Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I'd Like To See For 2014: Introduction

I was going to start this series by talking about the 2013 season, but I don't think I'm alone in wanting to forget about what happened over the past 6 months and instead focus on 2014. The team has a number of key holes to fill, unlike in previous seasons where improving the bullpen was among the top three concerns for the Yankees going into the offseason.

I wish improving the bullpen was all I had to worry about.

As of right now the team's outfield is full of questions marks, the best hitter on the team the past four years is a free agent, and there are only two good pitchers that we can see in next year's starting rotation. Even with a lot of money coming off of the books, it won't be easy for Brian Cashman and Co. to build a winner for next season.

We've had the austerity budget jammed down our throats for a while now, yet some people don't believe it. And after the Yankees dismal 2013, it wouldn't surprise me to see the team say "hell with it" and go on another spending spree, similar to one they went on after missing the playoffs in 2008 when the Yankees brought aboard CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if the front office stuck with the $189 million target. Although you can't blame all the Yankees issues this past season on injuries, you can't argue that they didn't play a huge part.  Francisco Cervelli, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Travis Hafner, and Curtis Granderson all spent a significant amount of time on the Disabled List, and all five were expected to play key roles for the Yankees this season. And then there were injuries to Zoilo Almonte, Jayson Nix, and Kevin Youkilis.

On the pitching side of things, Andy Pettitte missed a handful of starts due to lower and upper back issues. Even though the team didn't lean on Michael Pineda to do anything this season, it didn't help matters that he wasn't able to return at all in 2013.

By the way, it was probably a good thing that Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain missed some time.

But what would happen if management gave Brian Cashman permission to go ahead and sign whoever he wants... regardless of cost? If that were the case, and I was Mr. Cashman, this is what would happen.

The first thing I'd do is sign Brian McCann. Brian is a career .277/.350/.474 hitter, who has averaged over 20 home runs in each of the last three seasons with Atlanta. His left-handed power would play incredibly well in Yankee Stadium, where 30 home runs wouldn't be a stretch at all. He isn't the best defender behind the plate, but his caught stealing percentage was still a respectable 25% this past season (Chris Stewart's was 31%). But while Stewart had a bWAR of 0.3, McCann's bWAR was 2.4. Gaining two wins from just one position is a very nice upgrade to me.

I've been very impressed with Carlos Beltran as well. In the past three years Beltran's had a batting line of .288/.357/.503 to go with 31 homers a season. While he's not a true left-handed hitter like Brian McCann, Carlos might be better thanks to his switch-hitting. He's not much of a defender, so we'd have to hope that being in a smaller place like right field in Yankee Stadium would help. But his bat would surely make up for any runs he cost us with the glove.

"This bat is like a wand, making magic happen."

If I were running things with a blank check I'd also bring back Curtis Granderson. While his home run rate seems to have fallen, I don't think that will be a problem come next season. Grandy's walk and strikeout rates remained the same, while he actually had a higher than average line drive percentage, all of which tells me that another 35+ home run season is not out of the question for next season. I would be concerned with having a batter that hits below .240 on the team, which Curtis did in 2012 and 2013 (.232 and .234, respectively), but seeing as how the lineup had enough middle of the order bats, I think we could get away with bringing Granderson's big stick back to the Bronx.

While I, and what should be every other Yankees fan, loves Derek Jeter, it's time to face the fact that his time at shortstop has got to come to an end. He just doesn't have the range for that position anymore. However, he does do a fine job on balls he gets to. That's why I'm advocating that he be moved to third base.

Moving Jeter to third base gives the team more options in free agency. Not that free agent shortstops are plentiful, but they are actually better than the options at the hot corner. Before the idea of moving Jeter was brought up, I was thinking the Yankees may as well sign Michael Young. But if the team were to switch Derek to third, that means they could acquire either Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew to play short. Both men are solid hitters, sporting wOBAs of .359 and .336 this season. They are also good defenders, with UZR/150s of 5.2 and 4.4 in 2013.

I was on the fence on which guy I'd sign, and ultimately went with Stephen Drew. It may be silly, but it came down to the fact that Peralta was suspended due to being linked with Biogenesis. And with ARod and Cervelli already suspended for being linked to the PED distributor, I didn't think the Yankees should have another one.

So if I were to take over for Cashman, and allowed to do whatever I wanted, this would be my starting lineup for 2014...

1. Brett Gardner* - CF
2. Carlos Beltran# - RF
3. Robinson Cano* - 2B
4. Alfonso Soriano - DH
5. Brian McCann* - C
6. Mark Teixeira# - 1B
7. Curtis Granderson* - LF
8. Derek Jeter - 3B
9. Stephen Drew - SS

"So far I like."

I would also look to sign Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka for the rotation. While the team might be able to get away with acquiring just one more starter, who could go into the rotation with Sabathia, Nova, Pineda, and Phelps, I wouldn't feel that good about things. However, if they could get a solid starter in Matt Garza, and a possible top of the rotation starter in Tanaka, then things would look a whole lot better.

Those signings would give the Yankees a rotation like this...

1. CC Sabathia
2. Matt Garza
3. Masahiro Tanaka
4. Ivan Nova
5. Michael Pineda

With all that "spend all I want" stuff out of the way, I wanted to say that ideally Brian Cashman would be able to pull of a nice trade or two. After all, the team does have some decent trade bait. With Francisco Cervelli around to be the backup catcher, the team could deal away one of Austin Romine or JR Murphy. Then they also have guys like Adam Warren, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Rafael De Paula, and Jose Ramirez. Not that I want to see any of those guys traded, but chances are a trade or two will be necessary for the Yankees to turn things around and build another dynasty.

But since trades can't be predicted, as rumors are always swirling about this guy and that team, I'm going to go through the entire team using free agency to fill the holes. I'm going to break down what I'd like to see happen by starting with the infield, which will be posted next Monday morning. Then, for the next three Mondays, I'll move onto outfield, the starting rotation, and finish up with the bullpen and bench.

Meanwhile try and enjoy the postseason, even though the Yankees won't be a part of it. And make sure to visit The Greedy Pinstripes often.

"You got it!"

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)