The 2012 Baseball Winter Meetings get underway Monday. This has already been a busy and interesting -- if very different -- offseason for the New York Yankees. Let's look at what they have done, and what they might accomplish over the next few days at the meetings in Nashville, Tn.
What They Have Done
The Yankees have pretty much taken care of their pitching staff. They have gotten free-agent starting pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to return on one-year deals. They also got future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera to return for what will likely be his final season. They also parted ways with Rafael Soriano, who replaced the injured Rivera last season as closer but opted out of his contract seeing a new big-money deal.
Another thing the Yankees have done is made it obvious they are serious about getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season. One-year deals that give them payroll flexibility are the standard. Big-ticket free agents need not apply.
What They Still Need To Do
General manager Brian Cashman says "offense has taken a hit," and he is right.While the Yankees have been focused on pitching catcher Russell Martin left for the Pittsburgh Pirates, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has begun threatening to leave and the Yankees' bench has remained highly uncertain going into 2013.
Let's look at the possibilities in the Yankees' three areas of need.
Catcher: With Martin gone, the Yankees have Austin Romine, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Eli Whiteside. all are acceptable backup catchers. Only Romine, who might not even make the team, would have any chance of being considered a potential starting catcher. Cashman has been insisting that the opening-day catcher will likely come from that group, but it's hard to imagine him not listening to offers. It seems clear that A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli, the only name free-agent catchers on the market, don't interest the Yankees.
Valentine's View: I would not excpect anything to happen at catcher other than some conversations during the meetings.
Right field: Nick Swisher is gone and Ichiro is apparently insulted by the Yankees' lack of affection, although a contract offer could soothe Ichiro's wounded pride. MLB.com mentions Cody Ross as a free-agent option, and also floats Colorado's Michael Cuddyer and Arizona's Justin Upton as trade possibilities. Nate Schierholtz, non-tendered by the Philadelphia Phillies, has been mentioned as a possibility, as has former New York Mets outfielder Scott Hairston.
Valentine's View: I have always like the veteran Cuddyer, going back to his days in Minnesota. He is owed $10.5 million in each of the next two seasons, however, and the budget-conscious Yankees might not want to take that money on. If anything happens at the meetings, best guess it would be that the Yankees and Ichiro make nice and come to a one-year agreement.
The Bench: The Yankees have yet to re-sign lefty DH Raul Ibanez, and they have parted way with righty outfielder/DH Andruw Jones. Backup third baseman/first baseman Eric Chavez says he won't retire, but the Yankees haven't re-signed him, either. Utility man Jayson Nix was designated for assignment, then signed to a minor-league deal and offered an invite to Spring Training.
Valentine's View: Right now the Yankees have no designated hitter, they have no backup outfielders, they have only the stone-handed Eduardo Nunez has a backup infielder and they have a lot of work to do. Best guess is the Yankees bring Chavez and Ibanez back on one-year deals, and that Cashman spends a great deal of time exploring the market for versatile infielders
[Report: A-Rod to have hip surgery]
What The Yankees Won't Do
They won't be writing big checks to anyone. Big-ticket free agent Josh Hamilton is not on their radar. Arizona's Upton is owed $38 million over the next three years, so I doubt he is a possibility. They won't be trading for Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who is under contract thru 2018 and is owed $138 million. They really seem reluctant to enter bidding wars of any kind.
One other thing the Yankees won't do -- trade Alex Rodriguez. After his latest playoff implosion, and benching, the emotional reaction was that there was no way A-Rod could return. The stark reality is that even if they want to trade him, which the Yankees say they don't, there is zero market for Rodriguez. No one else wants him, so he's staying.