The Yankees decision-makers are meeting in Tampa to talk about money, trade targets and free agent interests. Their key pieces are already in place — and this winter isn’t likely to be as momentus as last winter — but there are significant holes that need to be filled. How would you rank the priorities? Here’s my list.
1. Starting pitcher
More important than left field or designated hitter, the Yankees need a starting pitcher to slot behind CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing to have Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes rounding out the rotation — with guys like Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin and Ian Kennedy adding depth — but going into spring training with Chamberlain and Hughes as the Nos. 3 and 4 would be too risky. Andy Pettitte. Roy Halladay. John Lackey. Whoever it is, they just need a quality starter.
However you look at it — starter in left field, starter in center field bumping Cabrera or Gardner to left, a primary designated hitter — the Yankees need someone who can play the outfield. Austin Jackson is almost ready, and could play his way into a big league role, but an outfielder is the second-most important target of the winter.
3. Designated hitter
Just a bat. Any bat. Any position. It would be better if it’s a guy who can play the field from time to time, but things worked pretty well with Hideki Matsui last year.
I’m not convinced they need a reliever at all — especially not a high-dollar reliever — but there’s a solid chance the Yankees will be converting their top setup relievers back into starters. There are still a lot of in-house options, but a reliever wouldn’t be the worst addition.
5. Starting pitcher
We’re into areas where the Yankees don’t absolutely have to make a move. They only need one starting pitcher this winter, but an extra back-of-the-rotation arm wouldn’t be the worst thing, especially if it’s a guy who could play a role in the bullpen if he’s beaten out by Chamberlain and Hughes.
6. Utility infielder
With four young middle infielders on the roster, the Yankees don’t have to replace Jerry Hairston Jr. with another veteran. They could very easily stick with Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo or one of the other in-house candidates.
Seems to me that Francisco Cervelli has earned the backup job in New York, but the Yankees might prefer a veteran and will almost certainly sign a veteran to start in Triple-A and provide additional depth.
An Eric Hinske type. Someone to provide additional depth. It becomes more important if they bring in a designated hitter who doesn’t play the outfield.