Project 189 is no more. It has ceased to be. And with that, the Yankees, no longer constrained by any potential financial windfall, have little to no reason to not continue their off-season spending spree. The team as-is appears to be an 87 to 91 win squad, with fairly large error bars around both numbers, considering the age and depth (or lack thereof) therein. As we discussed on Wednesday’s podcast, there is little in the way of upper-level talent that the Yankees can count on to fill-in the current cracks in the armor, let alone those that may crop up over the course of a 162-game season. That potential issue, taken hand-in-hand with the Yankees reinvigorated financial muscle, has one very possible solution – the free agent market.
Even the most optimistic fan believes that the Yankees need a bit more help at either second or third base, and the bullpen. A few pessimists may even suggest that some additional help is needed in the rotation, due to the concerns over last year’s version of CC Sabathia, the age of Hiroki Kuroda, and the unproven nature of Masahiro Tanaka. With each potential win being so valuable to the team’s cause this season, let’s see if the market can solve any or all of these issues.
The Infield: Stephen Drew
As Michael discussed yesterday, Drew is an excellent fit for the Yankees. His swing is all but tailor-made for Yankee Stadium, his strong defense at shortstop suggests that a transition to 2B or 3B should be feasible, and that defensive ability would make him the ideal in-house replacement should Derek Jeter be out for an extended period of time. Sure – he will cost the Yankees yet another draft pick … but with the draft essentially designed to prevent teams with lesser draft picks from coming away with much of anything, that may be moot.
The Bullpen: Fernando Rodney/Rafael Betancourt, Jose Mijares/Mike Gonzazlez
Rodney and Betancourt both took a step back last season, and the latter is currently recovering from mid-season Tommy John Surgery. However, both have a strong track record of success in the late innings, as well as some experience closing. And Rodney has experience closing in a pennant race in the American Leauge East, if you’re into that sort of thing.
As is the case with Rodney and Betancourt, neither Mijares nor Gonzalez performed up to their previous standards, yet managed to put up decent seasons nonetheless. Both Mijares (.225/.288/.335) and Gonzalez (.219/.287/.346) have long histories of stifling left-handed batters, and either would give the Yankees a proven foil for the David Ortiz‘s and Chris Davis‘ of the world to pair with Cesar Cabral or Vidal Nuno.
The Rotation: Paul Maholm
I have discussed Maholm ad nauseam in the past, and I feel that those points still stand. And, with only one left-handed starter in the rotation, Maholm gives the Yankees that little bit of balance that they have grown accustomed to.
The larger gain made by signing Maholm may well be the boost it provides the team’s pitching staff on the whole. It pushes one of David Phelps and Adam Warren to the bullpen (further strengthening the group), with the other staying stretched out in the minors. It also allows Michael Pineda to build up more arm strength as he gets further away from a severe shoulder injury, which is quite beneficial.
This leads to a simple question – are any of these moves necessary? And my answer is a somewhat flippant ‘yes.’ The Yankees have spent quite a bit of money already, yet they are still in a somewhat shaky position in the American League, as several other teams have improved quite a bit (with few truly slipping). Just one of these moves could add a win to the team’s likely output, which could be enough to push the team from out of the playoffs, into the division lead. Signing all of these players may well make the team the favorite in the East. All this, of course, for nothing of consequence (beyond a bunch of cash).