It appears that the Yankees priorities this offseason are to acquire a starting shortstop along with re-signing Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy, Chris Young and maybe David Robertson. They reached a one-year agreement with Young quickly, inking the 31-year-old outfielder to a one-year, $2.5 million dollar deal on Saturday. Although the rhetoric out of the Headley and McCarthy camps was that they enjoyed their time in New York and would like to come back, the business side is dictating that they hold out for the best contract offer. That in itself makes me nervous that their initial plan may not come to fruition, as negotiations with Robinson Cano showed. Once the front office and ownership place a contract valuation on a player, they aren’t likely to exceed that value in negotiations. As nice as it would be to be a part of the front office winter meetings, none of us really know what they’re backup plans are until they miss their initial targets. Here are my thoughts as to where the team will head if they have to resort to alternatives from the initial plan.
The free agent market is thin at third base this year as Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez are clearly the best options in the group, though local media outlets have reported that the team is unlikely to hand out the type of contract that Ramirez and Sandoval will command. The backup plan at the position is most likely already in-house with Martin Prado. Acquired last season at the trade deadline from Arizona, Prado is a solid hitter and defender that would continue to be productive if pressed into service at the hot corner.
This situation is much dicier to me than the Headley contract negotiations. The second half performance by McCarthy saw his stock rise from a shaky starter to a solid second tier free agent. After Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, McCarthy heads the next group of free agent pitchers and it could be argued that he offers the most value of any starter on the market. With Shane Greene establishing himself last season, plus a returning CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, I feel they will only add someone such as Chris Capuano if McCarthy leaves.
There hasn’t been a publicly circulated Plan A to fill this position, so we’ll cover all the bases on this one. The likeliest of scenarios here would be bringing Stephen Drew back as his only cost will be money. Coming off of a season in which he was out of game shape, the results were just brutal. He’s not as bad as the numbers showed, but he’s likely not more than a .250 hitter with 10+ home runs with solid defense. Rumors continue to swirl of the Yankees exploring the trade market for their new shortstop. So far Alexei Ramirez and Elvis Andrus have emerged as possible targets and everyone knows Troy Tulowitzki’s desire to play shortstop in the pinstripes. However, I don’t see a deal happening that involves Aaron Judge, Luis Severino or Greg Bird. In my mind Stephen Drew is the fallback option if they can’t find a reasonable trade for Jeter’s replacement and hopefully it doesn’t come to that.
The best route for the Yankees would be David Robertson accepting the team’s qualifying offer, but that is very unlikely. This situation could get sticky quickly if Detroit and Washington get involved in contract negotiations with Robertson and start a high priced bidding war. This is his one chance on a big payday and he will most likely go to the highest bidding team. If Robertson departs his replacement will come from within the organization as Dellin Betances is the closer in waiting. Betances established himself as an elite late inning force this year for manager Joe Girardi, striking out 135 batters in just 90 innings pitched.
There’s many holes to be filled on the roster this offseason and none of it will be easy. After many years of big free agent contracts turning sour, it appears ownership and the front office are looking to more low-risk contracts. That is a sharp departure from the Yankee way in regards to signing free agents compared to years past. As was the case with the plan to get below the $189 million dollar threshold, a change of course is always possible. However, maybe ownership feels it’s time to re-group without rebuilding and hold tight for a year or two when A-Rod, Sabathia and Teixeira come off the books and give greater financial flexibility. Coincidently, those contracts will be coming off the books around the time that Severino, Judge and Bird should be arriving in the Bronx. No question the team is in an awkward, unfamiliar position, but brighter times are ahead, even if 2013-2015 are painful seasons for us fans. Brian Cashman has quite the challenge in front of him.