The 2012 free agent pool was fairly decent last offseason and, as usual, there was tons of speculation on who the Yankees would go after. Regardless, they were pretty economical in gaining assets through savvy trading (Michael Pineda), picking up cast offs (Raul Ibanez), and re-signing critical assets (CC Sabathia, Andrew Jones, Eric Chavez). It’s difficult to truly gage how a player WOULD HAVE played had they signed with a particular team; there are too many variables to take into consideration. However its still worth looking at how some of the potential Yankee targets are performing thus far and if the Yankees would have been better off had they signed them.
C.J. Wilson was probably the most likely FA to land in Pinstripes but opted to don a halo with the LA Angels. The Yanks needed another starter to compliment CC but couldn’t pull the trigger with CJ. They ended up with former Dodger Hiroki Kurdoa and benefited from Andy Petttitte’s decision to return. Wilson is currently 7-4 with a 2.39 ERA (3.26 FIP), 1.09 WHIP, .189 BAA, and a WAR of 1.8. Its tough to say Wilson wouldn’t be an asset to the Yankees, but playing with that short porch in Yankee stadium, those numbers could inflate. Right now, I believe the staff is and will be fine without him.
Yoenis Cespedes was the beast from Cuba that just about every MLB team was interested in. Oddly enough, he ended up with the small market Oakland A’s. Where, exactly, would Cespedes have fit in? Barring the Gardner injury, would Yankee fans have rather run him out there over Swisher or Gardner? I wouldn’t because of the intangibles both of them bring (not to mention Yoenis’ -8.6 UZR). And then there’s the injury. Can you imagine the roaring Yankee Universe would be doing right now given their reaction to Pineda going down? In any case, Cespedes’ WAR sits at 0.3 and he holds a .356 wOBA. He is striking out a lot (22.1%) but has good power (.214 ISO).
Jose Reyes was an interesting subject this off-season. There was quite a bit of rumbling about him replacing Jeter at short. Defensively, the point is moot. Jeter has a UZR of -11.7 and RngR (range runs) of -12 while Reyes has a -2.6 UZR and a -2.2 RngR. The leadership El Capitan brings is undisputed and, as I mentioned in a previous article, he carried the team early in the season. He’s hit a cold streak as of late and his numbers are starting to fall in line with Reyes’. There really was no place for Reyes. Whose spot would Jeter had taken in the outfield (if they moved him there)? I don’t believe for a second he would have settled for a DH role either. This decision is really the only no-brainer for me. No one can replace what Jeter gives to the Yankees and that is one stat that can’t be measured.
Yu Darvish, the phenom Ham Fighter from Japan, was another coveted import garnering heavy interest. The Yankees, having been burned by Japanese pitching in the past, were reluctant to push hard on Darvish. And while he’s had flashes of brilliance, he’s pitching with a pedestrian 3.72 ERA (4.02 FIP) and nearly six BB/9. This could be attributed to the adjustment to a bigger baseball but there is no excuse for him not having a better W/L record (7-4) with the run support the Rangers can provide him. To me, I don’t believe the money that the Rangers posted to negotiate with him, coupled with his contract, will end up being worth it. Without a doubt the Yankees would have been financially handcuffed given then need to resign Robinson Cano AND Curtis Granderson; not to mention the Steinbrenners goal of dropping team payroll under $189m for the 2014 season.
Then there are several others that may or may not have been serious targets despite the media insistence. There is no way the Yankees could have afforded Albert Pujols or the burden or another ARod-like contract. Can you imagine the media scrutiny having King Albert struggle in New York? Prince Fielder could have given us some major pop that our middle hitters are not consistently giving us but I would not want to sacrifice the glove that Teixeira provides. Then there was the big debate on whom was to be the 10th man. I was not on board with Raul Ibanez. Cashman, as usually, saw something most of us didn’t- 10 HRs, .817 OPS, and a 0.5 WAR. So what are Damon and Matsui up to these days?
There was also the Freddy Garcia vs Bartolo Colon issue. I preferred Colon over Garcia but in hindsight, I would have cut them both loose and gone after Edwin Jackson. Might have cost a bit more but now seeing how much turmoil the rotation was in during the first quarter of the season, his 78 ERA- and .197 BAA might have helped calm the brief scare.
There is a lot of ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ in the critical Yankee mind but I believe Brian Cashman was extremely effective in building a competitive team without blowing tons of cash. And, love him or hate him, Joe Girardi has done a solid job not allowing the Bombers’ ship to sink as they toiled near the gutter of the AL East.