(I could do this guy's job. With no budget over my head. Courtesy of Jim McPeak/USA Today Sports)
It was said on one of our daily TYA chains yesterday that, despite the open holes in the lineup and the A-Rod injury, you really couldn't say anything negative about the way the Yankees have approached this offseason so far. And that's true. There are still plenty of players available in the free agent pool for the positions at which the Yankees need help (except catcher), plenty of cost-friendly platoon bats available for the bench, and the team has already come damn close to replicating the starting pitching depth it took until mid-January of this year to assemble.
So yeah, it's not like the Yankees have done a terrible job this offseason by any means. They have a plan and they're sticking to it. It's that plan that I think frustrates people the most, though, and I know it frustrates me. To see the Yankees willingly staying away from the best possible players that fit their needs because of money is still strange, and still not something I want to see happening. And to be quite honest, if I have to hear the words "interested," "connected," or "preliminary discussions" to describe the Yankees' connection to some older position player, I'm going to scream. So to change things up a bit, I'd like to come up with an offseason plan that's a little more exciting, the plan that I would be following right now if I were calling the shots and didn't have to worry about cutting payroll. It basically boils down to 3 steps.
1) Sign Josh Hamilton
It's something that the mid-2000s Yankees would have probably done by now, and would have paid too much to do, and it's still something I think the 2013 Yankees should do. The market for Hamilton still doesn't seem to have picked up any steam; it's just a continuous cycle of the same teams saying next to nothing about how interested they even are in Hamilton. The Yankees could probably get themselves into the discussion with a money-heavy 3-4-year offer right now, and could very well move into the driver's seat with a deal like that now that the early market has been set for shorter deals. Call it 4/$104 with a team option.
2) Get Involved in the Greinke & Anibal Sanchez Markets
Yeah, they've got a starting 5 in place now that Kuroda and Pettitte are back, but the rotation could still be better and it's still going to have a lot of holes after 2013 because both of those guys are on 1-year deals, so why not work to add another younger pitcher in his prime to the mix? I'd go in on Sanchez more just to drive his price up with other teams, see if it could get somewhere in the 5 year/$60+ million range, and now that I think about it I'd do the same with somebody like Edwin Jackson.
But Zack Greinke is somebody I'd really go after hard. People can talk about his SAD concerns all they want, but I see a 29-year-old stud who's been pitching with it for years and pitching incredibly well. He's got great stuff, an improving GB rate, doesn't walk a lot of guys, can strike people out, and has experience getting it done in the AL. Adding Greinke to the mix would give the Yankees a real tough 1-4 in their rotation and a guaranteed 1-2 combo moving forward with CC regardless of what happens with Michael Pineda.
3) Trade for Justin Upton*
The asterisk is to signify that this move can only be made if the Yankees signed Greinke, which I think would take a lot to beat the Dodgers, or actually went and signed Sanchez or Jackson. But assuming they signed one of those guys, suddenly Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova become expendable as one of the key pieces in a trade package for Justin Upton. The Yankees don't have a lot of MLB-ready talent, but they've got MLB talent, and a trade package headlined by the duo of Curtis Granderson and whoever Arizona likes better from the Hughes/Nova tandem should draw their interest. With Upton moving and Chris Young already gone, the D-backs need OF help and would get it immediately in Granderson and down the road in Mason Williams and Tyler Austin. Throw in Eduardo Nunez for some IF depth and maybe you get a deal done with Kevin Towers.
With Hamilton already signed, now the Yanks could follow through on moving Brett Gardner to center and completely revamp their outfield with Hamilton flanking him on the left and Upton on the right. The rotation would be stronger with CC/Greinke (or somebody else)/Kuroda/Pettitte/Hughes (or Nova), and even though they would still need a replacement for A-Rod to start the season, the 2-6 spots in the order suddenly become very dangerous with him, Cano, Hamilton, Upton, and Teix when he gets back. Once Jeter returned, there would be enough offense at the top of that batting order to make up for a Cervelli or a Stewart at the bottom of it.
This strategy would be a costly one, both in terms of dollars and prospects, but not a complete financial mess. The AAV swap in the Arizona trade would actually swing in the Yankees' favor because of the money owed to Granderson this year, and they'd still be in line to have a significant sum coming off the books after the upcoming season with Kuroda, Pettitte, and Mo's deals. They could still get involved in talks with somebody like Kevin Youkilis or Mark Reynolds as a temporary third baseman/DH, and fill out the rest of the bench as needed with cheap, flexible veterans and young guys. The bottom line is that the lineup, both offensively and defensively, would be better, as would the rotation. They'd also be younger and not locked into mega long-term deals with the players they had just acquired.
It'd be asking a lot and would take a lot to make it happen, but that's why it's a hypothetical post. I can dream, can't I?