Center: Rocco Baldelli. Yes, the pickings are slim here. We're going with that revised, encouraging prognosis removing the restraints from a guy who still is only 27, letting all that talent again surface.Right: Bobby Abreu. Why is he still available? Not many free agents out there have six straight 100-RBI seasons, .300 lifetime averages and a career on-base percentage of .405. Has nobody been paying attention? Bench: Raul Ibanez, Milton Bradley, Mark Kotsay. Your mix-and-match DHs, and someone to bring some late-game leather out of the dugout. CATCHING
Backstop: Jason Varitek. His field presence makes him stand out in a weak field. There isn't a single free agent under 30, and he and fellow 36-year-old Ivan Rodriguez were the only ones to start more than 62 games behind the plate last season.Backup: David Ross. The "baby" of the field at 31, has the biggest upside. Active behind the dish, with a terrific arm. ROTATION No. 1: Derek Lowe. What it comes down to is, if we had one game to win, of all the free agents he'd get the ball. He has an ideal temperament, he's durable and proven in the clutch time and again. No. 2: CC Sabathia. Toto, we're not in the Midwest (Cleveland, Milwaukee) any more. Is anyone unsettled by his explanation that one reason he didn't stay with the Brewers is because he thinks there will be less pressure on him in the Bronx? No. 3: Jon Garland. Surprised? He has notched double-digit victories in each of the past seven seasons. He pitches to contact, so needs a good fit, but is a workhorse ideal in the middle of any rotation. No. 4: A.J. Burnett. His numbers within the AL East are phenomenal, and convinced the Yankees to pony up. He could be in the perfect spot to finally validate his rep. Or, as one Major League executive cautioned when the market opened, "The fear is this is Carl Pavano II." No. 5: Randy Johnson. The only tough call for us is, do you get him for the hype of 300 wins (he is five away), or for a playoff push? His second-half numbers were nearly vintage Unit (2.41 ERA, 78 strikeouts and 12 walks in 86 innings). BULLPEN Closer: Francisco Rodriguez. The fallacy that this market of closers was too crowded for a big score was one of the great scams of our times. How many had 62 saves last season, or 208 before their 27th birthday? The Mets' besieged starters are already sleeping better. 8th-inning setup: Brandon Lyon. May not have the stomach to close, but check out his domination in non-save situations for the D-backs in the first half of last season, before his confidence got shot. Great stuff, still in his 20s. Matchup specialists: Lefty, Joe Beimel; hasn't allowed a homer to a left-handed batter in over 220 plate appearances since September 2006. Righty, LaTroy Hawkins; veteran has stuck around long enough to finally find his ideal role -- held righties to a .189 average last season. Long men: Lefty, Jeremy Affeldt; his resilient arm can either hold a lead, or hold the other team at bay. Righty, Russ Springer; so he's 40 -- are you going to believe his birth certificate or his line? He's posted a 2.24 ERA in 146 games the past two seasons.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.