After signing Brian McCann from the Atlanta Braves, Jacoby Ellsbury from the Boston Red Sox, Carlos Beltran from the St. Louis Cardinals, Kelly Johnson from the Tampa Bay Rays, and re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and Brendan Ryan to one and two year contracts, respectively, the Yankees still need to acquire a few more players.
As of right now – since Robinson Cano is currently a member of the Seattle Mariners after taking their $240M contract offer, which was $80M more than the Yankees had on the table – this is their projected starting lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury – CF – Career batting average (.297) Excellent defensive outfielder known for his speed who hit 32 homers in 2011.
Derek Jeter – SS – (.312) He is a future Hall of Famer.
Carlos Beltran – RF – (.283) Is a possible future Hall of Famer.
Mark Teixeira – 1B – (.278) Has hit over 30 or more homers eight times.
Brian McCann – C – (.277) Has hit 20 or more homers in each of the last six seasons.
Alfonso Soriano – DH/OF – (.272) 10 seasons of 10 or more steals. 13 seasons of 20 or more homers.
Kelly Johnson – 2B – (.253) 32 homers combined in last two seasons. Six seasons of 16 or more homers.
Brett Gardner – LF – (.268) 96 steals combined between 2010 and 2011. Excellent defensive outfielder.
TBD – 3B – Eduardo Nunez would probably be the choice based on the current roster.
The A-Rod suspension announcement should come next month.
Even though they will miss Cano’s offense and defense at second base, the money that they saved allowed them to upgrade their overall lineup. McCann will be much better behind the plate than the combination of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine from last year. The outfield combination of Ellsbury and Beltran will be much more successful than last season, when the Yankees started Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki, who are both over the hill, for much of the season.
Kelly Johnson is not nearly the player that Cano is, but he will be able to hit for some power, which could be increased by playing in Yankee Stadium. Another benefit to Johnson is that he has also played left and third base in his career, so he could be a back-up at third base as well.
The Yankees don’t have a starting caliber third basemen right now, in addition to needing another reliable relief pitcher who can handle the ninth if David Robertson struggles and another starter to go with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda.
They have an excess of outfielders right now with Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano. They could offer Ichiro, who still has some value since he has speed and is a solid defender, and Brett Gardner to see if they could get a solid starter in return. If they could get Jeff Samardzija (not currently a free agent), who had a 4.34 ERA and 214 strikeouts that would make sense.
The Yankees have been interested in Masahiro Tanaka since the beginning of the offseason, but the latest news is that his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, may consider not posting him. Scouts have said that he could be better than the last great Japanese import, Yu Darvish. Even though a lot of money would be coming off the books if A-Rod gets his expected suspension, it would be risky to wait too long for Tanaka.
Update: The Rakuten Golden Eagles will in fact honor Tanaka’s wish to be posted to the MLB. The new posting system between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball is one that will limit the maximum bid to $20 million, which is much different than in the past. The Japanese team will miss out on millions of dollars in posting money, but Tanaka will now be a virtual free agent, which is good news for the Yankees. He should be their number one pitching target right now.
Some other options besides Samardzija that the Yankees should target include Matt Garza, Jair Jurrjens, Paul Maholm and Ervin Santana. Garza has 25 wins and a 3.62 ERA over his last three seasons.
Another important player that the Yankees should obviously target during the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, FL, is Omar Infante. He played exclusively at second base last season, when he hit 10 homers to go along with a .318 average, but has a lot of experience starting at third base in his career. He played 139 innings at third base in 2010 and 228 innings in 2008. He has stolen 10 or more bases twice, hit a career high 16 homers in 2004 and has been much more durable the last four seasons.
Possible free agent relief pitchers who would make sense include Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Fernando Rodney. Rodney, who has a tendency to celebrate too much, recorded 37 saves and a 3.38 ERA last season for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Acquiring Omar Infante to play third base would definitely help make the lineup complete. Infante only made seven errors combined in all of his innings at third based in 2008 and 2010. Infante, who is 31, has also played third more sparingly in other seasons in his career. Since the Yankees already have many established power hitters in their lineup, they will mainly want their third baseman to be reliable defensively and hit for average.