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A new priority for the Yankees

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The Yankees need a third baseman. We’ve known for quite some time that they need a strong backup, but now that Alex Rodriguez is going to miss the early part of next season — maybe even the first half of next season — they basically need an everyday guy. Even if Rodriguez can bounce back next season, he’s not going to do it in April, probably not in May and maybe not in June.

Obviously the Yankees have had this information for a quite a while, but in your mind, as the second day of baseball’s Winter Meetings gets underway, how much has the priority list changed. How do you rank these five needs.

1. Starting third baseman
This need is complicated. Rodriguez will be back at some point, he’s under contract for the next five years, and there isn’t much of a third base market out there. The Padres don’t seem excited about trading Chase Headley, and most of the free agents are either utility types (Marco Scutaro, Jeff Keppinger, Chone Figgins), clearly flawed everyday guys (Mark Reynolds, Kevin Youkilis, Brandon Inge) or aging players (Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen, Placido Polanco). “The choices aren’t pretty,” Brian Cashman said. Internal options aren’t proven either (Ronnier Mustelier, David Adams, giving Eduardo Nunez another shot at the position). Considering the options and the lack of a standout candidate, should Cashman make third base a priority? Given the questions at the position, can he afford not to?

2. Everyday right fielder
Certainly the¬†priority before news of the Rodriguez injury — and I would probably argue that it’s still the priority — right field is wide open. I happen to really like Chris Dickerson, but I can’t imagine the Yankees giving him the job (considering how tight the 40-man is right now, I’m not sure they’ll even be able to keep him on the roster into spring training). Right field is probably the easiest place to make up for some of the offense that’s been lost by the Rodriguez injury and the Russell Martin signing. It’s also the position of need with the most options. There are¬†a lot of platoon bats out there, a few impact everyday guys and there could be a legitimate trade market for a corner outfielder.

3. Catcher who can hit
The Yankees have catchers who can catch, but they don’t have one that can hit (unless you’re bullish on Austin Romine’s potential). Re-signing Martin was the obvious solution, but it turned out to be more easily said than done, and now Martin is with the Pirates. A.J. Pierzynski is the clear standout on the free agent market, with a handful of lesser names also out there. The trade market for a catcher might be remarkably hard to find. It seems hard to believe Cashman would actually go into next season with Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli as his starter, but given the options on the market, should he legitimately take that chance?

4. Designated hitter
Anyone who can hit and vaguely play the field. This is another opportunity for the Yankees to add some offense. They’ll need a designated hitter who can also play somewhere in the field — because Jeter and Rodriguez are eventually going to need some DH days — but for the most part, this guy’s value should be in the bat, kind of like Raul Ibanez last season. Maybe Ibanez is part of the solution again next season. Maybe they can find a new version of Andruw Jones who can actually produce. For a team that needs offense, should Cashman’s first priority be to sign the best bat — regardless of position — who fits into the Yankees financial plans?

5. Additional rotation depth
The Yankees have six starters if you count David Phelps, but the Yankees also seemed to have an overflowing rotation last spring and wound up feeling thin through significant stretches of the season. Clearly the Yankees need offense more than they need pitching — for the moment — but a deep pitching staff can become a thin pitching staff in a hurry, and going forward, the team is going to need more arms in the not-so-distant future. If pitching really does win championships — ask the Giants about that — should Cashman always have pitching at the top of his list, no matter what the current roster looks like?

Associated Press photos