Philosophers called it a tabula rasa back when latin was the predominant language of the world. Fast forward to 2013, and it is the Yankees who need a tabula rasa, which directly translates to English as “blank slate.”
It would be impossible for the Yankees to start completely from scratch with A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Ichiro, Derek Jeter and Vernon Wells all under contract next season. In addition, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne appear likely to be found in the 2014 team picture. That’s 10 players out of the 25 man active roster.
I’m not a mathemetician but 15 players leaves a lot of wiggle room. The front office has it’s work cut out for them especially when you consider the possibility of having to replace the production three of the best players on this current team; Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte.
First, let’s look at the expiring contracts who are unlikely to be re-signed. Joba Chamberlain is all but gone. Phil Hughes appears unlikely to stay, as his value is much higher in a larger ballpark than it is to the Yankees. Mariano is retiring. Lyle Overbay is unlikely to be back, although Travis Hafner could return to take on the role he was meant to before all of the injuries, DH against right handed pitcher. The Yankees are also not showing much interest in re-signing Curtis Granderson.
A few qualifying offers later and the Yankees could find themselves with another draft in which they have three first round draft picks just like 2013 (or four if they fail to sign Aaron Judge).
The Yankees will definitely do their damndest to re-sign Robinson Cano, and they should because there is no one in the organization who can hold a candle to him offensively or defensively. Boone Logan is a wildcard, but there’s a good chance Cashman will look for cheaper alternatives. At this point I don’t think the Yankees have a choice but to make Cano an offer he cannot refuse.
David Phelps and Adam Warren have shown they can handle the big leagues, at the very least as relievers, and Ivan Nova will certainly compete for a rotation spot. Dellin Betances will get his chance in the bullpen, and he will either sink or swim. Austin Romine and Chris Stewart will be back, and JR Murphy and Cervelli will compete with the two for a spot on the roster.
In the infield, a lot depends on whether or not Cano returns and if a trade is made in the coming days. Assuming Cano departs, the Yankees will have a lot of work to do in the infield. David Adams, who currently owns a sub .200 average, is the most likely in house replacement. Jeter will obviously remain at shortstop assuming health. Teixeira will be back and healed from his surgery and manning first base. Who knows what will happen with A-Rod. If he does happen to get suspended for a year, or injured, or retires, hopefully the Yankees use that insurance money wisely. If not, then there’s not much in the way of help on the way from the minors, although you could play Adams at third and Corban Joseph at second.
The outfield will be interesting. With the way Zoilo Almonte has played he has a good shot to start somewhere. Ichiro, Brett Gardner, and Vernon Wells will all be back, and it will be up to Girardi and company to decide if they want to carry a fifth outfielder.
There will be four rotation spots up for grabs after this season assuming no free agent acquisitions or trades occur. It’s highly likely the Yankees will pursue some free agents, unless of course Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte wants to come back for another go around. Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Jose Ramirez will all be in the conversation for the starting pitching staff one way or the other.
With all of this uncertainty one thing is clear. The Yankees are a tough team to watch right now. They offer very little in the way of excitement, almost no power hitting, and even the pitching has been inconsistent lately. There just isn’t much incentive to tune in right now, unfortunately. That said the Yankees are in a position to make major changes in 2014.
The one positive to all of these one year contracts that Cashman has been dishing out is that next year, the Yankees get a fresh start. Hopefully he doesn’t wait until the last minute to make some free agent signings this time. The Yankees have a good amount of salary and a decent amount of roster flexibility next year, and it’s up to Cashman and Steinbrenner to turn that into a successful 2014. The wild card for that success could be whether or not the Yankees are willing to spend their insurance money even if it puts them over the $189 million threshold.
It’s not my money and it’s not my team, but I can guarantee that if the Yankees continue to put teams like this on the field, there will be low attendance at games and bad ratings on television year after year. If they’re not willing to spend the insurance money, I have serious doubts that they will be able to put a playoff contender on the field next season.
The Yankees have about as close to a blank slate to work with next season as one could imagine for a major league baseball team, and this will probably be the most important off season faced by the Yankees in recent memory. The last time they had an off season this important was 2008. Needless to say people would be happy if 2014 were remotely similar to 2009.