Well, the Hot Stove has officially been lit for the New York Yankees as the long 2012-13 Major League Baseball off-season commences. The first moves should not surprise anyone.
The Yankees have chosen to exercise the options for the 2013 season for RHP David Aardsma, 2B Robinson Cano and CF Curtis Granderson.— Mark Feinsand (@BloggingBombers) October 29, 2012
There was some thought that the Yankees might decline Granderson's option since he struggled in the second half of 2012 and the option had increased from $13 million to $15 million following his fourth-place MVP finish in 2011. However, 40-homer players do not grow on trees, even if they do strike out a frustrating amount of times and hit .100 in the playoffs. Granderson's still a great mistake hitter, and nobody in baseball has hit more dingers than Granderson since the start of 2011. It is actually not even close--his 84 blasts beat Miguel Cabrera by 10. Still, Grandy has some significant work to do in the off-season, as he he fell from an All-Star-caliber .248/.352/.502 in the first half of 2012 to a disappointing .212/.278/.480 in the second half. He walked 50 times in the first half, but he expanded his strike zone too much in the second half and walked just 25 times. The strikeout totals were about the same in each half (99 and 96), so he was making the same amount of contact, just rolling over on bad pitches and making easy outs.
There's still a possibility that the Yankees could deal Granderson sometime in the off-season since it will likely be difficult for them to re-sign both him and Cano after 2013 when they each hit free agency. The farm system is rather dry on position player talent outside of the wrecking crew that spent most of the year with High-A Tampa (Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott). The top pitching prospects will either be injured for the vast majority of 2013 (Manny Banuelos), coming off bad injuries that could impact 2013 (Jose Campos), or Dellin Betances (demoted to AA for ineffectiveness and remained poor). It's not pretty, and a trade involving Granderson could help out, especially if the team is still trying to stay at a $189 million payroll for 2014. It will be hard to replace his bat in the lineup, but that's what free agency and the trade market are for. My guess is that Granderson stays because I honestly do not remember the last time the Yankees moved a player nearing free agency for prospects. It will be a story to monitor in the off-season for sure though.
Cano's option was also for $15 million. It is the last year of that four-year $30 million team-rule-breaking extension he signed prior to 2008, which has been an absolute steal. Picking up the last year was a no-brainer, and the team would do well to try to get Cano to sign an extension again before he hits the open market. That being said, his agent is Scott Boras, so it is highly unlikely that Cano will agree to that. His horrid .075 postseason aside, Cano is the best second baseman in the game and before the narrative train goes crazy, know that he has excelled in the playoffs before (see 2010-11: .333/.367/.737 with six homers and three doubles in 14 games). He is the one homegrown player produced post-1996 who is at the prestigious level set by the early-90s farm system. I know that offensive success from All-Star second basemen in their thirties has not been great, but if the Yankees don't invest money in a player like Cano, I don't know who they would invest it in otherwise.
According to Cot's Contracts, Aardsma's 2013 option is "based on 2012 performance," and since he barely pitched this year and made $500,000 in the process, it will probably be around that value. It's negligible in Yankee-land. Aardsma was signed with 2013 in mind anyway, like when Jon Lieber was signed in 2003 with the 2004 season in mind. Lieber made that move pay with a solid season in '04, and Aardsma will look to do the same. He will be 31 in 2013, so it is not as though there is not much left in the tank. He saved 69 games for the Seattle Mariners from 2009-10 and struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings with a 2.90 ERA. If he can return to that form, it will be a boon for the bullpen, which will have some question marks considering Rafael Soriano's likely departure in a player opt-out clause and Mariano Rivera's potential comeback from major injury among others.