New York Yankees Offseason Preview
After an embarrassingly disappointing sweep at the hands of Detroit in the American League Championship Series, where the team set records for postseason offensive futility, the Yankees will move on to its offseason goals of improving the club and keeping the payroll below 2014 luxury tax levels. Fairly crucial decisions about the future of the club will have to be addressed by General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff this winter, even beyond the flirt who used to be the team’s starting third baseman.
Alex Rodriguez- After failing to hit right-handers this postseason and failing to contribute in nearly every conceivable big spot, the team and its ravenous fan base is looking to push Rodriguez out of town. But not only does A-Rod have five years and $114 million left on his contract, a 2008-level toxic asset if I’ve ever seen one, but he also has a full no-trade clause that allows him to dictate where he’d like to go even if Cashman pulls off the unthinkable and is able to offload Rodriguez onto another team.
There was mention of talks between the Yankees and Marlins, but this rumor appears to be nonsensical bluster from the New York media and ESPN. Miami just sent Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez out in an effort to rid themselves of salary, so taking on the worst contract in baseball makes no sense for new GM Dan Jennings. If Jennings got the Yankees to take $90 million of his salary and the bulky contract of snake-bit reliever Heath Bell, there would be just a small glimmer of hope that Rodriguez’s ouster could be accomplished. That’s only if A-Rod accepts a trade out of New York.
Nick Swisher vs Ichiro Suzuki- Both players’ contracts are now up, and chances are that they won’t be able to keep both players next season. The Yankee faithful grew tired with Swisher’s bubbly personality after he came up small in yet another postseason trip for the team. He had a very productive regular season for the team, but may have priced himself out of New York, as strange as that sounds. Swisher won’t get Jayson Werth money, as he had previously wanted, but receiving three of four years at roughly $14 million per is certainly not out of the question at this point. At that price, the Yankees will say good night and good luck.
Suzuki, on the other hand, was nothing short of a joy for the Yankees and its fans on and off the field since coming over in a trade from Seattle in early July. He was productive during the playoffs as well and may have to be the team’s leadoff hitter if Derek Jeter’s recovery from ankle surgery extends into the 2013 regular season. It appears that Suzuki would be amenable to a shorter-term contract for a smaller annual value than Swisher is asking for. It seems like Ichiro will stay and Swisher will go.
Extending Cano & Granderson- Robinson Cano had another banner season for the Yankees and continues to prove himself as the premier second baseman in the game. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the team used the money it will save on letting Swisher walk to reward Cano with a contract approaching nine figures.
Before the 2012 season, it seemed like a safe bet that Curtis Granderson would warrant a contract at a similar rate. But as Granderson’s power numbers increased, his strikeouts shot up and his average and on base percentage remained frighteningly low. Then came the playoffs and Granderson’s production decreased so dramatically that manager Joe Girardi had to remove Granderson from the lineup entirely in New York’s decisive 8-1 loss to the Tigers on Thursday.
While Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and Phil Coke both excelled in the ALCS, Granderson was surprisingly the worst player from the 2009 three-team blockbuster that saw the Yankees deal Jackson, Coke and Ian Kennedy to acquire Granderson. Fast-forward three years, and the team is questioning Granderson’s long term status on the roster.
Bringing Back Kuroda & Pettitte- It seems like the easiest decisions of the offseason will be to bring back these two starters back into the fold next season. The Yankees clearly hope that Michael Pineda will be healthy and Ivan Nova will be effective enough to return to the starting rotation, but those are far from guarantees.
Cashman would love to bring back the two graying security blankets in Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to combine with rotation stalwarts CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes (let’s throw David Phelps in there for the time being). Kuroda and Pettitte proved indispensible down the stretch and in the postseason and would seemingly be accepting of team-friendly one-year deals worth roughly $10-13 million.
Rafael Soriano’s Option- Soriano would make $13 million in the final year of a three-year contract, but he could want to cash in on his stellar season as Mariano Rivera’s closer replacement and parlay that into a long-term contract as a closer elsewhere. If Soriano elects to leave, David Robertson would conceivably slide comfortably into the eighth inning role behind Rivera, and the team could split some of that saved money on the bench and another reliever.
Reconfiguring The Bench- It would come as no surprise that the Yankees would want to bring back Raul Ibanez, and likely backup catcher Chris Stewart and infielder Eduardo Nunez, but the rest of the reserves remains to be seen. After a hot first half of the season, Andruw Jones fell out of favor with the team and is no guarantee to return to the team and help out Granderson, Brett Gardner and most likely Suzuki and Ibanez. Eric Chavez may not want to return to the team for another year, and the Yankees may look to younger options than he and Jayson Nix.
So after the Yankees’ crushing sweep at the hands of the Tigers, there are plenty of choices the team has to make that will impact their 2013 season and beyond.