It seems more and more -- with the possible exception of a few minor deals -- that the Yankee roster is set for the season. And what a season it should be. This offseason, the Yankees seemed to have improved on a champion team, while simultaneously getting younger without raising payroll. It's a hard trifecta to pull off, and Brian Cashman -- for whom I gain more respect every day -- accomplished it mainly through trades, while largely avoiding the free agent market.
The message from the front office was clear: We want no part of the big-name free agents. The reason for this was two-fold. One, the top free agents this year were largely overvalued. And two, the free agent class of 2010 is absolutely loaded with talent. Since the Yankees are clearly already looking ahead to the 2010 offseason (and since pitchers and catchers still don't report for another few weeks,) I thought it would be fun to speculate on what moves the Yankees might make after they wrap up championship number 28.
The Yankees sure have a lot of pitching depth this year, but three of their biggest names will be free agents after the season: Andy Pettitte, Javier Vasquez and Mariano Rivera. Rivera is simply indispensable, and barring utter disaster, the Yankees will resign him at any cost, including partial team ownership and stadium naming rights. I expect him to reload for similar dollars and years to what he already has.
Pettitte and Vasquez are more interesting, and it's certainly possible that they both come back for another year. But the team has already been rumored to be drooling over free-agent-to-be Cliff Lee, and, well, have you ever heard of the Yankees not signing a player they desperately want? With the money Lee will demand, and with the desire to develop their young starters, I just don't see room for any other big ticket pitchers. Expect Pettitte to retire, and Vasquez to move on.
Projected 2011 rotation:
Once again, Mo will anchor a bullpen otherwise made up of cheap, interchangeable parts developed through the farm system.
The lineup really only has one expiring contract after the season, and there's no mystery to what will happen there. Yes, Jeter will be back, and he will be well-compensated. What's more interesting is what might happen in left field. It's the team's weakest position this year, and wouldn't you know it, there's a fine young leftfielder by the name of Carl Crawford hitting free agency after the season. What luck! There's only one problem with that idea: there's also some guy named Joe Mauer. If Mauer is a free agent -- and I think he will be -- you simply can't pass on the chance to sign him.
Even the Yankees, with their deep pockets, have their limits on spending. After big contracts with Mauer and Lee, Crawford will have to come cheap, or not come at all. Of course having Mauer at catcher would push Jorge Posada to DH full time, which seems like the right place for him in the last year of his contract (and not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but there's a certain all-bat no-glove prospect in the farm system who would look like a mighty good DH candidate for 2012.) This means that Yankeeist favorite Nick Johnson would be a one-and-done player. It also leaves left field as a bit of a question mark for yet another year. No matter, there are plenty of ways to get league-average corner outfield production on the cheap. And it's still possible for Brett Gardner to develop into just that player.
Projected 2011 Lineup
Derek Jeter (SS)
Mark Teixeira (1B)
Joe Mauer (C)
Alex Rodriguez (3B)
Curtis Granderson (CF)
Jorge Posada (DH)
Robinson Cano (2B)
Nick Swisher (RF)
Brett Gardner (LF)
Now that is a lineup I can look forward to.