Who might the Yankees target in the 2011-2012 offseason?

Reader Travis recently asked us to take a look ahead to next offseason, to see who comes off the board for the Yankees, who in the free agent class might make sense to pursue and who might be ready to contribute from the farm.

We’ll start by taking a look at the Yankees’ 2011 and 2012 payroll obligations. The following chart was culled from Cot’s and Joe Pawlikowski’s post last month on RAB about the Yankee payroll, which in turn mined data from Cot’s Yankee payroll spreadsheet.

NYY Under Contract 2011 2012
Alex Rodriguez $32,000,000 $30,000,000
CC Sabathia $24,285,714 $24,286,000
Mark Teixeira $23,125,000 $23,125,000
A.J. Burnett $16,500,000 $16,500,000
Derek Jeter $15,000,000 $16,000,000
Mariano Rivera $15,000,000 $15,000,000
Jorge Posada $13,100,000
Rafael Soriano $10,000,000 $11,000,000
Robinson Cano $10,000,000 $2,000,000
Nick Swisher $9,100,000 $1,000,000
Curtis Granderson $8,250,000 $10,000,000
Pedro Feliciano $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Damaso Marte $4,000,000 $250,000
Russell Martin $4,000,000
Phil Hughes $2,700,000
Joba Chamberlain $1,400,000
Boone Logan $1,200,000
Sergio Mitre $900,000
$194,560,714 $153,161,000

This of course does not include the remaining 22 players that make up the 40-man roster. We can guesstimate around $10 million for this group, but it probably won’t even be that high.

Anyway, while there appears to be a pretty significant discrepancy between the 2011 and 2012 payrolls, keep in mind that the 2012 payroll only has the buyout numbers for Cano, Swisher and Marte. If we assume the Yankees pick up Cano’s and Swish’s options (and there’s really no reason not to, as Cano’s is only $14 million and Swish’s is only $10.25 million), and deny Marte’s, then the 2012 payroll is already at $177,411,000 for just 11 players. Of course, this being the Yankees, that probably means they have somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to $30 million to spend, if they want to continue maintaining a payroll above $200 million. Unfortunately, they may have some difficulty finding worthwhile ways in which to deploy that capital.

Heading into the 2011-2012 offseason, the Yankees will still have the majority of their starting lineup in place. While I expect Jorge Posada to fade into retirement, it’s not impossible he ends up signing a one-year deal as a part-time player if he’s still productive in 2011. The Yankees could be looking for a catcher, but that’s only if Jesus Montero ends up being an unmitigated disaster behind the dish. So it looks like the Yankees will (once again) be in the market for a couple of starting pitchers. Even if Andy Pettitte does end up coming back at this point, it seems like there’s zero chance he’d play in 2012, and unless Ivan Nova takes a huge step forward I can’t envision him locking a rotation spot down.

A quick glance at the free agent starting pitching list yields the following potentially interesting names: Mark Buehrle, Chris Carpenter (though he has a team option), Edwin Jackson, Joel Pineiro, Wandy Rodriguez and C.J. Wilson. Each of these pitchers (except Wilson) has been bandied about as potential trade bait for the Yankees this current offseason, and it would not be terribly surprising to see the team make a run at one or more of them. Unless Wilson crashes and burns, I can’t imagine Texas not locking him up for a few more years, so I wouldn’t even consider him an option.

Buehrle could be a compelling pursuit due to his lefthandedness, not to mention the fact that he’s an absolute workhorse (incredibly he has pitched more than 200 innings in every single season since 2001) and a pretty good bet for at least 3.0 fWAR (he’s only recorded a season below 3.4 once in the last 10 years). On the flip side, you could make a case that all the wear and tear will make him damaged goods and that you’d be paying primarily for past performance, which is true, but I could envision worse options than the 33-year-old version of Mark Buehrle as fourth or fifth starter on the
Yankees. Rodriguez also might’ve been a worthwhile pursuit, but literally as I was writing this on Tuesday evening word came that the Astros extended Wandy for three years, $34 million. It would appear that, now that Omar Minaya is no longer at the helm of a Major League franchise, Ed Wade is eager to take his place against Dayton Moore in The Contest.

