so should the Yankees sign guys who would cost them the pick?
The answer is still not really clear. The Yankees try to win every year, and as a fan, I like that. However, I really want to see them grow talent. If done right, the first round picks, even if not in the top 10 can make a lot of difference, though some later picks can too. Look at the Cardinals. It would seem to me if the Yankees are willing to lose their 1st round pick, then they should go for Choo, Jimenez, and McCann. Make the lost pick worth it. But then again, I would really like to see a nice pick made by them.
What do you think? Who is worth giving up the first round pick for? Anyone?