It’s not often that huge baseball signings occur during the week of Christmas. One or two teams might make something happen, but if you’re looking for a significant Yankees move before the end of the year, this might be the last week for it happen.
What’s in front of the Yankees is a thin market that’s growing thinner. Over the weekend, Juan Uribe landed with the Dodgers, Mark Ellis went to the Cardinals, and John Axford signed with the Indians. That’s a third baseman, second baseman and late-inning reliever off the market.
The infield market wasn’t good to begin with, and now it’s getting down to bare bones, especially if Stephen Drew is going to balk at signing with a team that might not want him to play shortstop. The second baseman most commonly popping up in trade rumors are significantly flawed: Brandon Phillips because of his contract and declining production; Darwin Barney because he’s basically a second base version of Brendan Ryan; and Howie Kendrick because he might no longer be available now that the Angels have traded away Mark Trumbo. There are still some platoon-type third basemen out there, but it seems the Yankees need a full-time solution for at least one of their two infield openings.
The relief market still has some big names available, but Grant Balfour has been strongly linked to the Orioles, and it’s hard to say whether the Yankees are ready to spend closer money for a guy who might not close. Frankly, they might need to know more about their rotation before determining if they could — or should — spend that kind of money on a reliever. If they’re not going to solidify their rotation with Masahiro Tanaka or some other relatively high upside starter, then it might make sense to push resources into the bullpen to shorten the game from the back end.
Ultimately, the market has reached a point that doesn’t perfectly fit the Yankees needs. They went into the offseason prioritizing offense, and they got that by signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson. Whether it’s enough to make up for losing Robinson Cano remains to be seen, but they’ve at least addressed their hitting problems in the way that the market allowed.
But for all the significant splashes the Yankees have made this offseason — and they’ve committed a lot of money this winter — they still have very obvious holes with no obvious solutions. The Yankees were aggressive early this offseason, but it’s getting late quickly.
“We have a couple of big question marks,” Randy Levine told ESPN Radio on Sunday. “… I think we’ll be fine, but judge us by the time we get to the bell in April.”
Associated Press photo