New York Yankees: Pros and Cons of Top Offseason Free-Agent Targets

Stephen SkinnerContributor IINovember 15, 2013

New York Yankees: Pros and Cons of Top Offseason Free-Agent Targets

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    Free agents like Brian McCann are primary targets for the Yankees
    Free agents like Brian McCann are primary targets for the YankeesMarc Serota/Getty Images

    This offseason the New York Yankees expect to be a very busy organization. 

    Following a season in which they failed to reach the playoffs for only the second time since 1995, changes will be extensive and rumors as to whom GM Brian Cashman is pursuing have been a daily occurrence.

    This article will take a look at the five most talked-about targets in the Yankees' crosshairs and what the pros and cons to each are.

Masahiro Tanaka

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    Tanaka would give quality depth to the Yankees rotation
    Tanaka would give quality depth to the Yankees rotationChung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Yankees are interested in Masahiro Tanaka.

    Tanaka is perhaps the most sought-after pitcher potentially on the free-agent market this offseason. 

    The right-handed hurler features a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season.

    With the Yankees rotation up in the air (only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are assured spots), Tanaka figures to be one of the team's priorities.

     

    PROS

    Besides Tanaka's fastball, he also showcases an above-average splitter and has evoked comparisons to Hiroki Kuroda.

    He doesn't give up many home runs and in 2013 yielded just six round-trippers in over 200 innings pitched.  With Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch, that is a quality the team requires.

    Should the Yankees somehow manage to land Tanaka, he immediately gives the top of the rotation depth that it sorely needs.   With CC Sabathia coming off the worst season of his Yankees tenure and Ivan Nova yet to prove consistency over an entire year, the team sorely needs another arm to legitimately contend.

    In theory, Tanaka gives it that arm.

     

    CONS

    Recently Major League Baseball has been attempting to negotiate changes to its posting system—the process by which MLB teams may bid for the rights to offer contracts to foreign baseball players. The recent failure in those attempts may mean that Tanaka is not available to MLB clubs.

    That certainly throws a wrench into the Yankees' plans.

    In addition to his availability, there will always be questions as to whether a pitcher's success in Japan translates to success in MLB.  The Yankees, perhaps more than any other team, know what it is like to throw millions of dollars to a Japanese star pitcher only to see him fall flat on his face in the States.  One only need to look no farther than Kei Igawa (13 big league starts over two seasons with a 6.66 ERA) to realize that Tanaka is no sure thing.

    As mentioned, Yankee Stadium has a short right-field porch and often sees what are long fly balls in any other park ending up as souvenirs for lucky fans.  Successful right-handed pitchers are few and far between in New York. 

    Only time will tell if the Yankees can land Tanaka and whether he will have success at the Major League Baseball level, but if allowed to, you can be sure that the Yankees will make a strong play for him.

Robinson Cano

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    "Robbie" is the top free agent this offseason
    "Robbie" is the top free agent this offseasonScott Halleran/Getty Images

    Robinson Cano is the "star" of this offseason's free-agent market. As such, he's someone the Yankees would like to bring back

    The second baseman will command top dollar as he has a career .309 batting average and has hit 25 or more HR in each of the last five seasons.  In addition, he is a five-time All-Star and has two Gold Gloves to his credit.

    It's difficult to find any holes in his game.

     

    PROS

    A high-average, power-hitting second baseman is hard to come by these days, and in 2013 Cano led the Yankees' regulars in average, HR, RBI, runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.  To say he was the heart of the lineup would be an understatement.

    In the field Cano has a rifle for an arm and often makes the difficult turns at second base look effortless.  Last season he ranked fourth in MLB for fielding percentage among second basemen with at least 100 games played.

    As a left-handed hitter, "Robbie" has a picture perfect swing custom-built for the right-field seats at the cathedral in the Bronx, and at 31 years old the best may still be yet to come.

     

    CONS

    Cano knows that he is the top dog among free agents and is reportedly asking for a 10-year, $300 million contract. 

    Is any player really worth that much?

    While the Yankees may exceed their $189 million payroll goal for 2014, they won't be to give Cano what he's asking for.  It simply is too many years and too much money, especially for a player that appears to occasionally lack hustle.

    Cano's performance in the postseason also leaves much to be desired.  In 51 October games he is hitting just .222 with a dismal .267 OBP.

    The Yankees may be better served by pursuing a cheaper, albeit less talented, second baseman and allocating the money they save towards positions in desperate need of upgrades (third base, starting pitching, bullpen, etc.).

