By Brad Carroll
If the New York Yankees' hierarchy could wave a magic wand and make all the bad player contracts they have go away, they would do so in a heartbeat. Gone would be the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Carlos Beltran. Right there, the Yankees would save roughly $90 million on players who aren't worth a third of the money they are due. Worse yet, all of those players are under contract for the following season as well.
But unless you're the Red Sox of a couple seasons ago, and find a willing team to take on all of your bad deals, major league ball clubs don't get to fix all their problems with one wave of a wand. Barring a surprising trade, the Yankees are stuck with all of those players next season, paying absurd amounts of money for little production.
So, while the organization and the fans would love nothing more than to get a mulligan on those deals, it's not going to happen. If they all can stay healthy, they will be in the 2015 lineup.
There are just a couple of big decisions the Yankees have to make on personnel, including who will make up the five-man rotation, who will play shortstop and who the team's closer will be. There's a host of players on the current roster who can fill those, and many more spots, but are they worth it? That's where we come in, as we put the roster through our "Pay Him or Slay Him" analysis, as in who should stay and who should go.
Coming later, we'll take the role of Brian Cashman and play general manager with our Yankees Shopping List column. Make sure to follow us on Twitter to get all the latest Yankees news and analysis.
PAY ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Shocker, right? But when you analyze the Yankees starting lineup, who scares you? Nobody. Rodriguez isn't anywhere near the same player he was back in his prime, and who knows what kind of player he will be after a year off, but he would easily be the scariest hitter in the lineup next season. Plus, A-Rod will only be the third highest paid player on the team next season. The Yankees, either way, are stuck with his contract. The only way out would be a trade, and we all know that's not going to happen. So, embrace an A-Rod return. The Yankees need him. As sad as that might be.
SLAY MARK TEIXEIRA: If the Yankees could find a way to trade the oft-injured first baseman who can't hit anymore, they'd do so immediately. But the horrible, eight-year deal he signed before the 2009 season will likely have Teixeira in pinstripes (or on the disabled list) for the next two seasons. The kicker is he'll be the highest paid player on the team in both seasons. Teixeira has been one of the biggest bust signings of the Cashman era as general manager. Over the past five seasons, Teixeira has batted .256, .248, .251, .151 in 15 games and .216 this season.
SLAY CARLOS BELTRAN: Cashman gave him three years and $45 last offseason, which was three years and $45 million too much. We were against the move then, and it stands now after he spent one year in the Bronx. Beltran couldn't stay on the field, playing in 109 games. He hit .233 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's the Yankees property for two more years unless they can find a sucker to trade for him.
SLAY ICHIRO SUZUKI: His full-time playing career was over two years ago, but Cashman signed Suzuki to a two-year deal anyway. Luckily, the Yankees are done with the contract and hopeful have no intention of bringing Suzuki back. It wasn't that Suzuki was terrible with the Yankees, he just was way past his prime while in pinstripes.
PAY CHASE HEADLEY: He's a nice player the Yankees can plug into a couple of holes, especially third if Rodriguez can't play. Of course, Cashman can't hand out a huge contract he's become known for recently. Headley made $10.5 million this season and probably wants a raise, which might just put him out of the Yankees price range. If they can get a team-friendly deal, bring Headley back.
PAY MARTIN PRADO: He was the best Yankees hitter during the stretch run until undergoing an appendectomy late in the year, which ended his season. Prado hit .316 with nine doubles, seven homers and 16 RBI in 37 games with the Yankees. He should be playing second base next season, a tremendous upgrade over what they trotted out there last season.
SLAY STEPHEN DREW: There is no way he should be the Yankees shortstop next season, but odds are he will be, which will be met with anger from fans. Drew has been terrible for two years, and batted .150 in 46 games with the Yankees after being traded from the Red Sox at the trade deadline. If that wasn't enough of a sample size for Cashman to see how useless Drew is, I don't know what is. Even though Hanley Ramirez is on the tail end of his prime years, he's a much better option at short next season than Drew. One potential Derek Jeter replacement was taken off the market when JJ Hardy re-signed with the Orioles. Drew is the favorite to replace Jeter and that's scary.
PAY CHRIS YOUNG: But for minimal dollars and to be used as an extra hitter off the bench. Young had a magical run after joining the Yankees, but he's not an everyday player. For a small contract there's no reason not to keep a big-moment player in the dugout as a pinch hit option or spot starter.
PAY BRENDAN RYAN: Merely for his defense and the ability to give Ramirez (hopefully) a break every now and again. Ryan, though, won't provide much offense. He's all defense.
