Payroll restrictions or not, the Yankees are going to have to get involved in the free agent market this offseason to address their areas of need and finish out their roster to take another run at title 28 next season. They've already lost some major parts of the 2012 roster and they're going to have to get creative to fill those holes and build a roster capable of contending for a championship.
Yesterday I presented my list of position players I felt made the most sense for the Yankees to go after this offeason, some of whom would fit the team's cost cutting goals and some who wouldn't but were good fits in terms of addressing team needs. Today we'll take a look at the group of players in the bigger area of need, pitching. The Yankee rotation has 2 open spots right now, 3 if you think they aren't going to guarantee Ivan Nova a spot heading into next season, and they could use some depth in the bullpen to cover for the loss of Rafael Soriano and the uncertainty surrounding Mariano Rivera's return from injury. They need to spend money to adequately address these openings, but as with the position players their approach will be dictated by their future payroll plans and their desire to keep costs and years committed to a minimum.
Hiroki Kuroda- RHP
The number 1 priority for the Yankees this offseason should be bringing Kuroda back to shore up the front end of their rotation, and all indications are that's what they're working to do. They've been engaged with Kuroda's agent for some time now, and I think they still have the best chance to sign him if they add a few mil to the qualifying offer amount that he turned down on Friday.
Andy Pettitte- LHP
If Kuroda is priority 1, Pettitte is easily number 2 after the successful return he had this past season. Pettitte hasn't committed to anything yet, and still has some days left on his self-imposed decision making time frame of 1 month, but there are indications that he wants to come back and reports of teammates reaching out to him. Pettitte will come at a higher cost than the $2.5 million he made this season, but any contract he does sign will be for 1 year, making the final price increase irrelevant.
Dan Haren- RHP
Haren was a guy I liked as a trade option a little while back when the Angels were reportedly looking to move him, and a trade almost went through with the Cubs for Carlos Marmol. After that fell apart, the Angels declined Haren's 2013 option, making him a free agent and still a possible short-term solution for the Yankee rotation should they fail to re-sign Kuroda and/or Pettitte. The declined option is a sign that Haren's back could be more problematic than first thought, but that could work to the Yankees' advantage of going after him on a "show me" 1-year deal that would fit their plans.
Edwin Jackson- RHP
After he turned down a multi-year deal last offseason, Jackson had another solid year with the Nationals this year, pitching to a 4.03/3.85/3.79 slash line in 189.2 IP and setting new career bests in K and BB rate. Jackson's 2012 wasn't as good as his 2011, but he's still just 29 years old and still an underrated pitcher who could be very valuable as a #3-type starter. If teams don't bite on him again with a multi-year offer, he could be a nice option for the Yankees if he's willing to take another 1-year deal, but the chances of that happening are low.
** I'm not even going to bother mentioning Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez because of the guaranteed years and type of money they'll command and certainly get from somebody. They'd be exactly what the Yankee rotation needs in terms of age and skill, but fall well outside the team's spending window. **
Joakim Soria- RHP
The Yankees started a trend of looking for proven relievers coming off injury with their signing of David Aardsma last offseason, and they could continue it this year with Soria. He missed all of 2012 after having TJS for the second time, but has an impressive 2.40/2.90/3.20 career slash with a K/9 near 10 in 5 seasons as KC's closer. He doesn't turn 29 until next May, he'll cost far less than what the Yankees paid for Rafael Soriano a few years back, and he's expressed willingness to take a backseat to Mo if he doesn't go back to KC.
Ryan Madson- RHP
Madson had a tough luck 2012, losing out on a big deal with Philly and then missing the entire season with TJS after signing a 1-year contract with Cincy. He's a little older than Soria at 32, a little less eye-popping with his numbers (career slash in the mid-3.00s, 7.81 K/9, 2.37 BB/9), and reportedly looking for a closing role, but his demands could come down if nobody takes the bait. It's unknown if he'd accept a role behind D-Rob as part of the middle relief corps, but he'd be a welcome addition.
Matt Lindstrom- RHP
He's not a sexy name, but Lindstrom has solid career numbers and was great last year for both Baltimore and Arizona. The D'backs declined his option, making him a desirable option for teams needing middle relief help. The Yanks don't exactly fall into that category with Joba, Aardsma, and Boone Logan in the fold, but Lindstrom would be worth their time if another team doesn't snap him up first.
Koji Uehara- RHP
Another high-risk/high-reward type of pitcher coming off an injury-plagued 2012, Uehara would be another cheaper version of the Soriano signing that the Yankees could use to shore up their middle relief depth. He's 37 and turning 38 in April, which limits his leverage in asking for a multi-year contract, but Uehara has swing-and-miss stuff (10.75 K/9 in 2012), a track record of success in the AL, and could be a good find if other teams don't throw more money at him.
Jeremy Affeldt- LHP
This one is more of a pipe dream than anything, but Affeldt would be an upgrade over an overworked Logan as the team's primary lefty reliever. Affeldt has been a workhorse since being converted from a starter to a full-time reliever in 2007, and is the rare type of lefty reliever capable of getting both right and left-handed hitters out on the reg (sub-.300 wOBA against both in an equal innings split in 2012). He's not a need, more of a personal favorite want, but Affeldt would give the Yankees another solid setup option should injuries strike again.