Beyond re-signing two of their own, the Yankees have yet to make a significant move this offseason. But the market might have taught them what to expect as they fill some holes.
The Yankees need at least one, maybe two starters, and that’s the one market that hasn’t really been set this offseason. In so many ways, the Yankees are trying to set the market with a deal for Cliff Lee. The signings of Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth set the market for premier free agents, and Lee is expected to get somewhere in the neighborhood of seven years and $24 million per season. A second starter might depend on Andy Pettitte. The Yankees have already seen the starting pitcher trade marker, where Shaun Marcum cost the Brewers a premium prospect.
The lefty specialist market has been fairly active, ranging from a one-year, $750,000 deal for Brian Tallet to a one-year, $1.2-million-plus-incentives deal for George Sherrill. Dennys Reyes cost the Phillies just over $1 million on a one-year deal. The Scott Downs deal doesn’t really apply here because the Yankees don’t need more than a left-on-left specialist, and a guy like that — maybe Randy Choate — wouldn’t require a huge commitment.
Eighth-inning setup reliever
Brian Cashman has expressed confidence in Dave Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, and those two entered 2010 as the Yankees top late-inning relievers ahead of Mariano Rivera. But the Yankees also saw the impact Kerry Wood made late last season. Proven relievers like that are no cheap. Joaquin Benoit was one of the first free agents to sign this winter, and he went to Detroit on a three-year, $16.5 million deal. JJ Putz signed with Arizona for two years, $10 million and will get a chance to close. Bringing back Wood or signing Grant Balfour might solidify the eighth inning, but it won’t happen cheap. And getting Rafael Soriano to take a setup job — as several people have emailed me about — will cost a boatload. D.J. Carrasco at two years, $2.5 million is a bargain in comparison.
Still kind of a wide open market, with not a lot of options off the table. Matt Diaz took two years, $4.25 million and a chance to start. The Royals gave Melky Cabrera one year, $1.25 million and gave Jeff Franceour one year, $2.5 million. That deal came with incentives and a mutual option. Depending on the player, I would guess the market for a fourth outfielder ranges from $1 million to $3 million for one year. Last year, Cashman took his time and settled on Randy Winn and Marcus Thames, both on pretty cheap deals.
Jhonny Peralta got a starting job with the Tigers at two years, $11.25 million. That’s an extreme example, but it gives an idea of the ceiling for a guy who has proven himself and can play multiple positions. That’s why it’s difficult to find a sure-thing backup to occasionally fill in for Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Guys like that are utility players for the Yankees, but they’re getting everyday money elsewhere. Ty Wigginton got two years, $8 million to be a regular utility man with the Rockies. On a lower end, Geoff Blum got two years, $2.7 million to play a utility role in Arizona, and Cesar Izturis got one year, $1.5 million from the Orioles.
The Yankees are in a weird spot behind the plate. They’re ready to make the transition from Jorge Posada to Jesus Montero, but it involves considerable risk, and there’s great comfort in adding a proven catcher. That’s why Russell Martin’s name is mentioned so often. Ramon Hernandez got one year, $3 million from the Reds. The Mariners gave Miguel Olivo two years, $7 million. A.J. Pierzynski got two years, $8 million to return to Chicago. Martin is something of a unique case, with tremendous talent and significant health concerns. He made more than $5 million last year, and seems to have generated considerable interest.