PAY BRIAN McCANN, JACOBY ELLSBURY, BRETT GARDNER: All signed new contracts last offseason, so they aren't going anywhere, but all three did contribute this season. McCann was one of the few players to consistently bring power to the lineup, with a team-high 23 homers and 75 RBI. Ellsbury batted .271 with 16 homers, 70 RBI and 39 steals. Gardner batted just .256, but had 17 homers, 58 RBI and 21 steals. All need to be better next season, however.
PAY J.R. MURPHY: If you believe the Yankees, and we have to trust them when it comes to young players we don't get to see everyday, Murphy has become the top option among the young group of catchers ready to play in the big leagues. So, in that case, keep Murphy and ...
SLAY FRANCISCO CERVELLI and AUSTIN ROMINE: Cervelli is always hurt and isn't that good of a player to begin with. Romine looked good early in his career, but if he's dropped below Murphy on the depth chart, there's no reason to keep him around.
SLAY DAVID ROBERTSON: This is the biggest decision the Yankees have to make with their current roster. Robertson had an average season as the Yankees closer, and that's not good enough. He is better suited for an eighth-inning role, where his penchant for putting guys on base and then extinguishing his own fires, was something to be in awe of. Doing that in the ninth inning is just plain frustrating. Robertson had 39 saves, but blew five of them and had five losses. Worst of all, he pitched to a 3.08 ERA. Dellin Betances had a 1.40 ERA out of the bullpen. In Rivera's last three full seasons, he had ERA's of 2.81, 2.19 and 3.04. Many would say his worst season as a closer was that last one, and he still had a lower ERA than Robertson. There's no need to break the bank to keep Robertson when his replacement is already on the roster.
PAY DELLIN BETANCES: We said in this space last season Betances should be the guy to close if Robertson struggled with the job. Well, it didn't work out that way, but Betances did become one of the best relievers in baseball, setting a Yankees record for strikeouts in a single season by a relief pitcher along the way. He is everything a closer should be for the Yankees. He can throw hard and can strike people out. He seemingly has the temperament to handle the job. And he's a homegrown talent that began as a starter until circumstance moved him into the bullpen. Sound familiar? Remember, Mariano Rivera was a starting pitcher before moving to the bullpen as a set-up guy and then finally becoming the greatest closer of all time. Betances most likely won't be nearly as good, but there's no reason why the Yankees shouldn't give him the opportunity to try.
PAY MASAHIRO TANAKA: He's the best pitcher the Yankees got, and he'll be around for a long time, signing a seven-year, $155 million contract prior to this season. If he can stay healthy, Tanaka can be a future Cy Young award winner. The best part? He'll turn just 26 in November.
SLAY CC SABATHIA: Much like Teixeira, the Yankees wish they could rid themselves of Sabathia and his bloated contract. He'll be a Yankee for the next two years, at $23 and $25 million, with a vesting option at $25 million in 2017. There's a $5 million buyout the Yankees are sure to use for that final season, however. Sabathia had three great years in the Bronx, one solid year, and then two terrible seasons. He's a shell of his former self, one that can't stay healthy. If he's able to come back, he could be the No. 4 guy in the rotation, which could be a nice fit.
PAY MICHAEL PINEDA: If he can stay healthy, and keep the pine tar use to a minimum, Pineda could be a great one for the Yankees. It wouldn't hurt if the Yankees offense could give him a little support as well, as he was just 5-5 despite a minuscule 1.89 ERA this season. He's a solid No. 2 to the ace Tanaka.
PAY HIROKI KURODA: If he wants to pitch another year, the Yankees could plug him in the five-hole in the rotation, and maybe the four if Sabathia can't make it back. Kuroda was the team's most consistent pitcher from start to finish. The Yankees have a lot of options for the rotation for next year, with Tanaka, Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda, Shane Greene, David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy, Ivan Nova (who will likely miss the first month of the season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in April) possibly on the roster. There is also the chance the team will sign Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields in free agency, the only three pitchers worth much. (We'll discuss that more in detail in our Yankees Shopping List story coming after the postseason ends.)
PAY IVAN NOVA and SHANE GREENE: Nova needs to come back from injury, while Greene has to continue to mature as a starting pitcher. Both are young and have the potential the Yankees need to harness and use for themselves.
SLAY DAVID PHELPS: When you look at the potential starting pitchers for the Yankees next year, the name out of place is Phelps.
SLAY CHRIS CAPUANO: He's worse than Phelps, so there's no chance he should be back.
SLAY BRANDON McCARTHY: There's way better options than McCarthy in the starting rotation next season, so save the money and go Greene (as in Shane) or green (as in free agency).