What’s done is done, and the Yankees are most certainly done. This weekend changed nothing about the postseason. The pitching really was good enough to win. The offense really was historically bad. And the Yankees really have moved into the offseason a little earlier than expected.
With a dozen fairly significant free agents — guys who were either on the Opening Day roster or the playoff roster — the Yankees are going to be busy this winter. They’re got to find a right fielder, a catcher, a designated hitter (or a third baseman) and they have to plug serious holes in the rotation.
A few things to consider as we go forward:
Don’t overlook the holes in the rotation
Right now, all of the anger and emotion is directed at the Yankees lineup, and all of the debate is about who the Yankees can find to hit in October. But look at the rotation. Right now it’s CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and a bunch of questions. Granted, the Yankees can answer those questions — for now — by bringing back Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. But what if Kuroda want’s a multi-year deal and Pettitte wants to retire? At least the lineup has a foundation in place. The rotation could be a more significant and difficult issue.
Alex Rodriguez is going to be a never-ending topic of discussion
Brian Cashman has said he expects Rodriguez to be back, Rodriguez has said he will be back, and that contract is ugly enough that making a deal would be difficult under any circumstances. But it’s hard to get a player’s name out of trade rumors, and there will be trade speculation until a deal is done or the Yankees definitively say it’s not happening. Even then, as long as Rodriguez is on the Yankees roster, his ability to contribute next season will be one of the most talked about topics of the winter.
How do the Yankees negotiate with Mariano Rivera?
Expectation is that Rivera will play one more year, but what’s that contract going to look like? Another $15 million like he made this year? A tiny contract as Rivera’s way of making up for his lost season? Heavy on incentives? Everything guaranteed? Rivera wasn’t around the team much during the season. Does that mean he enjoyed a year off more than he expected? Will he have to wooed back to work? What’s the greatest closer of all time worth when he’s 43 years old coming off an injury that kept him from pitching for basically an entire season?
The budget restrictions aren’t going away
By 2014, the Yankees will be below the luxury tax threshold. Hal Steinbrenner hasn’t budged on that, and frankly, $189 million should be more than enough to put together a winning team. This winter, Brian Cashman has to operate with that number in mind. He can go over this season, but multi-year deals have to be seen through a different lens. That could affect a guy like Ichiro Suzuki.
The Yankees minor league system is bottom-heavy
With Jesus Montero traded, Dellin Betances struggling, and both Austin Romine and Manny Banuelos dealing with injuries most of this year, the bulk of the Yankees top minor league talent is in the lower levels. And the trade value of lower-level talent is always restricted because there’s so much risk along the way. If the Yankees are going to make a significant deal, it might have to involve one of their young big league pitchers — Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps — or require a team to take a chance on the ongoing development of a guy like Mason Williams, Tyler Austin or Gary Sanchez. There’s also the trade value of Curtis Granderson to consider. The strikeouts are up and the batting average is down, but he’s still a center fielder with 40-plus homers, and that’s not nothing.
There might be role players already in place
The Yankees have a couple of backup catchers and a pair of utility infielders on the roster, but the rest of their bench has basically been lost to free agency. It’s worth remembering that Chris Dickerson had a terrific Triple-A season when he finally hit left-handers. Ronnier Mustelier is an interesting bat who can play the corners. David Adams and Corban Joseph had nice minor league seasons and could play roles at second and third (Adams is especially interesting).
Associated Press photos