Simply getting Joe Girardi under contract does not answer all of the Yankees managerial questions for next season. The front office be me in charge of roster construction, but it will be up to Girardi to utilize those players, keep them healthy, and in some cases monitor their egos and personalities.
Five things we still don’t know about how the Yankees will be managed next year:
1. Without Mariano Rivera, will the Yankees show patience with a replacement closer? For now, Dave Robertson is next in line for the job without any real challenger, but given all of the bullpen openings, the Yankees are sure to sign a relief pitcher or two this winter. If one of those new arrivals has ninth inning experience, will Girardi lean toward the new guy who’s familiar with the job, or the familiar guy who would be new to the job? How quickly would those roles reverse if/when one of them struggles?
2. If the Yankees don’t sign an impact catcher — no McCann, no Saltalamacchia, no Pierzynski — will spring training be a four-man competition behind the plate, and if so, did Girardi see enough from Austin Romine in the second half and maybe even from J.R. Murphy down the stretch to give him confidence that one of the young guys could carry the bulk of the load? Seems safe to assume at least one of Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart will be back in Yankees camp. Is it a foregone conclusion that one of those two has a leg up on the young guys for the starting job?
3. How long is the leash for Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki? Zoilo Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier might be the system’s most advanced outfield prospects — not the highest ceilings, but the closest to big league ready — but neither is a sure thing at the Major League level. Would Girardi show absolute loyalty to the veterans, or will he be forced to acknowledge their limitations and move on if they’re not productive? In the past, we’ve seen him stick with guys like Andrew Jones and Travis Hafner for a pretty long time, but we did see him cut Randy Winn very quickly.
4. Which young starters will be trusted with rotation jobs?It’s easy to throw out lists of possibilities, but it’s hard to know just how much of an impression Adam Warren made this season, how much David Phelps has the benefit of the doubt, and just how skeptical Girardi might be after not seeing Michael Pineda for two years. Also, if the Yankees bring back Hiroki Kuroda, could Girardi handle Kuroda’s workload the same way he handled Andy Pettitte’s?
5. What can the Yankees expect from Derek Jeter, and what should they ask him to do? That might be up to the front office at first, but eventually it will be up to Girardi to determine whether Jeter’s still a viable fielder and top-of-the-order hitter. It’s a potentially delicate situation with a player he’s literally known for the better part of two decades. Girardi was willing to minimize Jorge Posada’s role at the end. Could he do the same to Jeter if Jeter’s no longer productive?
Associated Press photo