New York Yankees
New York will likely pick and choose more in this free agency, as there are few holes to fill. Right field is one however, and the team has its choice. Gary Sheffield has been the rumored player, as Vladimir Guerrero has stated a dislike of New York City. Sheffield would be a huge addition, giving the Yankees the kind of lineup that Boston has. That's if Joe Torre realizes that Alfonso Soriano is NOT a leadoff hitter, and that Derek Jeter IS.
The lineup, other than RF, should be identical next season. Here's what we're looking at, if Joe Torre learns some lineupectomy:
1. Derek Jeter- SS- RH
2. Bernie Williams- CF- SH
3. Gary Sheffield- RF- RH
4. Jason Giambi- DH- LH
5. Alfonso Soriano- 2B- RH
6. Jorge Posada- C- SH
7. Nick Johnson- 1B- LH
8. Aaron Boone- 3B- RH
9. Hideki Matsui- LF- LH
I'm sure I will get an angry e-mail from a Yankees fan disputing that, but I'll stick to my guns. Hopefully the team has learned their lessons and will build a bench in 2004. They only have to look within to see David Delucci (the perfect bench player), Fernando Seguignol (AAA MVP), and Juan Rivera. Although if Rivera is included in a trade to land a 5th starter, don't be surprised. Erick Almonte is in that same boat, and the team has an infatuation with Enrique Wilson.
Steinbrenner's rotation won't have the big names it had in 2003, but it should be very effective. Mike Mussina returns, and seems to finally have mastered pitching for the Yankees. Jose Contreras will be handed a spot, and should compete for the Cy Young. The Cuban right-hander has gone 6-1, 2.34ERA in 9 starts. He's allowed only 38 hits in 57.2 innings, while striking out 57 and walking 19. Yes, he'll be on my 2004 fantasy team. Jon Lieber will return to the Majors next season, but the team shouldn't expect anything more than fifth starter output. Lieber should be good for 200 innings, but will likely need a year to gain effectiveness. Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Andy Pettite are all free agents next season. Clemens will probably retire, and the team has no interest in retaining Wells. But Pettite has been a career Yankee, and will show his loyalty. The team will bring their southpaw back for big dollars in 2004, ensuring them a third starter. That leaves one spot open for a fourth starter.
With the Yankees money, finding a starting pitcher shouldn't be difficult. Expect the team to have three options: Curt Schilling, Bartolo Colon, and Javier Vazquez. It would be nice if they signed Greg Maddux, but I think they'll be smarter than that. Vazquez is included simply because the team will want to stop the Red Sox from signing him. See, the Red Sox have a similar list, although I question if they could get Schilling. I think he makes sense in only pinstripes or back as a Phillie next year, no other teams can afford him. But if New York gave the Diamondbacks Juan Rivera, Erick Almonte, Jeff Weaver, Danny Borrell, and a low-level prospect, he could probably be theirs. If Nick Johnson is a must, I would advise against the deal. Colon ain't a bad back-up choice, either.
The bullpen doesn't have too many problems, just a lot of free agents. Mariano Rivera will be back, and Steve Karsay will return from a year's rest. Chris Hammond will make a second run in the Big Apple, and that's all the signed players. Well, you could say Jeff Weaver, but I doubt the team has interest in bringing him back. Antonio Osuna and Gabe White have big options, and Osuna should be a lock. White's awful expensive, and Felix Heredia has done well. Jeff Nelson will be considered, as he's struck out 20 in 17 innings with the Yankees. What might be the most interesting, is if Steinbrenner spends the winter shopping for either a GM or manager.