Four or five years ago, my mother decided that our family should come to Nashville a few days before Christmas. Mom wanted to stay in some giant hotel I’d never heard of, look at decorations and have a couple of nice dinners with me, my father, my sister and my soon-to-be brother in law.
That was the first time I ever set foot in the Opryland Hotel.
Now I’m back in this giant complex with no real idea where to start. Should I linger in the media workroom for a while? Should I go to the big lobby where I checked in? Should I go to that other lobby with the giant tree? Maybe try one of the other lobbys with a weird name? Should I walk to one of the half dozen restaurants in this place? Should I go over to that indoor river? Should I wander through the massive indoor garden in hopes of overhearing some secret conversation?
“Rodriguez for Stanton, straight up! What do you say?”
Point is, this place is huge, and it’s easy to get lost and turned around without some sort of map. I honestly might have to use my phone’s GPS just to find my room at some point.
As for the Yankees, Brian Cashman is getting to town today. For the most part, his task is obvious, and at this point, the free agent market has started to take shape. It’s time to move beyond the basics and get the rest of this roster under control.
Find a right fielder (or a couple of right fielders)
Cashman’s right to say that the outfield is a higher priority than catcher at this point. Catcher is getting all of the attention because of the Russell Martin signing, but going with a weak-hitting, all-glove catcher wouldn’t be nearly as bad as an unproductive right fielder. Without Nick Swisher — and with serious uncertainty about Alex Rodriguez’s ability to be a run producer — the Yankees have to make up for lost offense, and it’s much easier to do that in the outfield than at catcher.
Let’s acknowledge that the market’s biggest names don’t fit the Yankees offseason game plan. That means reengaging Ichiro Suzuki. It means talking to Ryan Ludwick. It means sorting through a series of platoon options — the Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston types — to see if two heads might be better than one. Think of it this way: The Yankees have Jeter, Rodriguez, Cano, Teixeira and Granderson, which isn’t a bad top five in the order. They need a No. 6 hitter, and the best place to find one is in the outfield.
Monitor the catching market (both free agents and trades)
Hard to imagine Mike Napoli fitting with this team. A.J. Pierzynski fits, but the Yankees don’t seem sold on him. Cashman is giving his usual “patience is a virtue” speech when talking about his catching situation, and it seems safe to believe he’ll legimately move slowly (even if it’s a bit hard to believe he won’t make a move at all). With Martin signed, the catching market has been set, so it seems that conversations should have a little more definition at this point.
Get creative with pitching (Cashman’s stealth mode)
The Yankees have enough pitching for next season. They could, if they had to, go into spring training with the exact options that are currently on the roster and have enough for a strong staff. They have six starters (counting David Phelps), late inning depth (assuming Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma can be productive) and plenty of middle innings options (I liked that Jim Miller claim). But the Yankees clearly are thinking beyond next season. They’re already looking ahead to their financial goals for 2014, and with that in mind, another trade for young pitching could be huge. Finding a trade partner might be impossible — the Yankees aren’t the only franchise that values young pitching — but the Michael Pineda debacle shouldn’t leave the Yankees hesitant to deal for another high-potential arm.
Work the fringes (depth, depth, depth)
The Yankees have actually gotten quite good at this. Granted, Andruw Jones was a mess last season, and the additions of Casey McGehee and Steve Pearce weren’t exactly game-changers, but Joe Girardi got real production last year from guys like Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Nix, Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada (two extremely late major league signings, two minor league signings and a spring waiver claim). Those fringy players are going to be important yet again, especially in the infield where the Yankees have to find a very specific type of player. They need a guy who could be a viable everyday shortstop/third baseman, who is also willing to accept a role no bigger than one or two starts a week. There’s also room for outfield depth (especially right-handed outfield depth), a bat big enough to DH (if he can play the field occasionally, that’s even better), and another Freddy Garcia type (a veteran starter to compete for a rotation job and possibly fall into a long-relief role).
Associated Press photo