Where are the Yankees? (11/30/14)

By: Nick Scott

Hello Yankee fans. Today I will be giving a report and opinion on where the Yankees franchise currently is this offseason and where I think they should go as of this moment.
The Busy AL East
I likely don’t have to tell you the AL East is quite busy this offseason, but thus far the Yankees have been largely dormant having only re-signed Chris Young to a one year deal which isn’t terribly bad, but the only other move has been trading Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you this is hardly anything compared to what the Red Sox and Blue Jays have been up to.

The Blue Jays kicked off the AL East fireworks when they picked up Russell Martin in quite a surprising move which seems to be agreed upon in the league as overpay. Martin was been decent since leaving the Yankees, but hasn’t been an everyday catcher since leaving said Yankees, thus it is unknown if his resurgence will continue moving into a more strenuous role north of the border. Regardless, it was apparent that the Jays were going all in for the next few years. They became quite for a bit before making a huge pick up on the trade market acquiring Josh Donaldson, who has four guaranteed years left on his contract. That’s one batter I’m not looking forward to facing the next four years. Donaldson is a top 3rd basemen and the Jays are going to have a solid middle order consisting of Bautista, Encarnacion, and Donaldson. No, I don’t think it’s as deep as the Red Sox and the team still needs big pitching help, but the Blue Jays likely won’t be a push around team this next year.

The moves grabbing the majority of headlines before the Donaldson trade, however, belong to the dreadful Boston Red Sox. Yes, I hate this team with a passion as do must Yankees fans, but boy do we have to give them some credit. They clearly aren’t content with the outcome of last year and are doing what it takes to turn it around. The Sox picked up Pablo Sandoval, while is generally overrated still is a solid pick up. He’s lights out in the playoffs yes, but it is important to remember that he isn’t that player in the regular season and in fact he and Brett Gardner shared the same OPS+ at 111. Yes this is above average, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider Gardner an elite talent, thus you see why I don’t view Sandoval as one either. The Sox also took a dive on Hanley Ramirez and picked up the oft injured shortstop and it appears as if he will play in the outfield for the team if Xander Bogarts isn’t traded. Boston added an above average and star bat in this duo, but it does come with the drawback of less than stellar defense. This is the ultimate high risk high reward move. In theory a lineup of guys like Sandoval, Ortiz, Ramirez, Castillo, Cespedes, etc. would be one of the deepest in the game, but there is the chance that Castillo busts, Ramirez continues to struggle with injury, etc.

What really has me worried is the fact that Boston has all the trade depth in the world now. Guys like Bogarts and Cespedes could be considered expendable and it seems they would be quite valuable in a trade. Making matters more troubling is the Sox have been linked to have called on just about every starting pitcher in the world and it sounds like they are targeting Cole Hamels and Jeff Samardzija. Hamels to me is the more troubling of the two, but either way isn’t great as they have bolstered both their offense and likely, before the dust settles, will have added above average pitching depth as well. Yikes.

Where Does This Leave the Yankees?
The Yankees need to make moves. I don’t necessarily believe in the idea that they should be done to ‘respond’ to what the Red Sox have done, but the team is at a dangerous crossroads where if they choose the wrong path it could be years before they are back in playoff contention. It seems fans either think we need to buy every free agent out there or burn effigies of them and flee from spending a single dollar this season. The answer is in between. What many fans don’t understand is that the team has $172 million tied up in just 11 players. Saving money this season will do absolutely nothing; more than likely this team will be over the luxury tax cap no matter what. There’s no sense in being over the cap with guys like Chris Capuano or Stephen Drew on the team. The Yankees can contend this year without compromising the future, but this means top talent needs to be signed this season. If Teixeira, A-Rod, CC, etc. were coming off the books it would be one thing, but they aren’t and something needs to be done. I will suggest three things the Yankees should do given everything that has happened this season thus far.

An Elite Starting Pitcher
Like most of us, I too was fooled into believing the Yankees had signed Max Scherzer yesterday. It was quite a strange one as Dan Pfeiffer confirmed the Yankees were at the very least preparing an offer to the year removed Cy Young winner: https://twitter.com/danpfeiffer74 - That’s just a link to his whole twitter because he has tweeted multiple times about it. I encourage you to give it a read, it’s pretty interesting. Unfortunately YES Network’s Jack Curry posted this later that night: https://twitter.com/JackCurryYES/status/538818670609580032. Yep. It’s a tough one. Curry appears to be the more credible source on this one, though I will point out Dan Pfeiffer broke the Ellsbury signing last year. He states he has no reason to doubt his sources and I have a hard time calling him wrong as a result – he really has no reason to lie to us. Guess we will have to see how it plays out, though signing Scherzer would be an incredible boost to the team. The big right hander has been one of the best pitchers in the game the last two years and on top of that has been consistently above average and healthy throughout his career.

Scherzer has started 30 games or more every season since 2009. He has struck out 200+ hitters the last three years and actually K’d more batters this year than his previous Cy Young year. He’s 55-15 the last three years. He’s only had an ERA north of 4.00 twice. He owns a 12.7 WAR over the last two years. Need I say more? Scherzer is a true ace and a six year deal signing him until he’s 36 seems more than fair.

It sounds like he either will or has received and offer from the Yankees. No matter the case I just hope they get it done. Lights out pitching would be a huge boost in an AL East that is loading up on star bats. I prefer to sign Scherzer, but it appears the Yankees are now in on another big name pitcher on the market.

Yes, your wishes have been granted and the Yankees have been reported to have made an off on Jon Lester. Marino Pepen, a Boston radio host has reported Lester is considering offers from the Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, and Yankees, in that order. Here’s the tweet and the translation: https://twitter.com/RealYanksFans/status/539188288305651712.

