Going into the 2008-2009 free agency period, it was pretty clear that the Yankees were going to make a big splash on the free agent market. The club had missed the playoffs in 2008, and had a number of contracts coming off the books. With a large need at the top of the rotation, it was clear that the team would make a run at CC Sabathia and either Derek Lowe or AJ Burnett. After signing Sabathia and Burnett and trading for Nick Swisher, it seemed like the Yankees were basically done retooling. However, Brian Cashman looked at the upcoming free agent markets and decided that Mark Teixeira was too good to pass up, and the Yankees swooped in and nabbed him at the last moment. All three free agents were instrumental in the Yankees 27th championship, and their presence on the roster allowed the Yankees to bypass a weak free agent market in 2009-2010.
Now, as the calendar begins to inch towards the 2010-2011 free agency period, I am left wondering whether we may be in store for a repeat of 2008-2009. While the Yankees do not have many contracts coming off their ledger, they may look to next season’s free agent crop and realize that this year’s market may be the only opportunity to upgrade for the next few seasons. Outside of first basemen (Pujols, Gonzalez, Fielder), there are no elite players expected to be available next offseason.
While everybody expects the Yankees to go after Cliff Lee, most are not quite as certain that they will have interest in players such as Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford. Neither player will be cheap, and the upgrade relative to Brett Gardner or Nick Swisher is likely not large enough to justify the cost. However, Brian Cashman might take a look at his aging offense and come to the conclusion that these free agents might be the only solutions on the horizon. While it seems odd that one would upgrade an older offense by replacing some of its younger members, those are really the only positions at which the Yankees can upgrade, due to their older players being entrenched or more difficult to replace.
I do not think the Yankees will sign Crawford or Werth, and I would not be surprised if Brian Cashman pulls off a Swisher type trade that obviates the need to hand out more than one big free agent contract this offseason. Then again, I was shocked when they signed Teixeira. If the Yankees look at future free agent crops and find them wanting, they may choose to splurge on quality now rather than wait for something less expensive to develop down the road.
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