The 2011 Winter Meetings have come and gone this week, with the Yankees taking an actively inactive approach. They were tied to almost every big name free agent available, especially the starting pitchers, were connected in some form to almost every stater reportedly to be on the trading block, and even added some potential depth in small deals . The Yankees had goals and areas for improvement, but they had already done the majority of their important work prior to these meetings. CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia agreed to new deals weeks ago and so adding to the starting rotation was going to be a much more careful process where the Yanks were only going to make a deal if it felt right. In the end, no major moves were made by Cash, but that doesn't mean the Winter Meetings were a loss for the Yankees.
For starters, they put the finishing touches on the current rotation by making the Freddy Garcia signing official. He gets a boost in pay as a result of 2011's success but not enough that it's still not a good, safe deal for the Yanks. They also won the posting for a Japanese player, but not the one we expected. Hiroyuki Nakajima, a star infielder from the Japanese League, could be a replacement for Eduardo Nunez as the backup IF next year and could also fill the Eric Chavez role of caddy to A-Rod. He isn't a sure thing to sign, but this has to signal an attempt by the Yanks to make Nunez more of a trade chip.
The Yanks were active below the Major League radar as well. They added a pair of pitchers through the Rule 5 draft, righty Brad Meyers and lefty Cesar Cabral. Neither should be expected to be major contributors in 2012 if they even make the team, but maybe one becomes a useful bullpen piece. They did have to release Greg Golson to make roster room before the draft, but that's an acceptable loss. There were reports that the Yankees signed former White Sox OF Dewayne Wise, so a replacement for Golson's role shouldn't be an issue. And both Manny Corpas and Adam Miller, 2 other interesting bullpen possibilities, have also been linked to the Yankees.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the meetings was the report that the Yankees had been contacting other clubs and offering A.J. Burnett plus some salary relief. Many passed this off as a small story and say A.J. will be back in the rotation while I argued that the report alone meant A.J. had to go and I still stand by that argument. A.J.'s value could be easily approximated by a combination Hector Noesi and the other guys in Triple-A next year and a better season from Phil Hughes. And freeing up some more money by eating any portion of his salary, even significantly more than the $8 million the story mentioned, allows them to be more active in their pursuits for an upgrade through a trade. You can't tell me that getting rid of A.J., paying him less than you would have had to to stay in the rotation, and adding John Danks is not a winning scenario.
The meetings are over but that doesn't mean the Yankees are done. The posting period for Yu Darvish will end this Wednesday and New York is expected to a major player. The trade talks with the White Sox and Athletics should continue and eventually they will come to their senses and drop their incredibly high demands. And the potential still exists for the Yankees to fill out the bench through a small deal and maybe rid themselves of A.J. through another small one. What happened at the meetings this week probably helped finalize Cash's plan to attack these paths. Now we get to sit back and watch him really go to work.