As eight teams fight to win the 2013 World Series, the New York Yankees are watching from home. A disappointing regular season forced the club to miss the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. With many of their best players set to be gone in 2014, general manager Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him.
The Yankees have stated their aim is to keep their payroll under $189 million, which would allow them to avoid excessive luxury tax penalties. There has been much debate about whether or not New York will reach their goal, but their roster will see some significant changes, either way. Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera have retired, Alex Rodriguez is likely to miss the entire season with his suspension, and Derek Jeter’s health is a question mark after missing 145 games.
In addition to the veterans that have been with New York for a decade or more, several of their key players are set to hit free agency. Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are all without contracts. As a result, the Yankees will have to bring in several new players next season.
On offense, the infield is New York’s concern. They don’t have a star-studded outfield, but they’ll be returning more than enough players there. Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano are all set to become free agents in 2015, while Brett Gardner is arbitration eligible. The Yankees could bring back Granderson on a new deal, but signing a top outfielder like Shin-Soo Choo or Nelson Cruz isn’t a probability.
New York has several question marks around the diamond, starting at catcher. They tried several different options to replace Russell Martin, none of whom panned out. Chris Stewart played like the career backup that he is, and Austin Romine’s .261 on-base percentage proved that he’s not ready to start in the Majors. Francisco Cervelli played well in 17 games, but his battle with injuries and involvement with the Biogeneis scandal rules him out as a reliable option.
If the Yankees are willing to spend money on a catcher, Brian McCann could be a good fit. There were rumors last offseason that the Atlanta Braves were looking to trade the catcher to New York because of his $12 million price tag, and they could let him walk in free agency. He’s no longer the .300 hitter that broke into big leagues a few years ago, but remains one of the best players at his position. In 60 fewer games than Yankees catchers in 2013, McCann hit 12 more home runs and drove in 14 more RBI.
With Mark Teixeira looking like the only thing close to a certainty for New York in 2014, the organization could be in the market for someone that can play multiple positions. Of all the free agents, Omar Infante might be the one that pique’s Cashman’s interest the most. The 31-year-old was primarily a second baseman this season, but he has a lot of experience at shortstop and third base, as well. He hit a career-high .318 in 2013, and wouldn’t be too costly. Despite Cano’s reported $300-million contract demands, the Yankees remain the favorites to sign him. Infante, though, would still find playing time on the left side of the infield.
While the Yankees need help on offense, their pitching staff will also receive a shakeup next year. Only C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova are guaranteed to be back in 2014. New York would like to keep Kuroda, but the 38-year-old hasn’t given any indication of his future plans.
Matt Garza could be high on the Yankees list of potential new starters. The right-hander struggled when he was dealt to the Texas Rangers midseason, but his overall body of work is impressive. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2007, he has never had an ERA over 4.00. There had been past rumors the Yankees would try to trade for Garza, though nothing ever materialized. At just 29 years old, he would be a main cog in the team’s rotation for the next couple of seasons.
A few months ago, Jon Lester might have been at the top of Cashman’s wish list. That, however, no longer seems like a possibility. A 2.57 ERA after the All-Star break almost guaranteed that the Boston Red Sox will pick up the pitcher’s $13 million option for 2014.