Pujols in Pinstripes? A look ahead at potential free agent targets for the Yankees next winter.

The Yankees didn’t get their man this winter, but who might be heading to the Bronx next offseason?

Cliff Lee is a great pitcher and makes the Phillies the clear cut favorite to win it all next season in my opinion, but the Yankees are still a very talented team and if they can swing a few trades here and there, they could easily wind up right in the middle of the playoff picture.

But as for next offseason, the Yankees should be major players on the top free agents out there, and here are the potential big names out there.

Not to pick on the St. Louis Cardinals, but they have two players in particular that GM Brian Cashman will have his eye on.

The first one you probably know, and that would be three time MVP Albert Pujols. Providing he doesn’t agree to a contract extension with the Cardinals, who I think won’t be able to afford him, he will be a free agent and will be looking for A-Rod money at the least.

Pujols could play first base and Mark Teixeira could slide into the DH role with Jorge Posada out of the picture after next season, or Pujols could be the primary DH. Pujols has also had playing time in the outfield and with Nick Swisher’s contract set to expire, right field might be another possibility.

The other potential free agent form St. Louis is pitcher Adam Wainwright, who has quietly emerged into one of the best starters in the NL. He is 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA over the last two seasons, he has also struck out 425 while walking only 122 batters in those seasons.

Wainwright would certainly be a major upgrade to the Yankees rotation, but he has a $10 million vesting option for 2012. I believe he would elect free agency over a return to St. Louis. The Cardinals would like to sign both Pujols and Wainwright, but I don’t see them being able to afford both of them, so that means one will for sure be out there, plus Chris Carpenter is a free agent as well.

As I mentioned before, Nick Swisher’s contract is up after the 2011 season, and if he has a bad year and the Yankees don’t bring him back, then Jose Bautista is a viable option.

He slugged 54 home runs in 2010, by far the best in the league, and also drove in 124 runs. I certainly don’t expect him to continue at that pace, but if he has a good season and hits 35-45 homers with 100 or so RBI, I think he would be a great fit in right field for the Yankees.

Like Pujols, another prominent NL first baseman that is a free agent next offseason is Prince Fielder, who is almost certainly out of the Brewers price range to retain him and he could be on the move this year at the trade deadline.

Fielder would be an exclusive DH for the Yanks and almost every other AL team, so that might be a little bit of a concern, especially if your going to invest 20+ million dollars in him. But with him being a left handed bat, one can only imagine the amount of home runs he would hit well past that short right field wall at Yankee Stadium.

Roy Oswalt has a mutual option with the Phillies after next season, but he is certainly a pitcher that the Yankees might want to look at if he is available. He pitched extremely well in Philadelphia for the final two months of 2010 and if he has a good year in 2011, then I would think that Cashman would consider him, even at age 34.

Remember that these are all potential free agents, and could get contract extension’s with their current teams or sign an extension with a team they might be traded to in the near future.

But those would be the stars of next year’s free agent market and the Yankees look like they will have plenty of money to spend,  and I think you all know what that means.

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12 Responses to Pujols in Pinstripes? A look ahead at potential free agent targets for the Yankees next winter.

