After a disappointing 2014 season, which culminated in a walk-off RBI single in the final home game of Derek Jeter’s career, the New York Yankees have their sights set on rebuilding. As the last remnant of the Core Four retires, the Yankees must now build a baseball team ready to succeed in the current state of Major League Baseball. New York typically demands a top tier product on the baseball field to ensure their attendance, and with several glaring holes to fill in the Yankees lineup, it will be no small task for general manager Brain Cashman.
The Yankees currently have ten players headed for free agency in 2015, including Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda, and Stephen Drew. This means they will need to secure replacements for these players or sign them to costly contract extensions. New York is always a potential destination for free agents, and is highly regarded for the attention one can garner from a move to the Big Apple. While some players crumble under the pressures of the New York media, others thrive in the spotlight.
The demands of playing in the Major League’s biggest market can be overwhelming for a player unaccustomed to attention. Many players would be honored to wear the Yankee pinstripes as they prepare to enter an era without Derek Jeter. The Yankees have concerns in the infield and starting pitching that they certainly need to address. Luckily for them a great crop of free agents is prepared to jump at the opportunity to play in Yankee Stadium.
10 Asdrubal Cabrera – 2B/SS
Asdrubal Cabrera began last season as a member of the Cleveland Indians, but was traded on July 31st to the Washington Nationals for Zach Walters and cash considerations. Cabrera can play both middle infield positions, which are concerns the Yankees need to address this offseason. He may not have the gaudiest offensive stats, with a career .268 batting average, but Cabrera has been a defensively sound shortstop that would be a slight upgrade over Jeter in that domain. If the Yankees decide to go the budget route to replace Jeter, Cabrera could be an attractive option.
9 Pablo Sandoval – 3B
Pablo Sandoval will likely be highly sought after this off-season as one of the best position players on the market. During his tenure with the San Francisco Giants, Kung Fu Panda displayed excellent fielding to go along with productive offensive numbers. He has been a key member of the Giants during their three World Series titles and is possibly the most beloved member of the 2014 team. His ability to play both corner infield positions make him an attractive option, but many executives remain concerned about his lingering weight issues.
8 Andrew Miller – Relief Pitcher
Andrew Miller would be a spectacular addition to the Yankee bullpen. His spot as a lefty specialist would be virtually assured, and he has proven to be a valuable asset for both Boston and Baltimore in recent seasons. Miller boasted a 1.35 ERA with the Orioles after being traded from Boston at the trade deadline. Miller allowed only one hit and one walk in his 7.1 innings of post-season baseball, proving he can succeed in big spots. He could be one pitcher that cashes in on the trend of teams paying big money for relievers.
7 Hanley Ramirez – SS
Hanley Ramirez is the dream option for the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter. Ramirez has a career batting average of .300, but has struggled with injuries in recent seasons. This will likely be the final big contract of Ramirez’s career, and he will be an attractive option for teams looking to make a big move in the free agent market. When healthy, Hanley has proven that he is one of the best shortstops in the game, however injuries remain a serious area of concern for clubs that are interested in acquiring his services. Hanley is already expected to reject a $15.3 qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
6 Jed Lowrie – SS
Coming off of a bad season for his batting average, Jed Lowrie has a reason to prove that he is worth a free agent gamble. Lowrie spent time on the disabled list last season, while the Oakland Athletics floundered towards the end of the regular season before eventually crashing out in the playoffs to Kansas City. Oakland is unlikely to make a qualifying offer to Lowrie, so other teams could potentially enter the market for the shortstop in the coming weeks.
5 Kenta Maeda – SP
Kenta Maeda is the latest Japanese pitching sensation expected to make a major impact on the Major Leagues. With many teams competing for his signature, Maeda has been reportedly interested in joining either the Yankees or Red Sox once the Hiroshima Toyo Carp list him as available. Maeda possesses excellent pitch control and a five pitch arsenal with his fastball topping out at 95 mph. Last year, he dazzled fans with his performance at the World Baseball Classic, and it could just be a matter of time before he replicates these performances in Major League Baseball.
4 Nelson Cruz – OF
Nelson Cruz was one of baseball biggest bargains last season when he posted a 40 home run season for only $8 million with the Baltimore Orioles. He is now rumored to be seeking a four year contract, which would make him an attractive option to clubs not wanting to pay for declining performance in his late 30s. With the Orioles expected to offer Nick Markakis a contract, Cruz could be ready to be a major contributor for another AL East team next season. If he lands in New York, it could make things a lot more interesting in the Bronx.
3 Victor Martinez – DH
Victor Martinez is a positive influence in the club house and a consistent performer at the plate. Last season, he led the American League in on base percentage and on base plus slugging percentage. Martinez was also named MLB player of the month for August, as he went on to finish second in batting average, finishing the season with .335. Martinez has been given a qualifying offer by the Detroit Tigers, but if he decides to test the free agent waters, he would certainly attract a lot of attention.
2 Jon Lester – SP
Jon Lester generated a lot of buzz last season when he was traded from Boston to Oakland with Jonny Gomes in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. The trade did not necessarily work out for either team, but Lester will enter the free agent market as a bonafide ace pitcher. He is a solid starter that you can pencil in for at least 200 innings a season. Lester is a World Series winner and a leader in the club house. Whether or not Lester would be willing to betray the Red Sox fan base is a question that he will likely answer by the end of the free agency period this winter.
1 Max Scherzer – SP
Max Scherzer is another free agent starter that can eat up innings, while putting batters away at an alarming rate. Scherzer has been extended a qualifying offer from the Tigers, but may be eager to test the free agent market in search of another big contract. Interest in the former Cy Young winner is expected to be heavy, and the Yankees are known for signing big name pitchers, although they have experienced varying degrees of success.