New York Yankees: MLB Winter Meetings
December, 7, 2013
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com
So with the winter meetings beginning Monday, let's go have some fun with Saturday notes. The New York Yankees have lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, while signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson. So what is next?
1. Best second baseman: I was told all along that Omar Infante would not sign with the Yankees unless he knew he could play every day. Infante doesn't care if it's second or third, but he wants to be on the field. Though he could be a super utility player, he doesn't want to worry about looking at the lineup card every day.
So with Cano gone and Alex Rodriguez in limbo, the opportunity for Infante to end up the Bronx seems plentiful, if the money is right.
Infante makes a lot of sense because he can fill two holes at once. If A-Rod's suspension is upheld, Infante could play third, while Johnson mans second. If A-Rod gets off and returns -- still a big if -- Infante could be at second. Or the Yankees could sign another third baseman, such as Eric Chavez, who can't really play every day, and the Yankees could rotate Infante, Johnson and Chavez in the two positions.
Infante's Inspector Gadget qualities make him a perfect fit. Plus, he hit .318 last year and is a former All-Star. I could see him being next on the Yankees' board.
2. Pinstripe dreams: We reported this morning that Beltran took less money to sign with the Yankees. The talks with the Yankees, according to a source, intensified Friday when Brian Cashman called Beltran's agent, Dan Lozano, at 7 p.m.
The Yankees will be trading some of their outfielders. I think it's possible Brett Gardner is dealt, but I think it is more likely he is in left and Alfonso Soriano is the DH. They also have Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. A couple of those guys won't be on the Yankees' roster.
3. Happy wife, happy life: When you try to report on free agency, it is always good to try to find out where the players' wife or family wants to be. It isn't always the end-all, be-all, but it can be helpful. Judging by Mrs. Beltran's Twitter account, she is happy to be back in New York.
If he is posted, the Yankees -- with savings from Cano's money -- could be well-positioned to sign Tanaka.
5. OK, but who is going to pitch? Well, we have a strong idea of how four-fifths of the rotation is going to play out. CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda are three starters. The fifth starter spot is expected to be a competition between Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. So one of those guys will be in the rotation.
6. So who are they going to sign? The Yankees aren't crazy about the free-agent pitching market and its cost. Phil Hughes got three years and $24 million!
But, if they are convinced Tanaka won't be available, they have some choices to make. Among the available free-agent starters, the Yankees could go more high-end, such as Matt Garza, or more of a four- or five-type, such as a Paul Maholm. My guess would be Maholm, but the way the Yankees are throwing around money, nothing would be shocking. I just know they don't really like the guys at the top of this free-agent class a lot.
7. Can Soriano play second? This is a popular question on Twitter. No, he can barely play left. There is no chance he is moving back to second unless this guy is involved.
8. Did Cano have a probblem with the binder? The Post's George King mentions this in the middle of his story on Cano fleeing to Seattle.
According to three people who know Cano, he didn’t enjoy playing for manager Joe Girardi and that may have factored into the decision, though the Mariners giving him $60 million more than the Yankees offered ($175 million) likely had more to do with him leaving.
“Robbie didn’t like batting second, he wanted to bat in the middle of the order," one person said. “The Yankees wanted him second because that was best for the team. He wanted to hit in the middle of the order to drive in runs [to increase his value]."
Through the middle of June, Cano shuttled between second and third in a lineup that didn’t have Derek Jeter to hit second or Rodriguez in the cleanup spot.
For the season, Cano batted third in 110 games, hitting .319 with 16 homers, 73 RBIs and an OPS of .886. As the No. 2 hitter in 42 games, he hit .308 with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and a .955 OPS.
“He told me he didn’t want to play for [Girardi]," a friend of Cano’s said.
Very interesting stuff, but, as King points out, it was the money that drove Cano to Seattle.
9. Laying down with law: What does ESPN Insider Keith Law think of Beltran's future?
He's a possible Hall of Famer and still a potent hitter from the left side, but the Yankees just signed him for his age 37 through 39 seasons even though he's showing signs of decline and is probably best suited to DH, if not right away then certainly before this contract is over. They've boosted their offense and added a marquee player, but they haven't filled a critical need the way they did with McCann -- second base, the rotation, maybe third base if you-know-who is suspended for all or most of 2014.
Beltran does make the Yankees better, though, just not as much as his contract seems to indicate. He remains an offensive force against right-handers, hitting .315/.362/.509 against them in 2013, and his propensity for making hard contact bodes well for his future at the plate both in hitting for average and for power.