The New York Yankees have enough questions to keep a general manager up all night entering this off-season. GM Brian Cashman will need to answer several major questions and one of the major issues that needs to be addressed is where the power will come from in the outfield.
Curtis Granderson will be a free agent and there is a minute possibility that he could be brought back as he tries to bounce back from an injury-plagued year. Brett Gardner is coming off an injury but should be healthy for 2014 but he offers little pop. Ichiro Suzuki is well past his best playing days and is a .260-.270 singles hitter. Alfonso Soriano can play left field and will likely get the majority of the playing time there but there is a chance he gets plenty of time at DH as well. Right now, the fourth outfielder is Vernon Wells who had a great first month and literally disappeared for the rest of the season. The only good news about Wells is that he will be playing for free as far as the luxury tax is concerned but that also means if the Yankees release him he won’t count against their payroll.
There is already talk of the Yankees and Carlos Beltran finally uniting but Beltran will be 37 next season and has had knee issues in the past. Beltran would certainly be an upgrade in right field over Ichiro. Ichiro at this point is more of a role player and can’t be depended upon to hit at the top of a lineup. In fact, offensively, Brennan Boesch was more valuable on offense than Ichiro before Boesch got hurt and ultimately released.
The Yankees simply can’t afford to keep Ichiro in the everyday lineup. Yes, he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer but that legacy was built in Seattle years ago. He can still play a positive role on a winning ballclub but he needs to take a reduced role, preferably as a fourth outfielder.
Even if the Yankees bring in Beltran, they can’t go into the season with a 35-year-old Wells, a 39-year-old Ichiro, a soon-to-be 38-year-old Alfonso Soriano and Brett Gardner who will turn 31 and has dealt with injury problems the last two years.
The outfield prospects that the Yankees have in the upper levels didn’t exactly wow scouts or the Yankees in their time in the Major Leagues. Even their best outfield prospects, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams struggled this season with the majority of their playing time taking place at Double-A. It is unlikely any of those three would be ready for Triple-A this season much less with the Yankees.
The Yankees need to inject some youth in their outfield but the only way they can do that is through trades at this point. The free agent market is almost completely void of any impact bat in the outfield since Hunter Pence re-signed with the San Francisco Giants. Nelson Cruz could be that bat but the Yankees might want to steer clear from players linked to Biogenesis.
This leaves the trade market but the Yankees minor league depth is lacking right now and the farm system needs to be injected with talent instead of raided. This leaves the Yankees with the free agent market and Carlos Beltran as their best option. It isn’t ideal but at least if the Yankees make the playoffs Beltran comes with a proven track record of production.
The 2014 season could very well be a repeat of the 2013 season. Age and injuries won’t go away and there is no youth to inject into the lineup yet. The Yankees will have to bank on aging free agents once again to fill the void and it could work out or it could get really ugly.
Chris is a Senior Writer as well as the Hiring and Recruiting Manager for Rant sports. Follow Chris on Twitter and “Like” his page on Facebook.