Are The Yankees Making A Mistake?

Brian Cashman has said repeatedly this offseason that the free agent market wasn’t as impressive as the one last season or the one next offseason.  Translating that into English, he is telling Yankees’ fans that he is going to spend aggressively next offseason and with $65 million or so coming off the payroll, you can expect him to follow through on that.

But, what exactly is he going to spend it on?  Joe Mauer would certainly be a potential target, but it seems like he will stay in Minnesota and the Yankees’ farm system is swimming with catching prospects (Baseball America says they have the most talent of any system at that position)  That doesn’t mean any of their prospects will even approach Mauer, but it is not a position of dire need. 

Keep going around the infield.  First is covered for the next seven years.  Second is covered until 2011 at least with options for 2012 and 2013.  Now, Shortstop is probably going to be a need, unless Nunez develops into a ML-caliber player, but the Yankees will certainly bring Jeter back in 2011 and there are no other shortstops of note in the free agent class next year (Phillies exercised the option on Rollins last week and Reyes will almost certainly have his option exercised by the Mets)  Third is covered for the next eight years.

In the outfield you have Granderson under contract though at least 2012 (2013 option) and Swisher through 2011 (2012 option) Gardner is under team control for awhile, but if you wanted to spend on a free agent you could conceivably grab either Carl Crawford or Jason Werth.  

Other than that, it really comes down to pitching.  Cliff Lee could be a target as could Josh Beckett. But that’s really it.  The potential top-line free agent market for the Yankees next offseason is probably Mauer, Crawford, Werth, Lee and Beckett. 

Looking in the crystal ball, I would almost bet that the Yankees make a very strong bid for Cliff Lee.  He is a lefty and with Andy Pettitte probably gone after 2010, he would make sense.  I think Beckett is a fallback.  If Mauer is there, the Yankees probably make a big run at him, but beyond that I don’t know.  Crawford is a nice player, but he is a speed player and despite all the hype, the fact remains that he posted a 113 OPS+ last year.  Valuable to be sure, but not a guy I would give $16 million a year to as he enters his 30’s.  Jason Werth has better OPS numbers, but he will be 32 in 2011, is that a guy you want to give five years to?

All of this is a roundabout way of wondering if the Yankees are making a mistake by passing on Holliday right now?  When the Yankees jumped in on Teixeira they did so because his youth, offense and defense were a rare combination that could not be matched in upcoming free agent markets.  I wonder if the same holds true for Holliday?  Who else is out there right now who can hit, field, run a little bit and is still not 30? Now, I would never give him eight years, but what if the Yankees offered him five years and $90 million?  It might get him to sign and then you have a great right-handed bat and a good defensive outfielder to boot.  I want to be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the Yankees need to sign Holliday, but if they are saving their money for next year are they putting themselves in a position where they will spend it on an inferior player? 

It’s certainly not a move the Yankees have to make, but with no clear options in the minors, I wonder if they at least check out the price on Holliday.