Every day in spring training until we finish the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team we visit in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. Next stop is Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, where the Yankees have $200 million to spend on players and it's still not quite good enough.
2010 RECORD: 95-67, second place in AL East.
BIGGEST ACQUISITION: Because of the cost and length of the contract involved, GM Brian Cashman didn't even want to add right-hander Rafael Soriano(notes), but was overruled by upper-upper management. There's an upside, of course: Though he's not the starting pitcher Cashman wanted, he makes the Yankees just as tough to beat in the eighth as they are in the ninth with Mariano Rivera(notes).
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE YANKEES
1. How does the rotation shake out after CC Sabathia(notes), Phil Hughes(notes) and A.J. Burnett(notes)? Shaking the rotation, if it includes senior señores Bartolo Colon(notes) and Freddy Garcia(notes), might cause it to break. So don't do that.
But, the inside tracks for Nos. 4-5 probably belong to Ivan Nova(notes) and Sergio Mitre(notes), if only because they were here first. They both have good stuff, and Nova was decent in an audition this past season, but Cashman was counting on Cliff Lee, then Andy Pettitte, to fill at least one of the spots. Sabathia is Sabathia, and Hughes probably will reach another gear in 2011. We all know about Burnett's highs and lows, but there would be no skipping him in a playoff series if one started tomorrow. Perhaps Colon, if his back holds together, can bridge the gap until the trade market opens. Ozzie Guillen, God love him, said Garcia was the Chisox's best starting pitcher in 2010. That is quite a ridiculous assertion, but he did pitch OK. Warning: He might have some big issues with fly balls in the new Stadium.
2. Will Derek Jeter(notes) go into the Hall of Fame as a shortstop or an outfielder? Kidding, just kidding. But the suggestion by Cashman before spring training that the Yankees captain might not finish his current three-year contract as a shortstop was intriguing. He can't move to third because A-Rod's there, and Cano isn't moving from second. Posada is DHing. Maybe left field is the spot. If Jeter's defensive metrics are as poor as they were in 2010, it might happen sooner rather than later. Worse, probably, is that he was a below-average hitter in 2010, too, after being an MVP candidate in '09. It's hard to improve when you're turning 37 years old, but Jeter must.
3. Seriously, how will Cashman rebound from the strangest offseason of his life? There was the Soriano disagreement and the Cliff Lee debacle, the disappointing Andy Pettitte retirement and the Jeter position thing. Cashman talked openly about the Yankees not bringing him back once his contract is up at season's end. He also rappelled off a building dressed as one of Santa's elves. What happened to you in the offseason? Cashman doesn't expect to make a trade for a starter before opening day, but the Yankees will be counting on a good one at the right moment. Yankees team president Randy Levine called Cashman the "best GM in the business" and his record reflects it. He just needs to prove it at least once more.
4. Are they really going with Russell Martin(notes) at catcher? They've told Jorge Posada(notes) to use his catcher's mitt only for ceremony and the occasional bullpen session. Jesus Montero(notes) is the catcher of the future, but they might want to also make him catcher of the present if Martin continues to play like a shadow of himself. As Yahoo! Sports' own Tim Brown recently wrote, Martin's game has been in apparent decline since he made the NL All-Star team with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007 and 2008. Maybe $4 million didn't sound bad when they signed him — and it is chump change to the Yankees — but Martin's problems seem to run deeper than being banged up from minor injuries. He might be the oldest 28-year-old in the majors.
5. Can Andy Pettitte still come back? Never, ever, say never when millions of spacebucks and a 28th franchise championship are on the line. The answer sure seems "no," but if Pettitte did come back, we could just call it a "misretirement."