Stephen Drew would solve several problems for the Yankees' infield. Photo courtesy ESPN.com
By now, everyone who follows baseball is well aware of the spending spree the New York Yankees went on this winter to upgrade a roster that finished third in the American League East, and out of the playoffs for just the second time since 1994. While many believe the Yankees' overall lineup is better and longer 1-9 than it was a season ago, many questions still surround a team that has spent close to half a billion dollars in free agent signings.
With pitchers and catchers reporting in nine days, the Yankees still have several questions to answer not only with their roster heading into spring training, but questions to answer once spring training begins. Today's entry will ask the questions--and attempt to answer them given the available information.
1. Who will be the 5th starter? The free agent market is still slow-moving for Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, along with several other lower-tier starting pitchers that remain available. Compensatory draft picks are attached to both Jimenez and Santana because each declined their former team's qualifying offers to remain with their respective clubs for one more season. With the value placed on draft picks, teams are unwilling to part with those picks to sign less than stellar top-tier free agent pitchers. Of the two, Jimenez makes the most sense for the Yankees, as Santana would be a more expensive version of Phil Hughes...a home run machine. If Jimenez's price comes down, don't count out the Yankees to swoop in and snag him, draft pick be damned. General manager Brian Cashman says the Yankees are done spending money, but I'm not buying it.
What about their in-house options? I've been a fan of Michael Pineda since his rookie season in Seattle. If he comes to camp healthy, at the tender age of 25, he could be the surprise of the season for the Yankees. For whatever reason Pineda falters, then the Yankees have a mixed bag of options to choose from. David Phelps has been up and down throughout his short big league career, and I believe is better situated as a mop-up guy or long reliever. Lefty Vidal Nuno is the one who intrigues me. In a handful of games in 2013, he impressed Joe Girardi with his poise and grittiness for handling the pressure of pitching at the big league level. A groin injury ended Nuno's season prematurely, and if Pineda isn't the guy, I would love to see the rotation book-ended by two lefties.