Following a disappointing postseason effort in which they hit a meager .188 as a team and scored just 22 runs in nine games, the New York Yankees could be headed for a shakeup this offseason.
Stars Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher all hit under .200 in the postseason, and while Cano will remain an integral part at the middle of the team's lineup, the other three guys are a different story.
The team will likely let Swisher walk in free agency, and holds a $15 million option on Granderson that they could opt to pick up before dealing the 31-year-old who has become a home run or nothing hitter since coming to the Bronx.
Rodriguez and the $114 million he is still due over the next five years isn't going anywhere, with a full no-trade clause and no interest in leaving New York (h/t Yahoo Sports). However, even with his massive contract, he could begin to see his role diminish as his skills continue to do the same.
Outside of those guys, catcher Russell Martin, DH/outfielder Raul Ibanez and deadline pickup Ichiro Suzuki are also set to hit the open market this winter, and one way or another the Yankees will have a new-look lineup next season.
With so many holes to fill and a payroll already dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold, the Yankees could very well opt to go with a number of mid-level options. However, if they're truly looking to make a splash like it seems the Yankees so often are, acquiring either Hamilton or Mauer would certainly do that. Who's the better option for the Yankees though?
From a pure production standpoint, both players would mark a significant upgrade for the Yankees' lineup.
Hamilton hit .285 BA, 43 HR, 128 RBI and made his fifth straight All-Star appearance last season as he continues to rank among the game's premiere sluggers. He could replace Granderson's power numbers and do it while hitting about 50 points higher.
Mauer, who was held to just 82 games in 2011 due to injury, hit .319 BA, 10 HR, 85 RBI and led the AL with a .416 on-base percentage to rejoin the ranks of the game's most productive backstops. That would mark a substantial jump over the .211 BA, 21 HR, 53 RBI season that Martin put together in his second season with the Yankees.
Both players come with similar massive salary commitments as well. Mauer is locked up through 2018 and has $138 million remaining on his contract. Hamilton, meanwhile, is the premiere player on the market this winter and will no doubt command a salary north of $100 million and spanning at least seven years.
Mauer will turn 30 years old next season, and has been relatively healthy during his career aside from last season. However, a move out from behind home plate should come in the near future in an effort to prolong his career.
Hamilton will be 32 next season, and has battled injuries off and on throughout his six years in the MLB. His battles with drugs and alcohol early on in his career appear to have taken a toll on his body and he will likely continue to spend time on the DL season-in and season-out.
From an intangible standpoint, both players are extremely marketable. Mauer has a quiet confidence that has made him one of the faces of the MLB and Hamilton continues to be an inspirational story as his sobriety has been front and center his entire career.
As far as actually acquiring said players, the Yankees could find themselves in a bidding war with a number of other teams for Hamilton's services, including the Rangers.
Mauer, despite his lofty contract, won't come cheap either. He's the face of the Twins franchise and a hometown fan favorite, so the Yankees won't just have to take on that contract of his but would also have to part with some solid prospects in the process.
In fact, Mauer may not even be available, as rumors swirled when the Twins placed him on waivers in August (h/t Yahoo Sports) in what may have been nothing more than a standard protocol move. However, given the current state of the Twins franchise and their numerous needs up and down the roster, they'd likely at least be willing to listen.
So who would be the better option for a Yankees team looking to make a big splash this offseason following a poor postseason performance?
In my opinion, I think Mauer is the better pickup if they can swing a trade. Hamilton may represent the better option right off the bat, but I'm of the opinion that once his production starts to fall off, it's going to be a steep cliff and the back-end of his contract will be another anchor that the Yankees just don't need.
Mauer plays a premium position, and even if he does move out from behind the dish, his skills should translate to more success late in his career. As far as long-term options go, he's as safe a bet as any.
So what do you think? Which superstar player would represent the better pickup if the Yankees look to make a big move this offseason? Leave your comments below.
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