  1. Jamie says:

    I think you've lost your mind, Lucas. We're still talking about the man most now consider to be the best all around player in baseball and you are going to sign him when you already have a Gold Glove All-Star with by then still four years left on his contract first baseman in Mark Teixeira? He might be a positional player but this is just more of the 30+ quick fix "solution" that the Yankees have tried to buy themselves out of holes ever since they elected for the immediate gratification of Jason Giambi who never really did recover post-2003. I rather would have had Tino Martinez back for one more sub-par season; at least his defense would have been much more valuable. I think people went right back to drinking the Kool-Aid after 2009 because it worked out perfectly but that was a rare exception. C.C. Sabathia was 28 years old and ditto Mark Teixeira. A.J. Burnett was, well, the mixed bag of good and outright wild that was good enough in his initial year but let's face it – his pie antics were far more instrumental in terms of clubhouse driven personalities and cohesion. A year later and it's pretty clear that there's probably a good reason why he took a black eye – both on and off the mound. Something's not right there on more than one level to say the least. There are some very intriguing one or even two year gambles out there and I think you have mentioned some good ones as well. Chris Carpenter is a very intriguing option and he's also A.L. East tested and the money they would have thrown at Cliff Lee would still have an endless reserves left in a post-acquired scenario. However, his injuries have been a major concern. Still, it's intriguing. I'm not quite sure what the price tag would be for either the White Sox or Astros to give up Mark Buehrle or Wandy Rodriguez, nor do the rest of us know enough about how he'd potentially fare in the A.L. East. The one guy nobody is really talking about, especially with Mark Prior being signed, is Chien-Ming Wang. He's an even better low risk/high reward. Odds are his arm is already done and he can't soldier on. However, let's just say that they are able to improve his arm strength and straighten out his mechanics again. We're talking about a 1B-type starter who won 18 games two straight seasons in the toughest sports environment in the world. That's not too shabby. And he's given you what Cliff Lee basically would have done, albeit as a right-handed pitcher, and for how much less bankroll? And if he still fails, he's cost you nothing but a second chance and a drop in the bucket even by pocket change standards for the New York Yankees. And if he fails, he'll be D.F.A.'d quicker before you can say sinkerball. Mostly, I just think that the time has finally come, in a post-Lee sign-fail, Greinke-can't-handle-the-stage, King-Felix-Is-Not-Available-Yankees reality, for the Yankees brass to finally do the right and sensible thing by telling their own fan base and the rest of the baseball world that they're going in-house. No more expensive, 30+ quick fix "solutions", no more selling the whole farm system for three months of someone who will ultimately prove to not be enough and/or to make up for other deficiencies the team has. And no more of this nonsense that if a young guy doesn't turn out to be Cy Young in season one that it's a failure and waste of a rotation spot. Or even year two for that matter. That era needs to be over, the pitching elite of the Top 10 minor league system needs to be given their shot to break in early and often, and at the end of the day we should all send Cliff Lee a thank you note for being a "hero" (fake praise aside) for signing with what is "only" the third richest team in baseball payroll-wise instead of the first. Let's see if we can make that the first thing we try not to be number one in again.

    • Lucas Weick says:

      First off, I never said that the Yankees were going to or absolutely need to sign anyone of these players, I'm simply mentioning a few of the top guys that could be available when next winter rolls around.

      Now, you can't seriously compare Pujols to Giambi, Pujols is so much better than Giambi ever was is in an entirely different player class. We are talking about a triple crown threat player every year, a player who's career will go down as one of the greatest ever, if not the greatest ever.

      And as far as your pipe dream of this era of so called 30+ quick fixes coming to an end, well that isn't going to end untill baseball gets a salary cap. The Yankees are going to be involved in the free agent and/or trade markets next year and always check in on he big name players, most likely including several of the players in this article. And to think that they won't is ignorance.

      • Jamie says:

        I don’t think they will. I don’t live in a fantasy world. And I’m certainly not ignorant. I just think the Yankees, despite ultimately failing, jumped the shark. I thought that was the A-Rod contract. It’s crazy to think that I could have been wrong about that but here we are. I’ve been one of the seemingly few fans trying to talk other Yankees fans off the ledge the past month or two myself about Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford. And that’s entirely my point. All I’m saying is that this is what they SHOULD do. I have no realistic expectation that they will. They should listen to me, but they won’t! :) And I was NEVER comparing Pujols to Giambi. I’m not quite sure where you got that from because I was clearly talking only about each player’s respective free agency status and just the whole concept of signing the flashy and popular free agent. And although I still think he’ll probably just play out his contract year at this point, there’s still a possibility they could work something out before Spring Training anyways. Again, I doubt that though. And I understand you’re obviously just throwing names out there but I think those should be non-starter discussions (i.e. not even brought up at all) because then fans only get that much more encouraged to pressure the front office to go out and do just that. And they need to be talked out of it, not encouraged – especially at this point. And we would all take Albert in a heartbeat over Giambi but there’s not a need for him and with an aging A-Rod and Jeter on top of Teixeira there just isn’t a place for that to even be considered. I never called for any “pipe dream scenario” but rather a call to the masses that what our team keeps doing is simply delusional. Will I still try to garner support for pressuring the Yankees brass for going younger instead of circling the wagons? Absolutely. Do I think that my efforts will reach a high enough level to achieve that? Of course not. That’s unrealistic – of course. I’m just saying that we should still rail against it anyways because what the Yankees have been doing since Giambi – and that’s what I was trying to tie all this together with to illustrate my point – has been (sans 2009) doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It’s the definition of insanity. Are they going to listen to me? Of course not. Please tell me where I said that. Outside of a very unavailable Felix Hernandez, there is not a single pitcher in the league that they should once again mortgage their future over. Let’s just give that future a chance to be the present again without it being a one year experiment ending in further impatience when it doesn’t pan out right away. And let’s face it – the Yankees brass is too scared of its own fan base so if you can start implanting it into other fans that it’s against our team’s own self-interest to keep giving into older player signings, then that’s the only thing that will eventually turn the tide. Again – will it work? Probably not but not at least trying to do that is no longer an option either. Just out of curiosity, what/who would you be willing to give up from the system for a top flight starter? What would that package entail?

