It's been an active week for Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees.
On the same day the Yankees lost their All-Star second baseman to Seattle, they turned around and signed outfielder Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million contract, just days after giving a seven-year deal to Jacoby Ellsbury.
It's hard to be surprised at this point. The Yankees have made it clear that they intend to spend and now that they aren't committing $25 million plus to Robinson Cano, they're likely to spend even more on other areas.
While the infield and pitching staff remain question marks heading into the Winter Meetings, the Yankees have themselves quite a logjam in the outfield. They now have Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells all under Major League contracts for the 2014 season. That's six outfielders vying for roster spots and playing time. The Yankees front office has some options as to how they want to play this going through the winter and into spring training. I see five possibilities as to how this can be handled.
Option 1: Keep them all
Hey, all teams would love to have six outfielders, right? Happens all the time! In all seriousness, this is almost certainly the least likely option. Three outfielders are going to start and one will likely be a DH, and that still leaves two without definitive roles.
I am truly sorry to break this to all you die-hard Vernon Wells fans out there. I know there are plenty of you, but here it is: He serves no purpose on this team. None. He had no purpose towards the end of 2013 when Ichiro was the everyday right fielder, and he certainly won't have a purpose now that the Yankees have added two more outfielders to the mix. They're not paying him anything either, so I'd be really surprised if he's not cut the moment these deals become official.
The only chance the Yankees even consider keeping all six would be if they discuss moving Soriano back to second base, but anybody who watched him play the position ten years ago knows that this cannot, and will not happen. So with that in mind, that brings us to...
Option 2: Cut Vernon Wells, keep the rest
Certainly more likely than the last one. Under this scenario, Gardner-Ellsbury-Beltran will likely be the starting outfield with Soriano serving as the DH. Ichiro would remain on the team as an immensely overpaid pinch-runner/late inning defensive replacement.
Option 3: Cut Vernon Wells, trade Ichiro Suzuki
Early indications are that this has a chance of happening. There are teams that might be willing to take Ichiro with only one year left on his deal, and it would clear the Yankees of the two outfielders that just last week were projected Opening Day starters. There were some reports that the Yankees are already trying to shop Ichiro, but they might have to eat a good portion of his salary to get a deal done. If they go this route, then they'll have Gardner-Ellsbury-Beltran in the outfield and Soriano as the DH.
Option 4: Cut Vernon Wells, trade Brett Gardner
When you add two very capable outfielders in a week, it can make some guys expendable. That's just how it works. With the logjam in the outfield, Brett Gardner could hit the trading block if the Yankees want to move him to upgrade in other areas. Up to this point, the Yankees have said they don't intend to trade Gardner, but that could change at any moment. Other teams have reportedly been calling the Yankees about him, so he could absolutely be moved in the right deal. If they do trade Gardner, it likely will be in some package for infield or starting pitching help. Soriano-Ellsbury-Beltran would start in the outfield.
Option 5: Other
You can't predict baseball, right? The four options above are the first that come to mind given the current state of the team. Beltran and Ellsbury just signed, and Soriano has a no-trade clause. You would figure those three guys are safe, but again I've learned not to be surprised by anything. I seriously doubt they'll go after more free agent outfielders, but Shin-Soo Choo is still available!
So that's really where they stand at this point. I fully expect Vernon Wells to be gone either by DFA or just a trade (if some team is willing to pick up Chris Stewart, then anyone is tradable). So unless something crazy happens that nobody sees coming, it could simply be a question of whether Gardner or Ichiro gets traded. As the Yankees head into the Winter Meetings, we'll soon see how this all goes down.