The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Offseason down time comes at a good time for Yankees

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Dec 24, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Alex Rodriguez

These quiet days around Christmas and New Years are prime time for speculation. What’s next? What’s left? What are the Yankees in position to do or not do to wrap up their offseason? Whether it’s email or Twitter, I’ve been asked over and over again about the pitching staff and the third base situation and the Yankees ability to spend; and over and over again I’ve been answering with some version of, “It depends…” That’s the reality of the Yankees heading into this particular holiday season. The baseball offseason usually goes quiet right now, and that’s actually good timing for a Yankees team that needs answers. A lot of these factors should be familiar — we’ve been talking about some of them for months — but almost every pressing issue facing the Yankees depends heavily on these still-unanswered questions. What’s next for the Yankees? Well, it depends…

Is Masahiro Tanaka going to be posted?
The Yankees say they’re not waiting for Tanaka before engaging other starting pitchers, but it’s hard to believe Tanaka’s uncertainty isn’t impacting the market. The earning power of free agent starters could rise if Tanaka stays in Japan, so there’s reason for players to hold off for a while. If Tanaka is posted, the Yankees have to decide how much to offer him (the Rangers signing Shin-Soo Choo probably takes Texas out of the mix, which helps). If Tanaka isn’t signed — either because he’s not posted, or because another team pays more — the Yankees have to decide among various types of risks for Plan B. From Ervin Santana to Bronson Arroyo to Paul Maholm to in-house options, each alternative brings its own kind of uncertainty. This is the most significant question that’s been most hanging over the Yankees this offseason, except for…

Will Alex Rodriguez be suspended?
A decision could come fairly soon after the new year, just as this typically quiet period is coming to an end. What the Yankees need to know is how much money they’re saving (if any) and how much playing time they have to fill (if any). If Rodriguez isn’t suspended, the Yankees have no realistic hope of avoiding the luxury tax. Might as well spend, spend, spend at that point (although it might leave little room for a guy like Mark Reynolds). Without Rodriguez, the Yankees still have a glaring need in the infield for either a right-handed platoon third baseman or more of an everyday option. Speaking of which…

Is Stephen Drew willing to play second or third?
Last winter, Drew prioritized the opportunity to play shortstop, which led him to sign with the Red Sox. Now it’s worth wondering if he’s feeling the same way. If Derek Jeter remains the Yankees top choice at short, that means Drew would have to play second or third for the Yankees. Would he be OK with that? Would he come because there’s still a solid chance shortstop would fall into his lap? Would he be more OK with one year at another position, knowing a multi-year deal would almost certainly make him a starting shortstop again next season? Frankly, he’s not the only potential Yankees target who could be concerned about what role he’ll play, because…

How bad are those medical reports on Grant Balfour?
Presumably one of the best late-inning relievers on the market, Balfour could be a closer or a setup man (which fits the Yankees perfectly). He had an Orioles deal in place before Baltimore backed out because of medical issues that showed up in Balfour’s physical. How concerning are those red flags? Are they mild enough that Balfour’s market value will drop without taking away his high-end potential? Are the medical issues significant enough that the Yankees couldn’t consider him a real upgrade in a bullpen that’s already relatively high on potential but low on dependability? That sort of free agent risk might be the Yankees best option because they’re still not sure…

Does the trade market offer anything worthwhile?
The Yankees farm system is coming off a down year that cost significant trade value for the team’s upper-level prospects. Their best trading chips now seem to be Ivan Nova (who’s incredibly necessary for the Yankees incredibly thin rotation) and Brett Gardner (who’s somewhat expendable, but might not bring back an impact infielder or pitcher). Trading away Ichiro Suzuki — even while eating a decent amount of salary — might at least free up a little bit of spending room, but an Ichiro deal isn’t likely to bring back much of substance. Same for trade involving expendable Eduardo Nunez or Austin Romine or Vernon Wells. Relatively small free agent deals similar to Brian Roberts or Matt Thornton could happen at any time, but a trade market that fits the Yankees might only develop now that the free agent market has grown thinner.

Associated Press photo




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