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Yankees remain on the hunt for outfielders

01/18/2013 12:34 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Justin Upton is available via trade, but the Yankees may not have enough to match Arizona's demands.(AP)
Although most of the 2013 New York Yankees roster is finalized, general manager Brian Cashman remains on the hunt – not just for anybody, but the right pieces.

“I know it’s getting late, but we’re still looking," Cashman told ESPN New York. “We’re open for business, but we’re not going to do something just to do something. If we have to, we’ll go to Tampa with what we’ve got."

The Yankees could use another catcher to evaluate during Spring Training – George Kottaras is available after the Oakland A’s designated him for assignment in light of the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse from Washington DC to Seattle – but seem content to allow Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine compete for the Opening Day job. The biggest need remains a right-handed hitting outfielder with power. The Yankees’ starting outfield comprises of three left-handed hitters, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki, with only Granderson having consistent home-run capability.

Pickings on the free-agent market are slim. And while the current prize of the trade route is the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton, the price for the budget-conscious Yankees is a big one to pay. Last Thursday, Upton blocked a deal that would have sent him to the Mariners for highly-touted pitcher Taijuan Walker, shortstop prospect Nick Franklin and two others. Upton, 25, batted .280 with 17 homers, 67 RBIs and a.785 OPS last season, a decline from the .289/31/88/.898 of 2011. He’s also owed $38.5 million over the next three seasons, which doesn’t fit the Yankees’ fiscal plan for 2014.

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A decision from Scott Hairston, .263-20-57 in 377 at-bats for the Mets last season, appears imminent. His 20 homers were a career high and at the cost of only money would give the Yankees what they’re missing. Hairston, however, reportedly asked for $8 million over two years after earning $1.1 million last season. Each player the Yankees have signed/re-signed this offseason, except Ichiro, has received only a year. Hairston would not be an exception.

Along with Hairston and former Yankee Juan Rivera, Ben Francisco is another free agent. Francisco bats right-handed, but with no power (.240-4-15, .670 OPS in ’12) and hit .213 against lefties last season. Rivera, 34, was .244/.286/.375 with nine home runs, 47 RBI and a .661 OPS in 339 plate appearances for the Dodgers before the team declined his 2013 club option. While his power has declined, Rivera offers versatility having played 54 games at first base and 46 in the outfield in 2012.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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