Now that we've cleared the Tanaka hurdle and conquered the rotation equation, it's now time to address filling out the rest of the roster. By my count, the Yankees have 19 players on guaranteed major league contracts meaning there are six spots to fill. In actuality, most of those spots will be filled internally by RP candidates like a guy like Warren taking the long man role. Still there are probably 2 or 3 spots that we could add impact players to the fill out the roster with the infield and bullpen being the biggest needs. I'm curious to see what you guys think we should do to fill out this roster. My own ideas are as follows:
Infield Option #1- Sign Stephen Drew. Boras has stated that Drew is open to playing other positions, which if he were to get regular at bats here he would need to with Jeter primarily playing at short. Being a short stop by trade, Drew has become a pretty good defender over teh years there and would likely be a plus defender at second as well. That's where I would play him as I think Kelly Johnson can hit well enough to handle third by himself, and because second would be an easier transition for Drew than third would be (different skill sets at third than the middle IF spots).
The Pros: Other than Drew's glove, he's a left handed bat with some pop that would probably be aided even more in NYS. Drew has a .171 ISO for his career and posted a .190 ISO last year with the Red Sox, which is very good power production from a middle infielder. Drew also has a patient approach at the plate which is something the Yankees value. His career BB% is 8.9% and he posted a 10.8% BB% last year - the second highest of his career. Drew has been a plus defender at short, posting positive UZRs 4 out of the past 5 seasons. He'd spend the majority of his time here at a different position, probably second, but those skills should translate to him being a plus defender there as well. Being able to limit Roberts exposure at second as well as adequately spell Jeter both offensively and defensively at short makes Drew a compelling value.
The Cons: Drew isn't the picture of durability - playing 124, 79, and 86 games each of the past three years respectively - a problem considering the durability concerns throughout the rest of the lineup. Drew hasn't necessarily been the picture of consistency with the bat either. After posting a career best 113 wRC+ with Arizona in 2010 Drew posted wRC+'s of 92 and 80 in 2011 and 2012 respectively before rebounding with a 109 wRC+ with the Red Sox in 2013. Drew's strikeout rates have been steadily increasing. That's not a huge concern to me, but when you add that with the fact that the strikeouts haven't really accompanied an uptick in power it does become a bit of a concern. In 2010 Drew posted a 17.1% K rate with a .181 ISO, in 2013 the K rate was a whopping 24.8% while the ISO didn't increase much to .190. Lastly, is what kind of contract it may take to land him. The market for Drew has been surprisingly slow to develop with the Red Sox seemingly only looking to him if they can get him well below market value (they have Boegarts and Middlebrooks who they seem content to use on the left side of their IF) and the Mets interested but not willing to cave to Drew's multi year demands. Drew rejected a qualifying offer in search of a multi-year deal, meaning he'll push very hard for one in order to save face - and thus has draft pick compensation attached to him.
My Verdict: Buy - at the right price. A 2 year deal at an affordable AAV (let's say 2 years and $20-22M) would make Drew a great buy. He solidifies the IF and provides much needed insurance for Jeter in 2014 with the possibility of taking over the starting SS duties in 2015 should Jeter hang it up. Additionally, his bat profiles well in YS and could even see a boast in productivity due to the park's friendly dimensions for LH hitters.
Infield Option #2 - Jeff Baker. Baker would be a consideration if, and only if, Drew prices himself out of the market or is unwilling to move off from short to play here. If Drew's here there probably isn't a roster spot for Baker with the pen needing to be filled out. If Baker is signed he provides an interesting quasi-platoon between himself, Kelly Johnson, and Brian Roberts with Johnson obtaining near full-time at bats at both third and second and Baker and Roberts effectively platooning with each other.
The Pros: Baker is a versatile player who has significant experience at first, second, third, and left. In my scenario he'd primarily be a third baseman here, but if the injury bug hits like it did last year having a couple guys (Baker and Johnson) with experience all over the diamond is a huge luxury. The biggest pro with Baker is that he absolutely mashes LHP. For his career he posted a .298/.353/.522 line which is good for 128 wRC+. Last season against lefties he posted a whopping .314/.407/.667 line good for a 186 wRC+ in 123 PA's. Simply put, the guy RAKES left handed pitching.
The Cons: As good as Baker is against LHP he's equally as bad against RHP. For his career his line is .236/.288/.358 good for a 64 wRC+. Simply put, he should never bat against RHPs, EVER! Additionally, despite having experience at multiple positions his defense isn't great at any of them. He's at the best a below average defender and depending on the position even worse than that.
The Verdict: Buy - If Drew isn't signed. Baker can probably be had for a very low cost 1 year deal. He has certain limitations, but if used in a role that maximizes his strengths he can provide significant value.
Bullpen Option - Grant Balfour. I'm not of the mind that Balfour should supplant Robertson as the closer, but as for impact relievers he's the best left out there (not a Rodney fan) and could add a lot of value as a setup man. With the Orioles debacle behind him, he may come a bit cheaper than their reported deal and may have an interest in going to an AL East team to exact his revenge on the O's.
The Pros: Balfour has done something that is difficult for many relievers - post several consistently good years in a row. 5 out of the last 6 years, Balfour has posted a FIP in the mid 3's or below. He has closing experience and several years of high leverage relief work on his resume. He's also a high volume strikeout pitcher, with 9.78 K/9 on his career and 10.34 K/9 last season. Additionally, all the reports I've read have stated that his arm is structurally fine, and several respected team doctors around the league don't see whatever it was the Orioles saw to back out of the deal. I generally don't like giving decent money to relievers, but Balfour is a guy I'd be interested in - at the right price.
The Cons: Balfour's name is fitting, as he does walk a pretty high number of batters. One of the common complaints about handing Robertson the closer job is his walk totals, but Robertson has shown a consistent and significant decline in walks (while maintaining his strikeouts), while Balfour has not, and walks more batters. Balfour has a career BB/9 of 3.94 and a BB/9 of 3.88 last season. Robertson's BB/9 for the sake of argument was 2.44 last season. Balfour also doesn't generate many ground balls with a 35.2% career GB rate, and has at times been homer prone (1.01 HR/9 in 2013; 1.16 HR/9 in 2011), and going to YS that could increase even more.
The Verdict: Buy, but only at the right price and only as a setup man. Robertson out performs Balfour in nearly every significant category and therefore should close over Balfour, but if Balfour accepts a setup role he'd still be a very valuable addition to the pen. The O's offered 2 years and $18M, I'd go a little lower than that for him to be worth it.
So anyway, those are the three players I'd be interested in and the scenarios that it would take for me to sign them if I were the GM. How about you guys?