For the second straight year, the Yankees failed to make the post-season. The team has multiple holes on the roster, injury questions, production questions and an opening for Vice President of Baseball Operations. Follow along as I lay out what I would if I were in charge and then take the opportunity to leave your thoughts as to what you would do in the comments section.
Addressing the job vacated by Mark Newman should be the first priority. The biggest thing that I would be looking for is someone with a proven track record of talent development and someone like Gary LaRocque of the Cardinals come to mind. A new philosophy needs to be taught and executed from the top all the way to the bottom. Every coach, instructor and player needs to be on the same page. This is one of the few areas left that the Yankees can spend freely and they should use that to their advantage to bring in the best development people.
After two seasons of disappointing base running and hitting, it’s time to make changes to the coaching staff. While it's difficult for us to determine good coaching candidates due to the behind-the-scenes complexities of their jobs, there are certainly ideas. It’s time to replace third base coach Rob Thomson with former Yankee Willie Randolph. Time has run out for Kevin Long as well; his message just didn't seem to be resonating with the players any longer. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is a highly thought of in-house solution, bringing a fresh perspective to Yankee hitters. At first base, I would bring in minor league coach and former Yankee Luis Sojo to replace the fired Mick Kelleher.
The first order of business on the infield should be re-signing third baseman Chase Headley. With Mark Teixeira's injury history, Headley’s ability to play first or third would give Joe Girardi roster flexibility at the infield corners. With Derek Jeter's retirement, there's a hole at shortstop and a thin free agent and trade market with which to fill it. Free agency could potentially offer an intriguing duo of Korean slugger Jung Ho Kang and possibly Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. Kang and Moncada would be pure financial impacts, which wouldn’t require surrendering their 2015 first round draft pick, though their international numbers are tough to translate to MLB's lofty caliber of play. The trade market would be cost prohibitive to acquire a player such as Starlin Castro or Troy Tulowitzki as the team rebuilds the farm system. Second base is covered with Martin Prado under contract and Rob Refsnyder knocking at the door. The utility infielders should be locked up as well, with Brendan Ryan returning and hopefully Jose Pirela making the team out of spring training. At catcher, the team is set with Brian McCann under a multi-year contract and one of Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine ready to be the back-up. One of the three will most likely get dealt this off-season though.
With Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury all signed to multi-year deals, the starting outfield is covered going into the season. There are multiple avenues in which to fill the fourth outfielder spot, whether it be filled via a minor trade, free agent signing or filled from within by someone such as Ramon Flores or Tyler Austin.
Alex Rodriguez returns from serving his PED suspension and I fully expect to see him get the bulk of the time at DH. Otherwise, it will be a rotating carousel of players manning the position.
Unfortunately, the starting rotation is filled with question marks heading into spring training. Masahiro Tanaka will return as the ace of the staff, though concerns over his UCL will continue to linger. Upon returning from the disabled list due to a right shoulder strain, Michael Pineda was nothing short of dominant the rest of the season pitching to a 2.71 FIP and a miserly .83 BB/9. Concern with his shoulder will carry on into next season as well; because he has only pitched more than 150 innings one time back in 2011. After missing most of 2012, CC Sabathia and his deteriorating knee will return to the rotation, albeit with no idea how he will perform out on the mound. Shane Greene returns as the only pitcher without health concerns of any kind, and he has earned himself a rotation spot for next season. With one remaining spot open, it would be wise to offer Brandon McCarthy a three or four-year deal in the $36-$48 million dollar range. Ivan Nova’s expected to return in June, and both David Phelps and Bryan Mitchell will provide ample options in case the inevitable injury occurs.
This continues to be strength for the team with Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Phelps and Shawn Kelley all returning this upcoming season. With offense at a premium around the game, re-signing David Robertson is a good idea at possibly four years and $52 million dollars. Assuming Robertson comes back, that would leave two remaining bullpen spots. This is where lefty Tyler Webb should become the LOOGY replacement of Matt Thornton, while Jacob Lindgren could become a lockdown late-inning option.
There’s a lot to be accomplished this offseason and these are the changes that I would make. I look forward to reading how you the reader would approach things if you were the general manager.