     

Carlos Beltran

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    At the plate, there have been few players with the postseason succes that Beltran has had
    At the plate, there have been few players with the postseason succes that Beltran has hadDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees are reportedly in hot pursuit of free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, per Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News.

    The Cardinals star would provide strong depth to an often inconsistent outfield as well as a suitable replacement in the lineup to free agent Curtis Granderson.

     

    PROS

    Where players like Robinson Cano have lacked in postseason, Beltran has thrived.  In 51 games he holds a .333 average with 16 home runs and 40 RBI.  His .683 slugging percentage and 1.128 OBP in the postseason rank among the best of all time.  In short, he's a gamer.

    Over his 16 seasons, Beltran holds a .986 fielding percentage, has been named an All-Star eight times and was Rookie of the Year in 1999.  He's hit 22 or more home runs and driven in at least 84 runs each of the past three seasons.

    As a switch-hitter, Beltran would allow manager Joe Girardi flexibility at the heart of the order.  In the field he has plenty of experience at both center field and right field.

    Beltran may also prove to be an "easy" signing for Brian Cashman as he has already suggested that he'd "strongly consider" an offer from the Yankees.

     

    CONS

    Beltran is 36 years old and has played 150 or more games just once in the past four seasons (2012).  How much does he have left in his tank?

    With young talent like Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott not far away from their shots with the big league club, does it really make sense to sign a player in the twilight of his career?

    As reported, Beltran is seeking a multiyear deal and with a team already among the oldest in baseball; the Yankees may just want to seek their outfield depth in-house.

Shin-Soo Choo

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    Choo would provide the Yankees with outfield depth and a legitimate lead-off hitter
    Choo would provide the Yankees with outfield depth and a legitimate lead-off hitterJared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Ricky Doyle of NESN.com claims the Yankees have their eyes on Cincinnati Reds free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

    He is a younger alternative to Carlos Beltran in the team's pursuit of outfield depth and stability and brings with him a different set of skills that may be better suited to the Yankees' top of the lineup.

     

    PROS

    Choo is a solid hitter, carrying a .288 career batting average and .389 OBP.  In four of the last five seasons he has stolen at least 20 bases.

    With age and injury slowing Derek Jeter, it is time for the Yankees to seek a legitimate leadoff hitter and Choo fits that bill.

    The outfielder isn't a one-trick pony. He has hit 20 or more home runs in three of the last five seasons, and in the field he holds a career .985 fielding percentage including nine outfield assists in 2013.

     

    CONS

    Like Curtis Granderson, Choo strikes out a lot.  He has struck out 118 or more times in four of the last five seasons. 

    Choo may also be too expensive for the Yankees as he is looking for a contract in excess of $126 million.

    While his age (31) is preferable to that of Beltran, again the question must be asked if it is worth throwing so much money at an outfielder when you have Williams, Almonte, Austin and Heathcott waiting in the wings?

Brian McCann

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    McCann could revitalize the catching position for the Yankees
    McCann could revitalize the catching position for the YankeesJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Rumors from CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman suggest the Yankees empire will be in pursuit of free-agent catcher Brian McCann.

    Last season the Yankees' catching corps ranked at or near the bottom of virtually every offensive category in baseball.  In addition, starting catcher Chris Stewart ranked second in passed balls—after supposedly being signed for his defensive prowess.

    Catching is certainly one position the Yankees must improve on if they are to return to postseason play, and McCann would give them immediate relief towards that goal.

     

    PROS

    Brian McCann has hit 20 or more home runs in six consecutive seasons, and in seven of the last eight.  As a left-handed hitter, he is perfectly suited for the Yankees' home park.

    McCann's lifetime batting average is .277—a far cry from the .214 average that Stewart brings to the table.

    Behind the plate McCann holds a .991 fielding percentage and throws out runners at a 24 percent rate.  He yielded just three passed balls in 2013.

    His experience and consistency would allow the Yankees to develop their young talent in the minor leagues (Gary Sanchez, JR Murphy and Austin Romine).

    At 29 years old McCann is in the heart of his prime.  Now would be the time to land the seven-time All-Star.

     

    CONS

    Over the last couple of years, McCann's durability has come into question.  He hasn't played in over 140 games since 2010 and has never played over 145 games.

    As a free agent, the backstop will be looking for a multiyear deal improving upon the $12 million he made in his last season with the Braves.

    As with the outfield, the Yankees have several talented catchers not far off from an appearance in the Bronx.  Austin Romine may actually be poised to compete for the starting job. 

    Should the Yankees invest in McCann for multiple years, thereby either delaying or giving up on one or more of their catching prospects?

    It is one of many questions Brian Cashman will have to ponder.