COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees have seen four outfielders leave the Bronx this winter and only one has returned to this point.
Starters Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher, along with part-time outfielders Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, all entered free agency in November. Suzuki was brought back officially earlier this week, agreeing to a two-year, $13 million deal.
Swisher is still on the open market but is not being pursued by the Yankees. Swisher, 32, is seeking a multi-year deal, something the Yankees are apparently unwilling to offer him. Swisher did decline New York's qualifying offer of one year at $13.3 million, meaning he will cost whatever team eventually signs him a draft choice.
And general manager Brian Cashman is finding the talent pool of right-handed hitting outfielders to be quite thin.
"It's not deep," Cashman told the Post.
New York has expressed interest in two free agents who fit the bill: Scott Hairston and Cody Ross. Hairston, late of the New York Mets, is reportedly looking for a two-year deal while the Yankees are reluctant to offer more than one.
Of the five free agents New York has signed this offseason, only Suzuki received more than one year.
Ross is also looking for a multi-year deal after hitting 22 home runs for the Boston Red Sox in 2012.
The trade market has some intriguing prospects, but most of the players available would be expensive in terms of dollars and time.
The Minnesota Twins may be open to moving Josh Willingham, who had 35 homers and 110 RBI last season. Willingham is owed $14 million over the next two seasons.
The Los Angeles Angels have a crowded outfield after signing Josh Hamilton and the most likely candidate to leave would be Vernon Wells. However, Wells is still weighted down with the gigantic contract he got from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006, a back-loaded $126 million, seven-year extension. Wells, who is still owed a whopping $42 million over the next two years, hit just .230 with 11 homers and 29 RBI in part-time duty for the Angels last year and hit just .218 in 2011.
ESPN analyst Jim Bowden, a former big-league general manager, speculated Wednesday the Yankees might be willing to part with top prospects Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez and Dante Bichette Jr. in an effort to pry young Justin Upton away from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but that has not been reported elsewhere.
Upton has three years remaining on a six-year extension signed in 2010 and is owed $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015.
If there is one glaring hole on the New York Yankees' roster as December prepares to roll over into January, it is that lack of a right-handed bat that can play the outfield. It is the big unanswered question for the Yankees moving toward spring training.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now a freelance sports journalist and radio commentator based in northern Michigan.