Determined not miss the playoffs for a second straight season in 2009, the Yankees' top executives have decided to pursue many of the game's premier free agents, chief among them starting pitchers CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, and first baseman Mark Teixeira, among others, this winter. They will also will pursue Jake Peavy, the Padres' Cy Young-winning starting pitcher who may be available via trade, and may take a look at top free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez, as well, though the need for a corner outfielder isn't as urgent as their need for pitching and a first baseman.
While they can't sign all those pitchers, they are hoping to secure more than one of them. There is also some question in the cases of Sabathia and Burnett whether they'd want to play in New York, which may be why they will pursue so many pitchers.
Top Yankees decisionmakers, including club owners Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman met over the last two days in Tampa. The Yankees will have even a greater monetary advantage than usual this postseason, thanks to elevating revenues from the new Yankee Stadium and more than $80 million in expiring contracts.
The Yankees will also consider bringing back starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, who has told them he'd like to return. The Yankees will weigh Pettitte against other free agents and are believed to want to keep him on a one-year deal.
Sabathia, the top free-agent pitcher this year, has said he'd consider any team. The Yankees are expected to be the high bidder for Sabathia, who should seek a contract to beat the $137.5-million deal Johan Santana got from the Mets last winter. But Sabathia also said he'd prefer the National League and is believed to have interest in returning to his home state of California. The Brewers are also expected to make an attempt to keep him. The Mets may, too.
The Yankees' interest in Teixeira seems to make clear that longtime Yankee Jason Giambi will not be brought back. Even if the Yankees fail to sign Teixeira, they have determined they want to upgrade their defense at first base. The Angels, Orioles and perhaps the Giants and Mariners are among teams expected to show interest in Teixeira.
The Yankees also want to upgrade in center field, though there are no great free-agent options, which may lead them to pursue trades. Pitching prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy presumably won't have the same untouchable status they had last winter.
The Yankees may also consider Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets as yet another free-agent alternative, but there are some concerns about his injury history. If Mike Mussina decides he want to keep pitching, the Yankees would be interested in him, as well. The Yankees also firmed up plans to keep Joba Chamberlain in the starting rotation, assuming there are no more setbacks with the talented young pitcher.
Peavy has a no-trade provision in his Padres contract so it isn't known whether he'd accept a deal to the Yankees. Burnett has the right to opt out of his Jays deal, which has another $24 million over two years remaining, and it is expected that he will do so. The Jays may try to sign him to prevent him from filing for free agency, though.