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MLBTR predictions: How big of a splash to the Yankees need this winter?

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This time of year, lists like this one will pop up all over the place. They’re an attempt to not only rank the top free agents on the market, but also to guess where those free agents will sign. These lists don’t give us a ton of concrete information, but I think they’re interesting to see how writers, reporters and fans who closely follow the game — but don’t necessarily follow one particular team — expect the Yankees to handle the offseason. At the very least it’s worth some sort of premature discussion. Agree? Disagree? Does it change your own expectations?

Robinson Cano [2]Yesterday, the fine folks at MLB Trade Rumors posted their Top 50 Free Agents list. [3] It was the first of these sort of lists that I noticed. Here are the MLBTR predictions for which big names will sign with the Yankees this winter.

Robinson Cano — Ranked No. 1. It seems most people still consider the Yankees to be the front runners for Cano.

Ervin Santana — Ranked No. 5. He’s the top starting pitcher on the list other than Masahiro Tanaka, who MLBTR predicts will sign with the Dodgers.

Hiroki Kuroda — Ranked 8th. The Yankees would seem to be a strong fit, but that’s assuming Kuroda wants to come back to the States.

Carlos Beltran — Ranked 12th. This would give the Yankees four of MLBTR’s top 12 free agents. That’s a pretty significant splash, whether it feels that way or not.

Grant Balfour — Ranked 25th. This would be the sort of experienced, late-inning depth that the Yankees might want to pair with Dave Robertson.

A.J. Pierzynski — Ranked 33rd. An offensive upgrade at catcher, but the Yankees didn’t seem particularly interested in him last winter.

It’s worth noting that, other than Cano and Kuroda, the Yankees free agents who cracked MLBTR’s Top 50 are Curtis Granderson (ranked No. 13; predicted to sign with the Mets) and Phil Hughes (ranked No. 38; predicted to sign with the Padres).

Obviously stuff like this doesn’t mean much. It’s basically a discuss-among-yourselves sort of list. What’s interesting to me is this: Signing six of the top 33 free agents would have to be considered a big splash, right? But would it be enough for the Yankees to significant improve on 2013? Exactly how big of a splash do the Yankees have to make for you to feel truly confident that they could chase a championship next season? Clearly the Yankees could sign significant pieces this winter, but still need significant bounce-back seasons from some of their returning players (Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia in particular).

Based on the MLBTR predictions:

Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixiera 1B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Ichiro Suzuki/Vernon Wells DH
Brett Gardner CF
The natural problem here is the unknown of Rodriguez. Will the Yankees know his fate in time to replace him? Is it worth signing someone like Mark Reynolds just in case? Presumably either Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine would be the backup catcher, Eduardo Nunez would have some sort of utility role,  and there would still be a spot for another bench bat. This lineup starts pretty strong — and Gardner is a nice bonus in the No. 9 spot — but that third base question is a big one.

CC Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Ivan Nova
Ervin Santana
Michael Pineda/David Phelps
Could be a good rotation, and it would have some depth with several young guys — Warren, Nuno, Ramirez, Banuelos — fighting for spot starts and long relief innings. But the strength of the rotation is going to depend on Sabathia and Nova as much as it depends on any free agent signing. Adding Balfour, and presumably another non-Top-50 reliever, would add some late-inning depth and insurance, while also leaving room for some of the Yankees young relievers to earn some innings and prove themselves.

Associated Press photos