  2. I can't lie, this is not a very realistic analysis. You need to do some fact checking first. Wainwright's option is not a vesting option, it an affordable club option for both 2012 and 2013. Meaning he won't be a free agent until 2014. Meaning there is no reason to mention him at all in this article.

    Also I can pretty much guarantee you that neither Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, or Price Fielder will be a DH in 2012. So there is no reason to mention any of these players either. To make things worse, you are implying that a Gold Glove first baseman might move to right field? Really?

    Also, Oswalt's option is a club option as well.

  3. Mike S. says:

    Another problem is this. Say 2011 is Posada's swan song. The DH spot can't be automatically given to a Teixeira, Pujols or Fielder unless you think having a 38 year old SS and a 37 year old 3B in 2012 (and 39/38 in 2013) is acceptable. That hole between SS and 3B might as well be the Holland Tunnel. This is a big problem for the Yanks in the upcoming years. You know that either Jeter or Alex must be Dh-bound come 2012 or 2013.

  4. Ruben says:

    Rob, I love following this blog. It's stuff like this that makes me want to cry when I read it. It's December 2010 and the kid's already looking at 2011-2012 offseason, obviously showing that he has no faith in the Yankees this season (not to mention the hundreds of other ideas wrongfully given in this). Get him off the staff, please.

    • Jamie says:

      Lucas clearly didn't like my response but I wasn't trying to be harsh in my own initial reply even if it came off that way to him but arguing for him to be kicked off the staff is pretty harsh too.

      In terms of 2011 – I couldn't agree more. They still came two wins away from a possible best of 7 for a repeat. It's insane. Of course, it does look a lot bleaker in '11 if Andy Pettitte finally retires! Even if 2011's a dud, the future is too bright with the young internal talent the Yankees have. It's insane to sacrifice it now for short-term gain but it'd be even more insane to think that they wouldn't quickly bounce back; or at least couldn't. And the arms. Oh, the arms…they all laugh at the Yankees now…(And if not, screw it – we'll just get Felix Hernandez when A.J. Burnett comes off the books. Actually, they should do that anyway.)

    • In his defense, I might do something like this, but I wouldn't do it the same way. A lot of times while articles like these put off some people, we do get a lot of emails from people who want to know what their options a year from now might be. There is a good reason to look to the future while thinking about the present.

      In this case I don't think there isn't a good reason to mention any first basemen (who don't automatically become DH's just because you want them to), but the premise isn't totally off.

    • Bronx Knight says:

      Calling for Rob to boot Lucas off the staff is way harsh. While Lucas seems to have made a factual error, and some unrealistic assumptions (why would Pujols leave first base in the prime of his career?), it's a blog, not Sports Illustrated. The idea is to talk about the Yankees, provide information and speculation you don't see elsewhere, and to provoke discussion — so Lucas succeeded.

      Keep up the hard work Lucas — maybe just consider fact-checking a little more carefully next time up.

  5. bill boylan says:

    Tex is a far superior first baseman to Pujols, I think the best since Keith Hernandez. I’d love to get him for right field/DH but he’ll get $20-25 /year. Someone mentioned Tino, I always thought he was wooden at 1st.
    We need some pitching, duh, everyone else does also. Hopefully some of our young guys can be productive starters. I’d give Wang a shot at spring training, make Joba a starter and try to get a #2 or #3 starter in free agency or trade.
    Pitching is the key as witnessed by the past playoffs and series. Someone has to get ready for Mo’s spot also.