Project 189: Run Prevention And Bat Flips

As we approach the heart of the offseason, team strategies start to come into focus as free agents start coming off the board. A big market team like the Yankees is usually a threat to land anyone, but this winter, the team has a limited amount of money to spend with a large number of needs to take care of. To better understand the $189 million budget that the team plans to enact this winter, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about what the current 40-man roster obligations look like, and where upgrades could be made. In the end, the Yankees are relying on an Alex Rodriguez suspension if they want to remain below $189 million and make any significant acquisitions this offseason.

In Project 189, the writers here at IIATMS/TYA will give their own offseason strategies in a series of daily posts over the next week and a half. It'll be a practice of creativity, and not predictions. We want to stay realistic with our plans, especially about money and trade value. At the same time, this will be a series of posts to stir discussion about the possibilities of the offseason, not necessarily a recommendation or prediction of what's in store.

Most of the numbers we're using for free agents are the numbers predicted by the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Profile series. Arbitration numbers are also taken from MLB Trade Rumors. The players making major league minimum salaries are an estimation based on the average given by the Yankees last year plus $10,000 due to a mandatory increase for 2014 in the CBA. Finally, all other numbers or trades are educated guesses, for instance, we're giving Masahiro Tanaka the Yu Darvish 6 year $56 million deal.

With that series introduction, let's get started with my own offseason plans.

25-Man Roster

1- C: Brian McCann (5/$80MM) $16.000MM 2- 1B: Mark Teixeira (8/$180MM) $22.500MM 3- 2B: Robinson Cano (8/$180MM) $22.500MM 4- 3B: Juan Uribe (2/$12MM) $6.000MM 5- SS: Brendan Ryan (1/$2MM) $2.000MM 6- LF: Alfonso Soriano (8/$136MM) $17.000MM 7- CF: Brett Gardner (Arb 3) $4.000MM 8- RF: Shin-Soo Choo (6/$100MM) $16.667MM 9- DH: Derek Jeter (1/$12.81MM) $12.810MM + $7.000MM Bonuses 10- BN: Vernon Wells (7/$126MM) $18.000MM 11- BN: Eduardo Nunez (Min) $0.511MM 12- BN: Ichiro Suzuki (2/$13MM) $6.500MM 13- BN: Francisco Cervelli (Arb 1) $1.000MM 14- SP1: CC Sabathia (5/$122MM) $24.400MM 15- SP2: Ivan Nova (Arb 1) $2.800MM 16- SP3: Masahiro Tanaka (6/$56MM) $9.334MM 17- SP4: David Phelps (Min) $0.511MM 18- SP5: Michael Pineda (Min) $0.511MM 19- CL: David Robertson (Arb 3) $5.500MM 20- RHRP: Shawn Kelley (Arb 2) $1.500MM 21- RHRP: Preston Claiborne (Min) $0.511MM 22- RHRP: Dellin Betances (Min) $0.511MM 23- RHRP: Adam Warren (Min) $0.511MM 24- LHRP: Vidal Nuno (Min) $0.511MM 25- LHRP: Cesar Cabral (Min) $0.511MM

Total- $199.599MM

40-Man Roster

26- LHSP: Manny Banuelos (Min) $0.040MM 27- LHSP: Nik Turley (Min) $0.040MM 28- RHSP: Brett Marshall (Min+) $0.040MM 29- RHSP: Jose Ramirez (Min) $0.040MM 30- RHSP: Shane Greene* (Min) $0.040MM 31- RHRP: Chase Whitley* (Min) $0.040MM 32- RHRP: Tommy Kahnle* (Min) $0.040MM 33- RHRP: Danny Burawa* (Min) $0.040MM 34- C: Gary Sanchez* (Min) $0.040MM 35- C: Austin Romine (Min) $0.080MM 36- C: J.R. Murphy (Min) $0.080MM 37- IF: Corban Joseph (Min+) $0.080MM 38- OF: Zoilo Almonte (Min+) $0.080MM 39- OF: Ramon Flores (Min) $0.040MM 40- OF: Slade Heathcott* (Min) $0.040MM

Total- $0.760MM

Final Calculations Total Roster Owed- $200.359 Salary Relief- -$13MM (From Cubs for Soriano), -$18MM (From Angels for Wells) Player Benefits- $12MM Cushion For Non-25-Man Players- $3.5MM

Current Budget Owed- $184.859MM Current Budget Remaining- $4.181MM

For a team that's losing Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera this season, it'll be extremely difficult for the organization to exceed last year's production without getting something out of their young talent. Without any major league ready position prospects, the biggest source of depth for the Yankees is in their young pitchers. Though there are no longer any flashy names like Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, pitcher like Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Adam Warren have emerged as respectable right-handers. Looking at the entire 40-man roster, you'll see a number of players that have the potential of sticking in a major league rotation. If the Yankees are going to get young production somewhere, it'll have to be the rotation and the bullpen.

