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Free-agent free-for-all about to begin

10/15/2014
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The winter free-agent shopping season is still a couple of weeks away, and with the Yankees' hierarchy holding their annual organizational meeting this week in Tampa, Florida, newly extended GM Brian Cashman probably doesn’t even know yet what, if any, budgetary constraints he will be under for the 2015 roster.

Be that as it may, it’s never too early to start spending Hal’s money, and we all know there’s plenty of it to spend.

But who to spend it on?

In truth, the Yankees have more areas of need than they have available roster spots, being locked into at least a half-dozen big-money contracts for players penciled in to key positions.

Hence, we have identified four potential areas of need: shortstop, one outfield spot, one starting pitcher (only because three elite arms will be available) and one DH/backup player. I’m assuming that since the pickings are slim at second base -- unless you want Kelly Johnson back -- the Yankees will plug Martin Prado, who has played more than 250 games there and is signed through 2016, into the slot until something better comes along.

I’m not going to bother giving you all the possible options, just the ones that seem likely to draw some interest from the Yankees this winter. Then, it’s your turn to weigh in on which ones you think are worth gambling some Steinbrenner cash on.

SHORTSTOP

Top shelf:

Hanley Ramirez

Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

2014 salary: $16 million

2014 stats: .283-13-71, .369 OBP, .817 OPS, 3.5 WAR

Pro: Bat

Cons: glove, range, injuries. Likely to get qualifying offer, likely to reject it, probably won’t be cheap.

Middle of the road:

Asdrubal Cabrera

Age on Opening Day 2015: 29

2014 salary: $10 million

2014 stats: .241-14-61, .307 OBP, .694 OPS, 1.8 WAR

Con: Never became the player he was expected to become.

Pro: Young enough that he still might.

Stephen Drew

Age on Opening Day 2015: 32

2014 salary: $10.1 million (prorated from $14 million qualifying offer)

2014 stats: .162-7-26, .237 OBP, .536 OPS, -1.1 WAR

Pros: Was starting SS for a World Series champion and has got to be better than he looked last season. Also, should come relatively cheap.

Con: Scott Boras

Stopgap:

Jed Lowrie

Age on Opening Day 2015: 30

2014 salary: $5.2 million

2014 stats: .249-6-50, .321 OBP, .676 OPS, 1.9 WAR

Pro: Switch-hitter. No chance of qualifying offer. Could be a bargain.

Con: Won’t make anyone forget Derek Jeter.

OUTFIELDERS

Top shelf:

Melky Cabrera

Age on Opening Day 2015: 30

2014 salary: $8 million

2014 stats: .301-16-73, .351 OBP, .809 OPS, 2.6 WAR

Pro: Aside from the obvious, has been here before and probably can handle New York.

Con: Sure to get the qualifying offer and will cost a draft pick and some heavy dough, probably three to four years at $13 million-plus. Also, hate to see another PED cheat get rewarded for it.

Nelson Cruz

Age on Opening Day 2015: 34

2014 salary: $8 million

2014 stats: .271-40-108, .333 OBP, .859 OPS, 3.9 WAR

Pro: Bust-out season could be first of a few.

Con: Or it could be his career season and the beginning of a decline into full-time DH-ville. Also, another guy riding the Biogenesis express to riches.

Fallback position:

Chris Young

Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

2014 salary: $7.25 million

2014 stats: .222-11-38, .299 OBP, .684 OPS, 0.4 WAR

Pro: Performed well in his brief time with the Yankees at the end of last season.

Con: Performed horribly with the Mets for the rest of the season.

DH/BACKUPS

The only choice:

Victor Martinez

Age on Opening Day 2015: 36

2014 salary: $12 million

2014 stats: .335-32-103, .409 OBP, .974 OPS, 4.4 WAR

Pro: The best all-around hitter in baseball last year, can also back up the oft-injured Mark Teixeira at first. Would certainly wake up the Yankees' offense.

Con: Age, but stayed healthy enough to play 151 games last season.

THIRD BASEMAN (Just for fun)

Pablo Sandoval

Age on Opening Day 2015: 28

2014 salary: $8.2 million

2014 stats: .279-16-73, .324 OBP, .739 OPS, 3.0 WAR

Con: The Yankees already have a 3B they’re paying $21 million for 2015.

Pro: Another reason for you to be mad at A-Rod.

STARTING PITCHERS

Top shelf

Jon Lester

Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

2014 salary: $13 million

2014 stats: 16-11, 2.46, 219.2 IP, 1.10 WHIP

Pro: Tough left-hander in Yankee Stadium? That's what you want.

Con: Will cost a fortune in money and years, and we’ve seen how long-term contracts work out with pitchers.

Max Scherzer

Age on Opening Day 2015: 30

2014 salary: $15.5 million

2014 stats: 18-5, 3.15, 220.1 IP, 1.18 WHIP

Pro: Steady improvement over the past three seasons.

Con: Bring cash, and plenty of it.

James Shields

Age on Opening Day 2015: 33

2014 salary: $13.5 million

2014 stats: 14-8, 3.21, 227 IP, 1.18 WHIP

Pro: Will come cheaper than the other two.

Con: Also the oldest of the Big 3.

Consolation prizes:

Chris Capuano

Age on Opening Day 2015: 36

2014 salary: $2.2 million

2014 stats: 3-4, 4.35, 97.1IP, 1.39 WHIP

Pro: Steady if unspectacular, pitched better than his numbers with the Yankees due to lack of run support.

Con: A stopgap at best. Also, not young.

Brandon McCarthy

Age on Opening Day 2015: 31

2014 salary: $9 million

2014 stats: 10-15, 4.05, 200 IP, 1.28 WHIP

Pro: Pitched much better with the Yankees than he had with the Diamondbacks.

Con: Jury still out on whether he was actually a better pitcher, or just a luckier pitcher in the Bronx. Still a fly-ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium.