12/04/08 11:00 AM EST
Yankees looking to invest in arms
Early Hot Stove activity only a precursor to Vegas shopping
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
STARTING PITCHING -- The Yankees' biggest priority is to acquire one, if not two, ace-type starting pitchers and help rebuild the rotation. They were quick to put a six-year, $140 million offer on the table for CC Sabathia, and have waited patiently to see if the left-hander will accept that pact, or if the West Coast and/or National League will prove too alluring. The Yankees are also fond of A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, and have spent more than a month preparing offers for both players. If the Yankees strike out on all three of their top choices, they will be forced to explore second-tier options and trades.
FIRST BASE -- General manager Brian Cashman pulled the trigger on a November trade with the White Sox for Nick Swisher, and if the season were to begin today, Swisher would be the Opening Day first baseman. But Cashman has been careful not to put that in stone, and it remains possible the Yankees could upgrade, shifting Swisher to a reserve first baseman and corner outfielder. The Yankees don't figure to spend big on this position, likely ruling out a serious run at Mark Teixeira.
CENTER FIELD -- Manager Joe Girardi believes the Yankees can be competitive with the duo of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner splitting duty in center field, but there are those who disagree. With top prospect Austin Jackson still biding his time in the Minor Leagues, center field could be a position where the Yankees upgrade by trading for a stopgap veteran like the Brewers' Mike Cameron. Another avenue would be a pursuit of a rising star like the Royals' David DeJesus, but that appears to be mostly media speculation at this time.
Whom they can or need to trade
2B Robinson Cano: If a top-flight starting pitcher becomes available, the Yankees could part with Cano, though they're in no hurry to do so and Cano has said that he wants to stay in New York. With three years remaining on his contract, Cano is still considered an affordable rising star, despite a down 2008. He has been DHing in the Dominican Republic, continuing the adjustments hitting coach Kevin Long incorporated into his stance in September.
OF Melky Cabrera: Cabrera's stock has gone down from when he was bandied about as a potential chip in last offseason's rumored proposal for Johan Santana, making this a bad time for the Yankees to sell. He was shipped to Triple-A as a wake-up call in August and isn't being guaranteed a starting role as the season approaches, with the Yankees particularly wanting him to improve his plate discipline and baserunning. Cabrera's defense was still considered a plus in 2008.
OF Johnny Damon or OF/DH Hideki Matsui: There is a logjam of corner outfielder types and, in the right deal, moving veterans Damon or Matsui -- both of whom have one year remaining under contract -- could be considered. Matsui is being envisioned as a designated hitter after continued knee problems, and while Damon has kept a good attitude, it is hardly a secret that he would prefer to play center field.
RHP Ian Kennedy: There is a sense that Kennedy may be slightly more available in possible trades than he was a year ago, despite a strong showing pitching winter ball in Puerto Rico. While he projects to begin the year at Triple-A, the Yankees see potential and still won't part with him cheaply.
LHP Kei Igawa: The Yankees would desperately love to get rid of Kei Igawa, who is no longer even on the 40-man roster and is not a consideration for the Major League roster, but there are no partner clubs willing to take on such an expensive reclamation project.
Jackson is the Yankees' best position player prospect, but will start the year at Triple-A with a September 2009 or early-to-mid '10 arrival date projected for Yankee Stadium. No. 1 pick right-hander Andrew Brackman is on the comeback trail from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, while righty Mark Melancon is a hard-throwing closer type. Jesus Montero could eventually be either the Yankees' catcher or first baseman of the future, but just completed his first full Minor League season.
Other prospects: RHP Dellin Betances, C Francisco Cervelli, LHP Phil Coke, RHP Christian Garcia, RHP George Kontos, RHP Jairo Heredia, RHP Alan Horne, RHP Zach McAllister, C Austin Romine, RHP Humberto Sanchez, 3B Bradley Suttle.
Big contracts they might unload
The Yankees saw more than $80 million come off their books already this winter, with Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Rodriguez all having filed for free agency. With Pettitte the only likely member of that group to be pursued, the Yankees have plenty of flexibility to replace those contracts on their roster as they attempt to retool and become a younger, more athletic club.
Eligible for arbitration
RHP Brian Bruney; Cabrera; OF Xavier Nady; RHP Chien-Ming Wang.
The Yankees clocked in at $209 million in 2008. While they have taken a cautious eye to the bottom line, as best evidenced by their decision not to offer salary arbitration to Abreu and Pettitte, the Yankees have the freedom to explore the same neighborhood for '09. The new Yankee Stadium, as well as other ventures, will help create new revenue streams that the Yankees can reinvest into their Major League club.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.