In the wee hours between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the free agent pool was deepened by the walking non-tendered. These are players who, in short, were arbitration-eligible, yet unwanted by their current (now former) teams - unless, of course, you're the Toronto Blue Jays merely saving a few shekels. The Yankees are no strangers to finding value among the non-tendered, having plucked Russell Martin from the crop a few winters ago to replace and/or depose Jorge Posada (who became the full-time DH that year). It is rare for a team to find such great value among these players, as precious few quality starters are released from team control early, yet that should not stop the Yankees - or any team, for that matter - from trying. And it will not stop me from speculating as to who could be the next big find for Cashman & Co. At this point in the off-season, the Yankees clearly need a second baseman and/or third baseman, a shortstop, and depth at the corners on offense, and, to be blunt, anything they can get anywhere on the pitching staff (though the bullpen may receive an upgrade shortly, with Andrew Miller expected to sign shortly). This crop of non-tendered players may lack the name value and certainty that one would like, yet there are several intriguing options nonetheless. So, without further ado, let's see who might make sense for this team.
I am lumping these three gentlemen together, as they may well be the same player - all are lefty-mashing should-be 1B/DH types between 28 and 31 that can fake it in a corner outfield spot when the need arises. One of Blanks (115 wRC+), Mayberry (130), and Sanchez (138) could spell Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury (with Gardner moving to CF), Carlos Beltran, or Mark Teixeira against tough southpaws, and give teams pause in the later innings with the platoon advantage. While none of these players is starting material, all could be serviceable should the need for extended playing time arise; Blanks in particular is intriguing, as he has been average for his career against RHP (101 wRC+). The presence of Chris Young almost obviates the need for a RHH outfielder, though who knows which version of Young will show-up this year.
Everth Cabrera - SwH SS
It is somewhat difficult for me to include Cabrera here, as he appears to be a less-than-savory character. I may not be the biggest proponent of seeking out 'character guys,' but I'm far less fond of players with PED, drug, and domestic violence issues. Nevertheless, I do believe in second (and third, and maybe fourth) chances, and Cabrera could fill a very real need on the Yankees. He is a passable defensive shortstop, falling closer to average than awful, and an above-average base-runner. His career 86 wRC+ is ugly in a vacuum, yet it is acceptable from a shortstop. And, yes, his 2014 line is downright scary - but he was an above-average hitter between 2012 and 2013, and moving away from Petco could help (his OPS is 41 points higher away from San Diego).
Juan Francisco - LHH 1B/3B
I will try to do this as objectively as possible. Ahem. Juan Francisco is the second coming of Babe Ru- ... oh. Let's start over.
Juan Francisco is a left-handed pull hitter with tremendous power and a track record of success versus right-handed pitching (.248/.310/.476, 113 wRC+). He is an atrocious defender at third, so he should never be counted on to be more than a strict platoon player there, but he can grab a glove and stand at first or third, and hit the crap out of the ball (assuming it isn't thrown from the left side of the pitcher's body). On a team with a declining first baseman, a third baseman to be named later, and no concrete designate hitter on the roster, couldn't you see that player having value? Particularly if paired with someone like Alex Rodriguez at third, or one of the three amigos from above at 1B/DH? I know that I could, and that's before I imagine Francisco's swing in Yankee Stadium.
The similarities here are even more obvious than those between Messrs Blanks, Mayberry, and Sanchez - both are former Braves recovering from their second Tommy John Surgery, both average just north of 3.0 bWAR per 162, and they were born just under eleven months apart. The TJS part is likely the most important, as the track record for success is significantly lower the second time around, and neither looks like a sure thing to pitch in 2015 meaning that this signing either (or both ... please) would be with an eye to the future. However, as was the case with Jon Lieber, sometimes it is worth the wait (and don't you dare bring up Andrew Bailey).
Alexi Ogando - RH SP/RP
Ogando produced 5.9 bWAR in two full-ish seasons as a starting pitcher, and 2.3 bWAR in two full-ish seasons as a reliever. His ERA and FIP are 29% and 11% better than league-average, respectively, for his career, and he has had that success pitching half of his innings in Texas. He also missed the last four months or so of the 2014 after stinking up the joint in April and May, and ruffled the Rangers feathers when he refused to report to winter ball, so he is not without his wrinkles. Even so, I do see him as something of a luxury item, in that he should be able to fit whatever hole the Yankees may have when Spring Training rolls around.
Wesley Wright - LH RP
Because no Yankees off-season would be complete without the team taking a crack at the token LOOGY.
If I had my druthers, the team would open up the checkbook for Cabrera, Francisco (obviously), Beachy, Medlen, and Ogando. I may not be thrilled with rooting for Cabrera, yet I do not see a more likely solution arising at shortstop, and he represents a (probably) low-cost, moderate-reward signing. Francisco makes the bench that much deeper, and Ogando adds another swingman to a bullpen that will probably require two this coming season. As for Beachy and Medlen ... I can dream big, can't I?