The champion has been crowned. The awards handed out. Now it’s all about the off-season and making all 30 teams better.
As for the Yankees, after a season of injuries, poor pitching performances, key player retirements and a weak farm system exposed, changes need to be made in a lot of areas.
The Yankees biggest questions?
- Can they afford to keep Robinson Cano? Reports have surfaced that the second baseman is looking for a record-breaking 10-year, $305 million deal. Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen, but you have to think the Yankees, and every other team in baseball will stay away from a deal like that. It’s not even about the money necessarily, but the length. Cano will turn 31 next season, and long-term deals like that can turn bad quick. Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are all prime examples of big contracts given to players already in their prime, and not really working out long-term, or at all. So while the bombers are probably the only team that can afford Cano, will the gold-glover stay. With no viable options in the minors to play second, fans are hoping they haven’t seen the last of number 24. [UPDATE – Reports say Cano is leaning towards re-signing with the only team he’s every known, but isn’t rushing. He will take the money first. Seattle looks to be a major player now that New York and Cano seem to be far apart and no longer talking.]
- Who will be the manager come spring training? Joe Girardi is a free-agent, and while GM Brian Cashman insists the team wants him back, there are things that could pull Girardi away from New York, and even coaching all together. The new head coaching vacancy in Chicago might be the biggest pull. A Chicago native, it could be a good place for the man who’s led the Yankees since 2008 to make a fresh start. He loves working with young teams, and it would allow him to go back home. Or Girardi could go back to working as a broadcast analyst, something he did for the YesNetwork the year between managing the Marlins and starting with New York. [UPDATE – Girardi Signed a 4-year contract to keep him in pinstripes until 2017. The deal is worth $16-million plus bonuses.]
- Will Hiroki Kuroda retire, go back to Japan, or consider a third year in the Bronx? Their savior the first 4 months of the season, Kuroda heads into 2014 the same way he did 2013. With a choice to make. After 6 years in the Majors, does he go back to Japan to finish his career, or go back home a retired player. He’s done nothing but win and stay healthy for the bombers in his two years here, and would have many more wins if not for a lack of run support here and during his time in LA. With only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova (and hopefully our first Michael Pineda sighting) there aren’t many guarantees in the Yankees rotation next year. [UPDATE – Didn’t accept the Yankees qualifying off worth $14.1 million for a year. But the Yankees have reportedly offered him a new deal, and say they didn’t except a decision from Kuroda until December.]
- Will Derek Jeter be good to go in 2014? That remains to be seen. I think we can all agree the captain was rushed back too often this past year. He played in just 17 games this season. Jeter turns 40 midway through next season, so there were already questions of how long he’ll last at short let alone in his career. He’s the lone member of the Yankees 1996-2000 dynasty, with two of the Core Four members hanging it up this year. [UPDATE – The Yankees have given their captain, a new one-year, $12 million contract. It’s a deal worth $2.5 million more than the player option Jeter could have picked up.]
- What to do about the catching situation? There hasn’t been a real solution since Jorge Posada retired after the 2011 season. For years all you heard was the name Jesus Montero as the answer behind home-plate. But he went to Seattle in the Pineda deal, and spent a majority of the season in the minors for the Mariners. Then Francisco Cervelli was supposed to be the answer, but he’s been very injury prone. So that meant backup Chris Stewart was made the starter this year, with Austin Romine tabbed to be his backup. Romine finally showed signs of coming around offensively towards the end of the year, before he suffered a concussion. The question is do the Yankees hope Romine can develop more for them, or do they make a move for the Braves Brian McCann, or maybe wait til the Orioles Matt Weiters becomes available. Maybe a run at the Rangers veteran AJ Pierzynski? [UPDATE – Brian McCann it is. The 29-year-old is leaving Atlanta and after passing his physical, is ready to don the pinstripes. A 5-year, $85 million deal that could reach 6 and $100 million if he hits certain numbers in those 5 seasons.]
These are just some of the questions/problems that can be solved in the off-season. Others include whether to bring back Curtis Granderson, what to do about Phil Hughes (give him another shot in the pen now that David Robertson most likely moves from the set-up role to the closer role) and what happens at 3rd base with Alex Rodriguez appealing his 211 Biogensis suspension.
The biggest problem the Yankees have can’t really be solved in one off-season. Injuries exposed their weak farm system. Guys they’ve drafted during this 19-year run of success haven’t panned out. Or trades gone wrong. There needs to be a foundation for this organization to build on. The Yankees felt too safe with lifers like Mariano Rivera, Posada and Jeter, whose longevity meant they could “wait” to build at the position. Well, the time to have guys like Mike Trout, Weiters and Clayton Kershaw waiting in the wings is now, and the Yankees don’t have game changers like that. It all starts this coming draft, where the Yankees have the 18th pick, their best position in a long time.
So while these questions may not all be answered for months, don’t completely despair Yankees fans. This team managed with 85 games and stay in the playoff conversation until the final week of the season despite a bevy of problems. Mark Teixeira will be back, Eduardo Nunez finished the season hitting the way the Yankees always thought he could, and began playing 3rd base like a pro. Ivan Nova was a revelation in the 2nd half, pitching like the guy who took the team by storm winning 16 games in 2011. You have to think CC Sabathia will figure out what was off mechanically and fix it this off-season.
So that’s it for me for. Now I want to hear from you. Answer the poll question and tell me what you think the 1st thing the Yankees need to take care of is.