What's left on the Yankees' shopping list?
But that, of course, doesn’t mean the Yankees won’t keep their eye out for a bargain, so to speak. Assuming Ichiro’s return, there are still two spots in the starting lineup that are question marks, and both the bench and the bullpen will likely merit an addition or two.
Whether those potential additions come in the final days of 2012 or the final days of the off-season – like last year’s additions of Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez – here’s a look at where the Yankees may go next.
With Russell Martin gone to Pittsburgh, the Yankees currently have veterans Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart and top prospect Austin Romine at the top of the backstop depth chart. Brian Cashman said earlier this month that “it’s possible that our catchers are right here on this roster right now,” but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking.
As for the pool he’s looking through, most of those available are veterans best served to be backups, and the top player left on the market, A.J. Pierzynski, is both a left-handed hitter and likely looking for more than a one-year deal; that complicates things a lot, but one name to possibly look out for is Miguel Olivo, who at 34 still has good pop and a strong arm, and also has very good career splits.
The Bench/Designated Hitter
Right now, Eduardo Nunez would seem to have the inside track at the utility infield job, but the entirety of the non-starting five is up in the air – and A-Rod’s eventual return complicates things even more, as that will either shift Kevin Youkilis to a more reserve role or usurp the majority of the time at the DH slot.
In the interim, many fans would love to see Raul Ibanez back to fill the DH role in 2013; if he is re-signed, then he and Ichiro would make four fully left-handed hitting outfielders on the roster, so the Yankees would absolutely need a righty outfielder on the roster. Scott Hairston has been heavily mentioned as a prospect, but a couple other names to note could be a pair of former Yankees in Juan Rivera and Xavier Nady; neither is an everyday outfielder at this point, but both can play first base (a plus mostly while Kevin Youkilis mans third base full-time) and have solid lefty splits, so they could also be effective in that part-time Andruw Jones-style role.
As for the rest of the non-starting five (or six, if the Yankees decide to carry just 11 pitchers), Eduardo Nunez would seem to have the inside track on the utility infield job once again, and someone on the current roster will likely be the backup catcher, so it may be a case of looking for depth and/or another Eric Chavez-type corner infielder – perhaps a Ty Wigginton-type, or a re-signed Casey McGehee – to temporarily fill A-Rod’s void.
However, keep in mind that last year, both Chavez and Ibanez were officially signed in late-February and DeWayne Wise and Jayson Nix parlayed non-roster spring invites into eventual Major League jobs, so there’s no proverbial rush for Cashman to make a move.
The Starting Rotation
The Yankees will feature a veteran top three of Sabathia/Kuroda/Pettitte, and beyond that, as the roster is structured now, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps are likely in a three-way battle for the final two spots. That said, the last few years have proven that the Yanks can never have enough starting depth, so they may look to add another veteran (perhaps a Kevin Millwood-type) to join that competition, and there are also a handful of non-tender names like Mike Pelfrey, Jair Jurrjens, and even Chien-Ming Wang who could merit consideration as back-end potentials as well. And, because both Nova and Phelps do have a least one Minor League option remaining, the Yankees do have flexibility if any addition they make pitches well enough to merit a spot.
Rafael Soriano is a free agent and almost certainly gone, but with Mariano Rivera back, David Aarsdma’s option picked up, and the Yankees’ other five main short relievers from 2012 (as well as potential lefty specialist Cesar Cabral) all under team control in arbitration or renewal, the bullpen looks like it could be set. They lack a “long” reliever, but Phelps and Freddy Garcia served well in that swing role last year, so that spot could again be filled by one of the losers of a potential rotation battle. Again, all that said, it doesn’t mean Brian Cashman won’t look to add quality depth if the price is right, but the bullpen doesn’t seem to be an area of extreme necessity.
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