Looking at the Free Agents

When it comes to free agents we all know Yankee fans are spoiled.  Every offseason, we simply choose who we want, and that’s that.  When media people, fans, bloggers, etc are trying to “fix” the Yankees, it’s always just “sign him,” “sign him,” “let him go,” etc, as if it is that simple.  Well in the past, it kinda was.  The Yankees wanted Jason Giambi, so they got him.  They wanted Pavano, so they got him.  And so it goes.

Well this year will be a bit different.  There are a lot of players the Yankees could conceivably use; it will come to what the given player is willing to sign for.  For example, let’s take a look at 2 players, one who I definitely would love the Yankees to sign and one who I wouldn’t.  The former would be C.C. Sabathia.  Sabathia obviously is a great sign for the Yankees but the price has to be right.  If they give Sabathia 10 years and $250 million, that is an awful signing.  My other example is Ben Sheets.  Sheets has no AL experience and a terrible medical history.  He’s not a good sign for the Yankees.  Yet, if my some miracle they could sign him on a 1 year, $5 million deal, that would be a terrific sign.  Neither of those scenarios are going to happen, though sadly the first is more realistic.  But you get the idea: the contract is everything. 

So the Yankees can’t simply identify the players they want; they have to identify what every player is worth to them.

So I’m going to take my shot at guessing two contracts for each player: what the Yankees would like to sign the player at (while still being reasonable) and what their ceiling should be.

C.C. Sabathia:  5 years, $100 million.
Ceiling: 7 years, $150 million.

This would be a high-risk deal no matter what because every deal is high risk when there is this much money involved.  But Sabathia is a horse and has proven himself to be durable, so I don’t think the Yankees would blink at giving him $100 million.  If the conversation goes beyond these parameters, I think the Yankees pass.  7 years is an awful big contract for a pitcher and 8 would be over the limit.

Mark Teixeira: 6 years, $125 million. 
Ceiling: 8 years, $165 million

Again, a lot of money, but the Yanks should be fine promising first base to Tex for the next 6 years.  If it goes to 8, that would mean you’d be banking on Tex being a productive player during his age 36 season.  Not a crazy proposition, but not something to bank on.  I’d be more willing to reach the ceiling on Tex though than on Sabathia or another pitcher, even though we know “pitching wins.” 

Think about this: position players with bloated, back-loaded players still often provide a ton of value.  Jeter might not be worth over $20 million, but it’s close.  Same with Giambi this year.  Then look at Manny – he’s still worth his $20 million a year easily.  Even though we’re past the steroid age, players are still productive into their late 30s.  Also, the Yankees farm system depth is in pitching, not position players.

Bobby Abreu: 1 year, $12 million. 
Ceiling: 2 years, $25 million.

The Yankees essentially would want Abreu to accept arbitration.  If he doesn’t, I think they let him walk and take the picks, especially if Tex comes on board to bat 3rd.

Jason Giambi: 1 year, $7 million.
Ceiling: Exercise $20 million option.

I like the idea of keeping the Big G, as I mentioned in a previous post, as long as they can keep it to a one year investment.  Even with Tex, Giambi would allow them to trade off another asset (Matsui, Damon) for value.  Giambi has no value if he goes because the Yankees won’t offer him arbitration.

Mike Mussina: 1 year, $13 million.
Ceiling: 2 years (with a 3rd vesting for IPs), $25 million (38 w/ vesting)

The Yankees will give Moose fair market value if he decides to return. 

Andy Pettitte: 1 year, $8 million.
Ceiling: 1 year, $16 million.

Ditto for Pettitte, but I don’t think they’ll give Pettitte more than 1 year considering his decline in the second half of ’08.

A.J. Burnett: 3 years, $42 million.
Ceiling: 4 years, $56 million.

Burnett pitches well against the Yankees, but bottom line is he doesn’t quite have the numbers to be a top of the rotation guy, is on the wrong side of 30, and has a history of injury problems.  Buyer beware.

Manny Ramirez: 1 year, $22 million
Ceiling: 2 years, $50 million

I’m sure Manny would love to stick it to the Red Sox 19 times a year, but he better be prepared to take less money to do so.  The Yankees want to get younger and more athletic.  There is no way they are making a major commitment, in terms of years, to Manny.

Pat Burrell: 1 year, $12 million
Ceiling: 2 years, $25 million

I really don’t think the Yankees will have any interest in Burrell unless everything else falls apart.

Derek Lowe: 2 years, $28 million
Ceiling: 3 years, $42 million

I’m sure the Yankees will do their due diligence on Lowe, but remember he only really had one solid season as a starter in the AL East.  In 2004, when he was so “clutch” in the playoffs, he had been removed from the rotation at times and had a terrible season.  He was worse then Javier Vazquez up until that point.  Imagine how different his career might have been had the Yanks caught a break in that series?

I don’t think the Yankees will seriously consider any other major free agents.  They’ve learned their lessons about NL pitchers (so that rules out Dempster and Sheets).  They’ve also learned their lesson on relievers.

When all is said and done, I do think they will get both Sabathia and Tex and I think they’ll bring back at least one of Moose and Pettitte.  But all these free agent dealings will depend on the price.

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