This should come as welcome news to fans. The team has finally woken up and thrown that “not going after big free agents” junk aside. I’m sure they will continue to claim they aren’t but let’s be honest, what would publically stating they want big name free agents gain them? It would give the agents leverage and give other teams a way to better plan their attack. I assume I need not say much on Lester. A year ago he only led a team to the World Series and was ice in the playoffs. I would be all for signing him and putting a guy a lot like Pettitte in pinstripes. Additionally, he won’t cost a draft compensation pick which is huge.

Theoretically the Yankees could sign both these guys. As stated earlier the Yankees might as well go way over the cap since they will be over it anyways. Do I think they will end up with them both? Not at all. But consequently I would be shocked if they didn’t get one at this point. Either way I think the Yankees need to sign one of these two + McCarthy. The Yankees have more than their fair share of question marks in the rotation to start. Can CC regain his velocity and old form and return to dominance? Can Pineda stay Healthy? Will Tanaka really be able to avoid tommy john surgery? This rotation has way too many what-ifs and adding one of these guys would sure it up. It would give us a spectacular rotation and free up some of our pitching depth such as Pineda, Greene, Phelps, Severino, etc. to be traded. I know this won’t be a popular idea, but baseball is a business and you need to trade what you have for what you need – it’s that simple. Pineda in particular has had an injury history that is worrisome, but could still be seen as a good trade chip perhaps for a shortstop such as…

The Next Yankee Shortstop
Ian Desmond. Yes this idea is pure speculation, but think about it. It makes a lot of sense. Desmond rejected a relatively large extension from the Nationals and I have read multiple reports that make it sound like he wants out. The result? There have been more than a few rumblings the Nationals would move their star shortstop for the right price rather than lose him for nothing in free agency. This could only be bolstered by the fact they have been reported as taking offers on top flight starters Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann (Yes, two N’s).  Sure there’s the risk you trade for him and he walks when the year is up but why no trade for a solid shortstop and see if you can’t get the inside track to re-signing him?
Why Ian Desmond though? To me, Desmond is the perfect blend of talent and availability on the market this very moment. Let’s look at Desmond’s stats the last three years:
2012:
·         .292 avg.
·         25 HR
·         73 RBI
·         3.4 WAR
2013:
·         .280 avg.
·         20 HR
·         80 RBI
·         3.6 WAR
2014:
·         .255 avg.
·         24 HR
·         91 RBI
·         3.8 WAR

I feel it should be pretty evident the type of player Ian Desmond is. To me he’s a fringe top 5 shortstop and is severely underrated. He’s a solid bat who will drive in runs and has steadily become a great defender. This is the player the Yankees need. In all honesty Jeter didn’t exactly provide stellar offense or defense the last few years so why not jump at an opportunity to improve on both?

Clearly there will be a cost for Desmond though and what would it be? I personally think it works best in a three team trade and here’s an example:
NYY Receives: Ian Desmond
ARI Receives: Refsnyder, Phelps, Nova
WSH Receives: Owings, Gary Sanchez

Now of course we can play around with it and add and subtract other players like Pineda, etc. but the basic premise of this trade seems to be about right. Jed Weisberger, a writer for a YES Network affiliated Yankee prospect site has told me this makes quite a bit of sense for everyone involved. I’m sure tinkering to the final deal would be needed, but as you can see a great shortstop could be gotten without giving up crucial pieces of the farm system. When coupled with the fact that Desmond is more than likely available for the right price I think it is a no brainer. I have my doubts it will be done, but I guess we will see.

Re-Sign Chase Headley
I have previously written about why the Yankees should re-sign Headley in an article on this site and I strongly encourage you to give it a read. I will give you the truncated version here though. With Sandoval off the board the Yankees really need to get moving on re-signing Headley. If they don’t there’s a chance teams like the Giants or Padres (it’s actually reported multiple teams are now engaged in talks with Headley) could really drive his price and year range out of proportion and if the Yankees can’t get him back that would be a tough situation.

Headley was a solid pick up this year and played strongly in his tenure with the Bombers. He posted much improved offensive numbers from the first half stint with the Padres and didn’t let anything within what seemed like a 10 yard radius get by him at third. Couple that with the fact he’s a switch hitter and I think this is a much needed piece for the Yankees. He would allow Prado to man second, where he is better suited and eliminate any worry about having to play Refsynder or Pirela at second.

If Headley could maintain the way he hit with the team in ’14 I think there’s a good chance he could be a .275, 20 HR guy every year at Yankee Stadium and when coupled with that incredible glove I think this is one fish the Yankees absolutely cannot let get away.

The Rest:
It was reported today that David Robertson has a 3yr/$39 million dollar from a team today and has since been confirmed. I have since heard the Astros offered it, but this much I can’t confirm. I just hope the Yankees aren’t that team and are going to let him walk. I have also written about why the Yankees need to let Robertson go and while I also encourage you to read said article I will sum it up by saying D-Rob is not a solid closer and is better suited for the set up role. The younger, cheaper Betances could do a better job at closing for a fraction of the price and it is a no brainer to let him walk, gain a draft pick, and better spend money elsewhere.

Additionally I previously wrote about acquiring Justin Upton in a trade and while I still really with that would happen it doesn’t seem as if there’s any indication the Yankees are interested. In fact it sounds like the Athletics will end up picking up shortly. Oh Well. Thanks for reading everyone and have a great week – hopefully it’s filled with some solid Yankee pickups.

Follow me at @RealYanksFans
All stats provided by Baseball-Reference.

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