For fun, a quick perusal of position players — just in case the Yankees end up trading one of theirs — yields no one particularly interesting in the infield, and includes outfielders Jose Bautista, David DeJesus, J.D. Drew, Corey Hart and Yankeeist favorite Josh Willingham. If Swish slumps, Grandy reverts to his struggles against lefties and/or Gardy ends up showing that 2010 was a fluke, then the Yankees could be in on one of these players.

And to answer Travis’ final question regarding who down on the farm might be ready to contribute to the 2012 team, while it’s impossible to say before we see how these players perform this coming year, in light of the glowing scouting reports we’ve read and the apparent progress they’ve made, it sounds like at least one of the Killer BsDellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Manny Banuelos — should see some time with the Big League club. Many — myself included — expect Brackman to make an appearance in the Majors sometime this season, and if all goes according to plan, we could see all three in the Bronx at some point in 2012.

Other minor leaguers that, if they don’t see time in 2011 could possibly come up in 2012 include Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Brandon Laird, who we wrote about the other day, and Jorge Vazquez, who we’ll be doing a post on in the next few days.

18 thoughts on “Who might the Yankees target in the 2011-2012 offseason?

  1. Buehrle wouldn't be bad for the right price, especially if A.J. continues his downward spiral in 2011. I don't think I'd sign him for more than 1 year with a team option for another, but his track record and durability make him the most attractive pitching option.

    Not a lot else there that interests me.

  2. Agreed; it's a pretty weak crop. As I said, if the Rangers somehow don't re-sign Wilson to an extension the Yankees should be all over that.

    Actually, come to think of it, if the Yanks were able to add both lefties — Buehrle and Wilson — that'd be a pretty nice offseason haul.

  3. Good catch; I missed Oswalt on my initial scan on Cot's. The Phillies hold a $16 million option on Oswalt — depending on how far their supposedly historic rotation takes them in 2011, they'll probably be under pressure to bring him back into the fold, although they'd certainly prefer him at a lower price.

    I imagine the Phillies would buy the option out for $2M and see if the can get Roy to agree to come back for less. Or maybe they say the heck with it and pick the option up for one more year. They've certainly done some pretty unexpectedly crazy things these last few seasons; maybe Oswalt on a one-year, $16M deal makes sense to them.

    If he does end up hitting free agency, he'd be worth looking at, although I am admittedly a tad skeptical of a pitcher who has spent his entire career in the NL, even one as good as Oswalt is.

  4. I would be a bit skeptical of Oswalt too, because of the "NL lifer" thing and the fact that he'll be 34 at the end of the season. But if he is available, he definitely becomes the Number 1 target.

  5. Thanks Larry for the post, that was awesome that you did it! Was wondering about Yu Darvish? Do you think they try to sign him or steer clear? I know Kei Igawa didnt turn out. Thanks again…Travis.

  6. My pleasure, Travis.

    Regarding Darvish, considering they missed out on Lee this offseason and will likely have a boatload of cash to spend, I'd imagine they'll be in pretty heavily on Darvish. I know RAB's Mike Axisa thinks they'll be in on him big time.

    I'd certainly maintain a level of skepticism regarding Darvish, given the mixed bag that Matsuzaka turned out to be and the complete and utter waste of space Igawa is, but given the mostly glowing reports I've read on Darvish, I suppose approaching a potential signing with cautious optimism might be the best way to go.

    Your comment prompted me to check Oliver on the off chance that they had a Darvish projection, and somewhat surprisingly, they actually do. Oliver projects six years out for every player, and they incredulously have Darvish as putting up at least 6.3 WAR in each of the next seasons, which sounds clinically insane to me.

    Oliver has Darvish's 2011 Major League equivalent line as 193 IP, 2.45 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 221 Ks, 10.3 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9. That line would make him one of the top 5 pitchers in all of MLB.

    I would take this info with more grains of salt than there are in the entire world, given that (a) Oliver's projection system seems to have enough issues as it is projecting regular MLB players, and (b) Who knows how accurate its projections for Japanese league players are?

    Still, I suppose those numbers lend some credence to the idea that pursuing Darvish will be worth the Yankees' while.

  7. If Darvish is anything close to what Oliver says he is supposed to be, I'm all in. What about the pitcher that Oakland missed out on this year? Anyone know if he's gonna be on the market again next year?

  8. Resident Ranger fan here. If Texas doesn't sign Wilson we might have a riot in North Texas outside the Rangers' offices.

