Team Status Quo…
While perusing the NJ.com website, I came across a feature on the Yankees page that cited free agents the Yankees should sign. It is interesting that, at this point, the Yankees have not signed a major league free agent this off-season. There were free agents that I wish they had signed, but they chose not to. I realize the need to drop some heavy contracts before taking on more, but with a couple of contracts due to expire this fall, it would be beneficial to improve certain areas of the team.
Next season, Greg Bird will be the starting first baseman. This season, he is most likely headed to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a few more AAA at-bats. It doesn’t really make sense to have Bird on the major league roster to play sporadically. So, I agree the Yankees should take a gander at the bargain bin to see what’s left.
Here are the major league free agents that NJ.com cited:
- Cliff Lee
- Pedro Alvarez
- Doug Fister
- Tim Lincecum
- Greg Holland
- Alex Rios
- Bobby Parnell
- Mike Minor
My simple thoughts:
No, I’d rather pass. Yes, he could potentially help a starting rotation if healthy, but this is a player that has rejected New York several times in the past. I would prefer if the Yankees are the ones to push the reject button this time. The Yankees have enough injury concerns in the starting rotation. There is no need to add more kindling to the fire.
Alvarez would not excite me as a starting third baseman, but he does have value as a backup first AND third baseman. Bird is one-dimensional. He only plays first, so the talk is stirring that Starlin Castro will back up Chase Headley at third. Alvarez would keep Castro at second, and allow Bird to get those precious AAA at-bats. He has some pop and would strengthen the bench. So, I’d take Alvarez.
He is a good pitcher, and he’ll help somebody. But for some reason, I am not enthused about him as a Yankee. For a team trying to get younger, I’d prefer to take a chance on a younger pitcher with upside. If the Yankees were in championship mode now, then I’d say take a shot. But they are not ready to play at that level yet, so why spend the money. Pass.
I am intrigued with the thought of Lincecum as the long man out of the pen. At this stage of his career, I think he can be a very effective reliever if used in the right situations and not overly exposed. With Adam Warren in Chicago, there’s a strong need for a good long man and Lincecum can be the man. Take the chance.
Since 2016 is lost due to Tommy John surgery, this is a hedge for the inevitable free agent departure of Aroldis Chapman. I am hopeful that the Yankees can sign Chapman to an extension, but if they get cheap like this off-season, there’s no doubt that Chapman will be pitching elsewhere. The Yankees will have the compensation pick as a result, but that’s pennies on the dollar when you are talking about the best closer in baseball. Signing Holland would provide a top closer if/when Chapman leaves. I’d pass. Nothing against Holland, but the availability of good closers is much better than other positions. No need to pay Holland to recuperate and hopefully return to form. Andrew Miller can be the closer if Chapman departs, and the Yankees can find a replacement for setup work. Pass.
Signing Rios doesn’t excite me. It’s hard to accept when there was a chance to sign either Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes. The Yankees passed on those players, and I’d prefer that they do not reach for a lower shelf talent like Rios. I like Aaron HIcks and if he is pushed into starting duty due to an injury or trade of Brett Gardner, I’d prefer to see Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams get the opportunity to take Hicks’ fourth outfielder role. Pass.
This falls into the same category as Greg Holland. I don’t want a reclamation project. Let him return to health and try to return to form elsewhere. Pass.
This one I like. I know that he’s had his problems and injuries, but he’s still young. I feel that if he is healthy, he could be an effective fifth starter. I’d take the chance.
Odds are the Yankees do not sign any of these guys. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is very fond of his money, and he’d prefer to win just enough to draw the fans. The days of a World Series Championship or bust are over. Time will tell if Steinbrenner is willing to spend money after the bloated contracts expire or if he prefers to field a team of young, controllable players. It will take a mix to make this strategy work. The Yankees’ farm system has improved but it is not capable of producing a high caliber champion without some help.
Heading into spring training, the biggest needs are the backup first/third baseman and potentially another starter for the rotation. I am still hopeful that Ivan Nova can be dealt but the optimism erodes with each passing day. I do not trust CC Sabathia, even with the knee brace. His better days are long gone. It would have been nice if the Yankees could have acquired an ace as I feel Masahiro Tanaka would be better suited to be the #2 starter. But that wasn’t going to happen with the suddenly small market minded Yankees.
I totally get why the Yankees want to get out of the luxury tax penalty box. I don’t blame them, however, it ensures that there will be plenty of disappointments on the field for the next few years. The Yankees couldn’t compete with the Houston Astros in a one game playoff. It actually felt like a loss even before they played. The Yankees have not done anything to improve. They already had a stellar bullpen with Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller. Betances, Miller and Chapman will be a formidable trio, but statistics-wise, there is not much they can do to improve upon last season. Starlin Castro is a better option than a platoon of Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley, but the bullpen lost its long man. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles re-signed slugging first baseman Chris Davis and the Boston Red Sox added an elite starter (David Price) and elite closer (Craig Kimbrel) in moves that did not weaken other areas of their respective teams.
It is possible the Yankees once again over-achieve, but it’s equally likely that the team will take a step back in 2016. I don’t think you’ll see the Yankees appear on any pre-season World Series predictions.
Still, I am hoping for a promising season. Fortunately, pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks. I am ready for the game to return and end of the quietness of the Yankees’ disappointing off-season.