On Saturday, we received a mysterious tweet from Peter Gammons that said “Stephen Drew‘s decision is awaiting some further Yankee clarity.” It sounds like Drew and the Yankees have both expressed interest, but serious talks are contingent on Alex Rodriguez‘ suspension. The Yankees obviously need more infield depth if Rodriguez is suspended, and they’ll also have a substantial amount of budget room to work with. Likewise, Drew is probably looking for as much guaranteed playing time and as many suitors as possible, and the Yankees can offer him both if the suspension holds.
Told MLB is expecting decision on ARod appeal very early in January, possibly right after New Year’s.
— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) December 23, 2013
It seems that, at this point, a Rodriguez suspension will determine the rest of the offseason for not only the Yankees, but a large portion of the free agent market. If the third baseman is suspended for the entirety of 2014, the Yankees keep $33.5 million off their payroll ($27.5MM AAV and a $6MM bonus). Obviously this also leaves the organization without a true third baseman. Although you can pencil in Dean Anna or Kelly Johnson at the hot corner, Johnson has started at third base in just 12 major league games, and Anna in 53 games in the minor leagues. The Yankees will need to add a third baseman in this case, and $33.5 million gives them a lot to work with.
It would appear that Stephen Drew is their top option, although he has no experience at the position. The move shouldn’t be too difficult, but it’s hard to project the type of range factors and how well his arm translate to third base. Regardless, Drew’s bat forecasts extremely well in Yankee Stadium, where his power could very well resurface.
In the case of a Drew signing, the Yankees would still have a considerable amount left to spend, likely around $20 million to $25 million before they reach the $228 million starting budget from 2013. This extra money is enough to land both a starting pitcher and reliever. The re-available Grant Balfour and still available Fernando Rodney are certainly doable within that budget. As for the starting pitcher, the Yankees have been connected a few times to Ubaldo Jimenez, but the gem of the market could be Masahiro Tanaka, who the organization heavily scouted last season.
And with the next week and a half of holidays ahead of us, free agents that fill any sort of Yankee need have little reason to sign so eagerly. Any free agent is best off with the Yankees spending money, and if Rodriguez’ suspension is handed down in the beginning of January, I don’t expect many free agents to sign until then. Alex Rodriguez has brought the free agent market to a halt.