To best help the young pitchers, the Yankees will put together one of the best infield defenses, a well above-average outfield defense, and grab one of the best run saving catchers in the game. The team has shown in the past that they're big fans of pitch framing, and in 2013, McCann ranked 5th in baseball in runs saved, he's one of the best plate blocking catchers in the game, and he's not horrible throwing out potential base runners. The 30 year old also has a lot of experience successfully catching young pitchers for the Braves, which is followed by a great reputation in the club house.

Something that the Yankees haven't had in a long time is a solid infield defense. It seems that past pitching prospects shied away from learning ground ball inducing pitches like the sinker. We know that the organization worried about their infield defense of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi, and I believe pitchers like Hughes were taught to be fly ball and strike out pitchers in preparation for that poor range. As we learned, fly balls don't work in Yankee Stadium, and this new infield defense in the roster above could be one of the best in baseball. With Robinson Cano and Brendan Ryan re-signed, the Yankees have two of the best middle infielders in the game. Meanwhile, Juan Uribe has some surprisingly incredible numbers at the hot corner. He has a career 19.7 UZR/150 at third base, and when playing full time in 2013, DRS had him at 15 runs saved, which ranked third for all third baseman in baseball. With Mark Teixeira finishing off the defense at first base, infield singles should be a rarity, and there should be far less ground balls finding holes.

The outfield defense would also be a strength of this team. Brett Gardner's ability in center field remains one of the best in the game, and Alfonso Soriano's glove in left field remains controversial, although most of the numbers have come to agree that his range is slightly above average in recent years. Shin-Soo Choo's right field range was considered average with the Indians, but moving to Yankee Stadium should help him with smaller dimensions. Both Choo and Soriano have very strong arms in the corner, which will help cut down on the aggressive runners we've seen during the Granderson and Nick Swisher years.

With superb defense, the Yankees should see improvements out of sinker ball pitchers like CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Masahiro Tanaka projects to also draw a surplus of ground balls with his sinker/shuuto and splitter. I have Michael Pineda and David Phelps slotted into the 4th and 5th rotation spots, but there will be an obvious competition in the spring which could include Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, Manny Banuelos, Brett Marshall, Caleb Cotham, Graham Stoneburner, Nik Turley, Zach Nuding, Mikey O'Brien, Shane Greene, and Jose Ramirez. Perhaps some have better chances than others, but the amount of starting pitcher depth is strong. With prime defense, I think it's possible the Yankees catch lightening in a bottle with their last two spots.

The bullpen is indeed weak, but it does have a relatively high ceiling. Dellin Betances showed some tremendous stuff last season, while Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne had breakout seasons. The bullpen is also relying on the pitching depth in the Yankees' system to keep it strong, but I left enough room in the budget so that the Yankees could realistically make a mid-season acquisition for a potential late inning reliever.

Finally, I believe the offense is far improved over last season. I'd project the prime lineup to look something like this.

1. Brett Gardner 2. Shin-Soo Choo 3. Mark Teixeira 4. Robinson Cano 5. Alfonso Soriano 6. Brian McCann 7. Derek Jeter 8. Juan Uribe 9. Brendan Ryan

The additions of Choo and McCann offer 20+ home run power with great on base percentage skills, and in Yankee Stadium, their left-handed swings could help them approach 30 home runs. Uribe also has a decent amount of offensive potential. In his two seasons in AT&T park with the Giants in 2009 and 2010, Uribe hit .268/.318/.464 with 40 home runs. After the Dodgers signed him in 2011, the infielder was haunted by a sports hernia that dampened his 2011 season, and a wrist injury in his 2012 season. In a healthy 2013, Uribe hit .278/.331/.438 for the Dodgers, good for a 116 wRC+. If Uribe can stay healthy with the Yankees, he's capable of being an above average offensive player in a hitter-friendly atmosphere that he hasn't seen since his days in Chicago. Plus, I've supplied this team with ample bat flips between Cano, Soriano, and Uribe.

Uribe

Ok, so McCann might not be happy about all these bat flips, but I believe the key to success in 2014 is to bring back the power and on base percentage that was dearly missed last season, while also building up the teams' defense for the young pitchers. A wall of defenders around the field with an experienced pitch framing catcher could help a couple of those young pitchers (and even some old ones) figure it out.

Finally, the team has over $4 million to spare, as well as whatever portion of the $7 million bonus that Jeter doesn't receive. By mid-season, the Yankees could have more than $11 million to play with during the trade deadline. If some pitchers aren't working out or a string of injuries occur like in 2013, there is enough of a cushion in this budget to make a big move in June or July.