The New York Yankees might need to improve, but they don't have many holes. Unless they make a major trade that shakes up their roster, their only obvious opening is second base. That said, they could be on the starting and relief market and might even surprise some by spending Mark Teixeira's money a year before his $180 million contract comes off the books.
So, as Wallace Matthews and I do every year in our helpful way, we are advising Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees' front office with our feature: "Spend Hal's Money."
Today's candidate: Ben Zobrist
2015 numbers: $7.5 million salary, 126 games, .276, 13 homers, 56 RBIs, .809 OPS
Opening Day age: 34
PROS: The pros? This guy is a pro's pro. Zobrist is a winning ballplayer. Anyone who watched him in Tampa Bay knows that. He is the type of player who maybe doesn't have the greatest numbers in the world, but who you would want up in a big spot in October, even if his .751 postseason OPS (in 132 at-bats) isn't that special.
Still, Zobrist fills a lot of the Yankees' needs. They need a second baseman if you believe -- as I do -- that they don't fully believe in Rob Refsnyder, Jose Pirela and/or Dustin Ackley. Zobrist is a switch-hitter who hit .329 against lefties in 2015, which is a definite need considering the Yankees' struggles against left-handers last season.
Zobrist also gives the Yankees the added benefit of versatility. He can play nearly everywhere and do it well. If the Yankees were to sign him, and Refsnyder, Pirela and/or Ackley were to excel, Zobrist could still consistently contribute elsewhere.
Plus, he would give New York roster flexibility. While the Yankees will likely have Greg Bird at Triple-A if Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are healthy and productive, they could potentially keep Bird on the major league roster if they have a jack-of-all-trades such as Zobrist around.
CONS: Zobrist turns 35 in May. That is a scary number for a team that has been plagued by aging players in a game that is becoming younger. The Yankees' scouts are going to have to be trusted in determining whether Zobrist can maintain his level for the next three or four years.
Despite Zobrist's age, he is unlikely to be cheap, nor receive a short contract. He very well could receive a three- or four-year deal, which is a bit scary for a guy projected to be a second baseman. Zobrist will be a popular free-agent target, so the Yankees could be pushed to make a decision on a four-year contact at top dollar.
THE VERDICT: I would go three years on Zobrist, but not four. He is a winning player, who should have at least two more good seasons in him, if not more. The move to sign Zobrist would make the Yankees even deeper when the trade market opens up at the deadline.
Answer this question: If the Yankees had Zobrist on their 2015 team, would they have beaten out the Blue Jays in the AL East? No, but it would have been much closer. To close the gap, the Yankees must improve, and this is a guy who can help them do so.