The countdown to Tuesday is rapidly approaching, which is the official start to the free agency period in Major League Baseball and essentially, the beginning for the 2014 offseason.
For the New York Yankees, their preparation for 2014 really began the minute they were eliminated from postseason contention in the final week of the 2013 season and watched the Boston Red Sox go on to win the 2013 World Series while they were all sitting on their couches. If there is one thing the Yankees do not like, it's sitting at home in October, especially with the payroll and expectations placed upon them every single season.
Last month, it was reported that the Yankees were expected to spend over $300 million in free agency contracts, which also includes bringing back Robinson Cano, who is the top free agent on the market and a player many expect to be back with the Yankees once the dust settles and the season kicks off in 2014.
But Cano isn't the only player the team needs, as the Yankees have a lot of holes that need to get filled; which include catcher, starting pitching, relief pitching and right field. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors did the site's annual free agency predictions for the top 50 free agents in baseball and listed four big names that will land with the team in free agency: Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals, Grant Balfour of the Oakland A's, A.J. Pierzynski of the Texas Rangers and Ervin Santana of the Kansas City Royals.
Of those four players, lets break down how each one could potentially help the Yankees in 2014 if they were signed:
- Carlos Beltran, RF, St. Louis Cardinals: Last month during the 2013 National League Championship Series, it became well-known that Beltran had major interest in playing in the Bronx, even with his success over the last two years playing for the Cardinals. Beltran fell just a bit short in winning his first World Series in St. Louis this past month, but if he were to sign with the Yankees, he could get one last chance of getting a chance to win that championship that has eluded him in his career. If Beltran is signed, he would be replacing Curtis Granderson, who was the team's center fielder before moving over to left and right field, but missed over 100 games due to injuries. Beltran hit .292 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 145 games for the Cardinals and if he were to come to the American League, he'd have a chance to not only play right field, but play part time as a DH as well.
- Grant Balfour, CP, Oakland A's: With the retirement of longtime closer Mariano Rivera this season, the Yankees have an opening at the closer spot, and it's not clear if the team is ready to hand the ball over to setup man David Robertson, which could send the Yankees looking for another closer. There's Joe Nathan, who is 39 but could draw interest from teams like the Detroit Tigers, but then there is Grant Balfour, who just finished closing the last two years with the A's. The 35-year-old Australian recorded 64 saves and a 2.53 ERA during his time with Oakland and was the closer for the back-to-back American League West Champions. Balfour could get something along the lines of a two-year, $18 million deal as a free agent closer and could be a short-term solution if the team isn't ready to see Robertson be the guy to take over for the greatest closer ever.
- A.J. Pierzynski, C, Texas Rangers: The Yankees have a major need at catcher and the team realized this once Francisco Cervelli went down for the season with an injury and then a suspension for using PED's. The team tried to make it work with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, but both are better suited to be backup catchers as opposed to being starters and the team needs a major upgrade at the position. The team has been linked to Brian McCann for a while now, but incase he falls out of their price range as far as a contract goes, the team will still need help at catcher because what they have will not work, which is where Pierzynski comes into play. He'll be 37-years-old next month so if the team were to sign him, it would be on the short-term and a one or two-year deal at most would be needed to land the veteran Pierzynski. In 2013, Pierzynski hit .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBI in 134 games with the Rangers and would be an instant upgrade over what the Yankees had last season.
- Ervin Santana, SP, Kansas City Royals: The Yankees starting rotation is in dire need of pitching help, especially with the retirement of Andy Pettitte and both Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes both free agents and their futures with the team up in the air, especially Hughes who is not expected back after a very sub-par 2013 season. So with that, the Yankees will certainly be looking towards the free agent market for help. One name that could very well interest them is long-time American League starter Ervin Santana, who had previously been with the Los Angeles Angels and most recently, the Kansas City Royals. His won-loss record wasn't pretty at 9-10, but he had a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts, logged 211 innings and had 161 strikeouts with only 51 walks; which shows that he didn't draw great support from his team but pitched in a lot of tough innings. If Santana were to get support from the Yankees offense, that 9-10 record could end up being a 16-9 record on the season, something that he could get in the Bronx instead of being in Kansas City. Either way, Santana is a work-horse starter who will log a ton of innings and be very competitive on that fifth day when it's his turn to take the ball.
These four names are just a few of the many of players that have already been linked to the Yankees in the last month since their season ended with an 85-win year and third-place finish in the American League East. In the story done by Dierkes, he also predicted Hiroki Kuroda to re-sign with the Yankees, Curtis Granderson to sign with the New York Mets and Phil Hughes to sign with the San Diego Padres as well.
The wait is almost over for many teams to begin their free agent shopping and pursuits. For the Yankees, it will likely be a case of showing people the money, along with the chance to play in October and for a championship.
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