    CJ is a quality guy and a ferocious competitor. I love having him on the team and think that he is a quietly effective leader. Furthermore, he keeps himself in phenominal shape through his workout program and eating as well as a fitness guru (no alcohol even).

    I know he will be expensive, but I hope Texas signs him to a nice extension.

  9. Larry,

    I hope the issue of adding multiple starters via free agency in 2012 will be a moot issue, given the continued development of at least one or two of the Killer Bs.

    Personally, I think Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos are our best bets for starters. I think Andrew Brackman will end up being a really nice relief pitcher, maybe even a closer some day. (I, of course, wouldn’t be upset if he proves me wrong and ends up being a really good starter.)

    My projections, however, are pure conjecture, and are based on scouting reports and studying their stats. In all the minor league games I've seen (mainly in Trenton), I've never seen any of the Killer Bs pitch. In fact, I've never seen a Yankees' minor league pitcher that I was particularly impressed with.

    If one or more of the Killer Bs start out in Trenton this year, hopefully I'll get a chance to see at least one of them. But I'd much rather that they impress so highly that they get called up to AAA in short order so they're ready for a 2012 debut.

    If none of them are ready in 2012 or only one of them is ready, I'd like to see the Yankees sign Mark Buehrle. As you accurately noted, "I could envision worse options than . . . Buehrle as (our) fourth or fifth starter."

  10. Larry, I just want to say that this is some of the best writing on the ongoing shape of the Yankees that I have read in a long time.

    You are absolutely right about the paucity of available starting pitching to be acquired along the lines of the Yankees' traditional methods. Maybe Jeremy Guthrie could be relinquished from Baltimore for a #8-10 prospect in the Yankee system.

    When all is said and done, my guess is that the Yankees try to bridge to 2012-13 with overwhelming power and outstanding overpaid relievers. If they can improve the offensive punch of the outfield, look for that to happen. I agree that in that scenario, Granderson and Swisher have to prove their worth every day.

  11. Hey Roy,

    That's very kind of you to say. I've actually done — at least in my opinion — a lot more interesting posts than this one, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully you'll continue to come back; there's plenty more Yankeeist goodness where this came from.

  12. Larry,

    One question on the subject of posting Japanese players:

    Can a Japanese team agree to post or basically sell a player to an MLB team without going through the posting process?

    I realize, in most cases, it's probably advantageous to a Japanese team to do the all-in posting, where every MLB team can bid. But since it's a bid once and your done situation, it would seem advantageous to them to negotiate directly with a team like the Yankees on a mutually agreeable price. That would allow them to possibly jack the Yankees’ price several times during negotiations, depending on how interested the Yankees were.

    I ask this because, like Travis, I’ve heard quite a bit about Yu Darvish. As you implied in your response, the stories and projections about his abilities seem a bit otherworldly . . . but then again, after what we saw from Chapman last year, how many teams would offer more than $30 million for his services now? I imagine quite a few, particularly in an offseason in which a number of middle relievers received around $16 million over three years.

  13. Wayne,

    I did a little research, but from what I can gather there's no way around the current posting system. In fact, if you check out Wikipedia, the whole reason the posting system was implemented in the first place was specifically to avoid Japanese teams negotiating exclusively with one team and enabling all 30 MLB teams to have a shot at a given player.

    I hadn't really been thinking too much about Darvish, but between you and Travis mentioning him, along with me digging up his Oliver projections and this Mike Axisa post on RAB from last month, I'm definitely starting to get a bit more jazzed about the idea, and now I want to take a deeper look at him in a fresh upcoming post.

    Anon at 9:21AM — Didn't realize the Brew Crew had extended Hart; Cot's needs to update its free agent list. Thanks for the heads-up.

  14. Via Wikipedia, Darvish's stat line for his career is 75-32, 2.12 era, 974 k, 1036.1 ip. Can we match that up to any MLB aces or non-aces if the case may be, that had that line when they were sitting at just over 1000 innings pitched?

  15. The Yankees, unfortunately, are in the same position they were in several years ago when they signed washed up pitchers like Kevin Brown and the 'Unit' to fill the gap of the lack of pitching from our minor league system. Why can't we develop good young pitching instead of buying old talent? Bartolo Colon? Never stand between him and the buffet table. We can't continue spending $16.5 a year for talent like AJ Burnett. Perhaps Nova and Phelps will surprise us this year but I am not optimistic.