With the signings of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees set themselves up for long-term players at a handful of positions. Michael Pineda and Dellin Betances have shown great early-season performances, though there’s still some worry about Pineda’s injury record. Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira‘s injury history is no longer an issue, as the first baseman is carrying the team with power. Yes, the Yankees haven’t gotten full contributions from some of their players yet, Beltran’s injury-shortened debut has been disappointing, while McCann and Ellsbury haven’t started hitting as well as expected. CC Sabathia showed glimpses of great peripherals but bad results in his first few weeks before injury, and Ivan Nova remains a huge question mark.
It’s perhaps too early to start wondering about what the team will do in 2015, but as the season moves on, the Yankees seem to be answering many of their biggest needs through breakout seasons. With David Robertson a free agent, the Yankees have received great performances from Betances and Shawn Kelley, who both look capable of handling the closer role at some point. With Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson set to go to free agency, Yangervis Solarte has put up better numbers than even Robinson Cano thus far. In the rotation, Hiroki Kuroda will also depart this winter, and David Phelps has pitched remarkably well out of the rotation, while I’ve also been optimistic about the converted starter Chase Whitley.
With Alex Rodriguez returning to third base, Beltran headed to the designated hitter spot, and Derek Jeter slated for retirement, the Yankees likely projected themselves to need help at shortstop, second base, right field, the bullpen, and the rotation. If the breakout performances by Betances, Kelley, Solarte, and Phelps continue, the team may only need help at shortstop and right field. Though I don’t have much faith in the current crop of outfield prospect, anyone of Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Zoilo Almonte, or Mason Williams should be able to handle the spot defensively. It seems like a possibility that Peter O’Brien could be up at some point this season with experience as a corner outfielder as well. Offense in right field is the bigger question, which is why I suggested the Yankees trade Gary Sanchez for Joc Pederson. Still, with the outfield depth in the minor leagues, the Yankees biggest needs for this offseason will be a replacement for the departing Jeter and depth in the rotation for the struggling and injury plagued Sabathia and Nova.
And with that, the Yankees are well set up to attack on the free agent market. After arbitration, player benefits, and all the smaller obligations, the Yankees are looking at a budget of around $185 million to $190 million guaranteed next season. This leaves them with enough room to make a big splash on a very deep shortstop market that includes Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Hanley Ramirez. Of course, the Yankees could also try to trade some of their excess catching for a shortstop instead, and then make a splash in their second biggest area of need, the rotation. With starting pitchers like Jon Lester, Francisco Liriano, Justin Masterson, Ervin Santana, Max Scherzer, and James Shields on the market, the Yankees’ two biggest desires are also the two most available spots in the upcoming market.