So some of the Yankees most important “decisions” this offseason hinge on players with options… or as I like to call them, PWOs. There are three of them:
1. A-Rod: Right now, A-Rod is NOT a free agent. Just to make that clear. But of course he does have his opt out option. Now, I understand the logic that it makes sense for him to opt out so he can sign one more “big contract” in his career. And it is Boras’ way to take a player to free agency and let the bidding commence. However, if A-Rod opts out, the Yankees lose $21 million from the Rangers and will be out of the running. Who does that leave A-Rod to sign with? A lot of teams have been mentioned, however people forget the entire reason A-Rod forced his way out of Texas: he wanted to have a chance to win the World Series every year; he wanted to be part of the intensity of Yankees-Red Sox; he wanted to cement a legacy. Who can offer him the chance to win along with the money to satisfy Boras, not to mention has an opening at third? The Red Sox and The Angels. That’s pretty much it. The Red Sox have the history, but can you see them really alienating their fan base like that? And would the Angels really break the bank on one player after being frugal for so long (well, besides Gary Matthews Jr.)? The market for A-Rod is quite simply not that great.
Most important, though, is this: A-Rod is keenly aware of his place in baseball history. He was willing to take less money to go to the Red Sox before the player’s union shot it down. He wants a legacy. If he stays with the Yankees, he will be the marquee player on the marquee team. So those who claim “oh, he’ll sign somewhere else where he can be on a losing team, face no pressure, and make a lot of money.” He HAD that in Texas and forced a trade. If he leaves the Yankees now, he will become the face of free agency, the greedy superstar. A-Rod KNOWS this.
Prediction: A-Rod signs a 4 year, $120 million dollar extension with Yankees in exchange for waiving his opt out rights (this year, and the following years, so we don’t have to play this game every season).
2. Andy Pettitte: Andy had a great season. He thrives in NY. The Yankees need him back to mentor the kids. There may be no Torre and no Clemens, but I still think Andy exercises his option and comes back for at least one more.
Prediction: Pettitte returns, 1 year, $16 million.
3. Bobby Abreu: The Yankees have a team option on Abreu for $16 million. At one point, it seemed like a no-brainer to let him go. Then later in the summer it seemed like a no-brainer to keep him. This one has been all over the map. I think ultimately they exercise the option. Sure they probably could sign him for around 11-12 million a year, but it would require a multi-year deal. Much better to go year-to-year with players in their 30s. The Yanks could decline his option and let him walk and then move Matsui to right and Damon to left. But both those players have become very brittle. And Matsui’s arm in right could be a disaster. However, this could be plausible and cost effective if Cashman thinks Giambi can replace Abreu’s production (especially in pitches seen per at bat) and Shelley Duncan is ready to spell the regulars.
All this is moot and Abreu comes back if Cash trades Damon, which is a definite possibility. And there is always the “exercise and trade” option with Abreu similar to Gary Sheffield last year. One thing I highly doubt you’ll see if the Yankees going after a big name FA outfielder. They will be linked to Rowand, Jones, and Hunter, but it makes no sense to commit to a long term deal with another OF, especially with Jose Tabata and potentially Austin Jackson coming up.
Prediction: Option exercised, 1 year, 16 million.