If there's one thing you can say about the Yankees right now, it's that they mean business. Hal Steinbrenner said a few days ago that the signing of Brian McCann was only the beginning, and tonight they signed the now-former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year contract worth $153 million. There will be an option for an eighth year that could bring the total to $169 million.
So the Yankees have made the two biggest splashes of the offseason, and the Winter Meetings haven't even started yet. The team still has holes to fill, however, and if their aggressive action thus far is any indication, they still have a lot of work to do.
Here's a general idea of where the team stands as of right now, as far as position players and starting pitchers.
C: Brian McCann
1B: Mark Teixeira
3B: Alex Rodriguez (pending appeal)
SS: Derek Jeter
OF: Brett Gardner
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
OF: Alfonso Soriano
SP: CC Sabathia
SP: Ivan Nova
Going off of that, the Yankees still need a second baseman, they might very well need a third baseman for at least part of the season, and they still have made no moves for starting pitchers. So there could very well be two or three more major acquisitions in the coming weeks as the Yankees try to build a world series contender in 2014.
So what's next? I'll start at the obvious one, which is what this could mean for Robinson Cano. All reports thus far indicate that Cano is still in play for the Yankees, but it's clear the Yankees aren't waiting around for him. Even if they have abandoned Plan 189, the Yankees still don't have an unlimited budget nor do they have unlimited roster space, so Cano is going to have to make a decision at some point. Although after giving Ellsbury a seven-year deal, it will be hard for them to justify not giving eight or even nine years to Cano when it's said and done. If Cano does not re-sign, then Omar Infante could be a free agent option for the Yankees at second base.
Then there's the matter of starting pitching, which the Yankees have yet to touch so far. It seems as if they're still going hard after Masahiro Tanaka if and when he gets posted, and I don't believe that the Ellsbury signing will have any effect on that. Starting pitching is a huge need for this team, and the Yankees have shown that they intend to spend this offseason, even if it affects their payroll. That being said, they'll probably be willing to spend even more if they know it does not affect their payroll, and the posting fee for the rights to talk to Tanaka will not.
They've made an offer to Hiroki Kuroda, though he's not expected to make a decision any time soon. I figure the offer to him will stand. Hypothetically, if they manage to land both Kuroda and Tanaka then they'll probably just let Michael Pineda and David Phelps fight for the fifth rotation spot in spring training.
The Yankees still don't have a true designated hitter, but they might not really need one either. Jeter is going to need DH time, as will A-Rod whenever he is eligible to play. Another option could be to let Soriano get most of his at bats as the DH and let Gardner-Ellsbury-Ichiro be the starting outfield. That would give the Yankees arguably the fastest outfield in baseball. It would also involve giving Ichiro regular at bats, but that might have been happened regardless of who they signed.
Vernon Wells is almost certainly gone. So there's that.
As for third base, it's difficult to determine what the Yankees will do since there is still a huge question as to whether or not they will need a third baseman and for how long. Right now it's A-Rod, and that's about all we know at the moment. If he gets 100 games or fewer, I think that they'd wait him out during the season and not make finding a replacement a high priority.
The Yankees also have the leeway to make trades, and the Ellsbury signing could mean that they'd at least consider some kind of deal down the road. Gardner would be the obvious candidate, as he has the most trade value and plays a similar game to Ellsbury. The Yankees said they have no intention of trading Gardner, but anything can happen here.
As of right now, that's about where the Yankees stand. With the decision on A-Rod and the possible posting of Tanaka both not coming until after the New Year, their top priority going into the Winter Meetings will likely be Robinson Cano. The Yankees do have an ability to make trades as well, and that could shake everything up, but right now I would expect their primary focus to be on second base and filling out the starting rotation. Jacoby Ellsbury probably means that they're out of the running for the rest of the free agent outfielders, but they certainly aren't done spending money.
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