In the first month since the end of the World Series, New York has addressed much of their pitching needs. The club has re-signed both Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, ensuring that they will have a strong starting rotation. Mariano Rivera’s contract is up, but the closer is expected to come back and put off retirement for one more year.
Now, the Yankees must address their offense. Three-eighths of their starting fielders are free agents, and New York must either bring them back, or replace them. Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin are getting interest from other teams, and all three played key roles for the Yankees this past season.
Here is an update on the status of New York’s free agents, the likelihood of each one returning, and what the team might do to replace them:
Suzuki is the most likely of the free agents to wear pinstripes in 2013. Acquiring the outfielder from the Seattle Mariners proved to be a successful move. He had a resurgence in New York, hitting .322 with the Yankees. His batting average was 61 points higher in the Bronx.
At 39 years old, Suzuki won’t be asking for a lengthy contract. He can play all of the outfield positions, and proved that he can hit in the playoffs in New York. He was one of the few Yankees that didn’t go into a prolonged slump in the postseason.
In his advanced age, the Yankees will likely have him split time with a right-handed hitter. Scott Hairston has reportedly been on the team’s radar as a possible platoon player. The utility man hit very well against lefties for the Mets in 2012, posting a .550 slugging percentage against southpaws.
Chance of returning: 85 percent
The Yankees other free agent outfielder is all but gone. Swisher had four good seasons in the Big Apple, winning a title in 2009 and hitting 105 home runs during his tenure. However, his time in New York ended somewhat unceremoniously.
Swisher was benched in the ALCS for his inability to hit in the playoffs. He struggled to find a rhythm in every postseason with the Yankees, failing to hit over .211 in any year. The eight-year veteran also criticized the behavior of the fans in the playoffs, though he has since apologized.
Despite his postseason failures, Swisher’s regular season consistency will net him a large contract. B.J. Upton just received $75 million over five years from the Atlanta Braves, and Swisher has been more productive than him in the past few seasons. New York has already tried to replace with him a cheaper option, failing to sign Torii Hunter.
With Swisher likely headed to a team like the Boston Red Sox or the Texas Rangers, the Yankees could explore a trade. With Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes headed for free agency in 2013, ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand has suggested that it wouldn’t be implausible for the team to trade one of them for young, cheaper options. A deal involving those two stars might not happen, but the Yankees will explore trading for a bat.
Chance of returning: 5 percent
The Yankees are in an interesting position with Martin. He wasn’t very good last season, but New York would have a tough time replacing him. He hit .211 in 133 games, though he did provide decent power with 21 home runs, and had some timely base-hits towards the end of the year.
The Pittsburgh Pirates might stand between Martin and the Yankees. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Pirates are making a push to sign the catcher, and could offer him between $21 million and $25 million over three years. New York had been hoping to sign him to a two-year contract, but that may no longer be enough.
If Martin signs elsewhere, the Yankees might be stuck with career-backup Francisco Cervelli as their starter behind the plate. They had hoped that minor leaguer Austin Romine would be ready to start by now, but injuries last season have hurt his development. New York may have no choice but to match Pittsburgh’s offer.
Chance of returning: 60 percent