Here is my list of the top 10 free agents the Yankees should target. Not the ten free agents with the best stats in 08, but the best free agents for us to sign with our current roster( meaning these aren't guys who we should only sign if a trade is made). Obviously, we won't, and shouldn't, sign all of these guys, but we should consider all of them.
8. Mark Kotsay
Most of you probably know that the Yankees plan to bring Austin Jackson to the bigs for the 2010 season. So what they really need is a one year stopgap in centerfield. Kotsay could be that guy. He is an above average centerfielder defensively, not making any errors in the outfield this year. Kotsay is not a great hitter, struggling in 22 games with the Red Sox in which he posted a .286 OBP. However, he has a career .337 OBP and a .414 SLG, these aren't all star numbers, but again he is just a stopgap centerfielder. The main motivation for signing Kotsay would be to have veteran insurance in CF is Melky and Gardner are unable to handle a full time big league role.
7. Bartolo Colon
The former Cy Young winner posted a 3.92 ERA in 7 starts for Boston this year. He has been plagued with injury problems over the past few season, and hasn't even made 20 starts in a season since 2005. However, Colon is truly talented and has veteran experience. What harm could be done by signing him to a 1 year, $1mm minor league deal with incentives for reaching the majors and making multiple starts at the big league level? No, Colon is not the answer to our pitching needs, but he could be some much needed insurance. And I would much rather have him in our rotation than Sidney Ponson.
6. Mark Prior
Prior was once one of the most hyped young players in the game, but injuries have prevented him from pitching more than 20 games since 2005. We all know that Prior has stuff. He has velocity and movement and he's only 27. If he can stay healthy, he, like Colon, could be great insurance for the big league club. Actually, if Prior is healthy he might even be able to be a consistent member of the rotation. I say offer him a major league deal for 1 year and $2mm. See if he'll take it. He's a perfect low-risk, high-reward investment.
5. Ramon Vasquez
Vasquez is a candidate to take Betemit's old role. Vasquez had a career year with a .365 OBP and .430 SLG in 105 games. He has made appearances at every infield postition throughout his career, predominantly playing 3B and SS. He isn't an all-star, but he doesn't need to be. He is capable of filling in at numerous positions and posting near league average numbers. He is a viable option for the utlity infielder's spot.
4. Jerry Hairston Jr.
Hairston Jr. had a great year in Cincinatti this year with a .384 OBP, and a career high .487 SLG. He might be a candidate, like Vasquez, to take over Wilson Betemit's utility role, but not only does he play the infield, he can play the outfield as well. Hairston stole 15 bases in 18 attempts, so he's not Jose Reyes or anything, but at least the pitcher has to think about him when he's on base. Hairston won't command much in terms of salary and with his versatility he could be very useful to have on the bench, and could fill in adequately for injuries to Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Nady, Damon, Cabrera, or Gardner.
3. Adam Dunn
Ok. We all know that we don't need another corner OF/1B guy. But Dunn could prove to be a bargain. He has hit 40 home runs on the dot every year since 05, and hit 46 in 04. He certainly isn't the speedy, gold glove, young athlete we need, but his career .381 OBP would be welcome with the departing of Abreu and Giambi. If we signed Dunn he would probably end up in LF, with Damon moving to CF, Nady in RF, Matsui DHing and Swisher at first base. However, I'm not big on having Damon man center. Perhaps a Dunn signing could lead to one of the others menitoned becoming expendable. The best part about Dunn is that unlike Mark Teixiera he isn't going to command a 6 year deal. Dunn would most likely want a 4 year deal, but I could see him even settling for 3. If he's under $15mm/year He could be a great investment.
2. Ben Sheets
Sheets, because of his late season injury, is not being considered one of the top 3 free agent pitchers, but I'd rather have him than Lowe or Burnett. Sheets will only command a 2 or 3 year deal, which means that by the time his deal is over, hopefully, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy will be prominent members of a rotation along with Joba Chamberlain and Chien-Ming wang, barring any trades. Sheets started the All Star Game this year, and posted a 3.09 ERA. Sheets hasn't had an ERA above 4.00 since 2003. The 30 year old right-hander has had a history of injuries, but signing him for only 3 years means that risk isn't as big of a factor, because he is only here for a couple of years. And according to RAB his only pitching arm related DL stints came in 2001 and 2006. This year he didn't have a DL stint, but finished the season with a slight tear in his elbow, however there was no ligament damage and he is supposed to be healthy for Spring Training. He is a much better investment than Burnett and should be treated as such.
1. CC Sabathia
Now for the biggest free agent, both in terms of hype and size, CC. We've already offered CC a record setting 6 year $140mm deal. It comes down to what is more valuable for him...money and victory or California and hitting. It's no secret that Sabathia enjoyed hitting in the NL this year and he has been said to want to play near his home around the bay area, but is that all worth $40mm? Despite whispers of the Giants making a play for CC, I don't think they can make a competitive offer. After signing Edgar Renteria, Bob Howry, and Jeremy Affeldt already this off-season, they can't have a ton of cash. And they have already had great failure with a certain $126mm pitcher. With a rotation already containing Matt Cain, Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Noah Lowry, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito, pitching should not be the Giants' focus. If they really are going to spend more money I expect it to be for a hitter. The other California players for CC are most likely going to use their budgets to sign Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixiera. The Angels don't really need another pitcher, and although Los Angeles does, they have some other major holes to fill at second base and shortstop, and most likely can't afford to spend big money on Sabathia and still have cash to spend on their other holes. So then it's between Milwaulkee and New York. CC is a fan favorite in Milwaulkee and is great friends with Brewers Mike Cameron, Prince Fielder, and David Riske. However, Milwaulkee has real budget constraints and only offered CC $100mm over 5 years. That's one year and $40mm less than the Yankees' offer. CC, it seems, isn't all about the money, but who could leave $40mm on the table? The Yankees do have some intangibles in their favor however. They acquired Sabathia's friend Nick Swisher and as the New York Knicks have cleared cap room to make an offer to CC's good friend Lebron James in a year, CC has friends in New York too. Not to mention a real shot at a championship, being part of a storied tradition, playing in a new state of the art stadium, and being a part of baseball's biggest rivalry. The only thing CC might not like about being a Yankee is Joe Girardi's ban on candy in the clubhouse. The hefty left hander could bring great durability, consistency, and endurance to a team that really needs him.