COMMENTARY | For the first time in a while, there's great uncertainty surrounding the New York Yankees this offseason.
Here are five pressing questions facing the Bronx Bombers, who for only the second time in 19 years did not qualify for the playoffs:
Will Joe Girardi return? Until recently, there didn't appear to be any questions about the manager's future. Girardi may have just turned in his finest season as manager. And with four playoff appearances and a World Series title, his six seasons in New York have been a success.
Now, with his contract up at the end of the month, there are rumors that he may be interested in the Chicago Cubs job. Or maybe the Washington Nationals will come calling. Perhaps he'll enter the television booth for a while. When you consider how grinding the job is, how much more of a grind it is managing the Yankees, and how his hometown Cubs could be interested, his future is not so certain.
The Yankees have made it known that they want him back, but perhaps returning to Chicago is as attractive to him as it's been rumored to be over the years. Managers don't stay forever, and Girardi has had a nice run. Maybe he decides that now is the right time to go. I was certain that he'd return. Now I'm not so sure.
How will the Robinson Cano sweepstakes play out? All season long, there have been questions about Robinson Cano's future in New York. The Yankees' second baseman will be a free agent this offseason and if the reports that came out last week -- the ones stating that Cano is seeking a deal in the neighborhood of $300 million -- are accurate, then these negotiations aren't going to be easy.
The Yankees would like to keep Cano, and you'd have to think that Cano would prefer to stay in New York. The Yankees have gotten burned with big contracts before (years and dollars), so you would hope they'd balk at giving Cano, who turns 31 this month, any more than a five- or six-year deal. If the Yankees could work out a deal for around $25 million per season over five or six years, I'd do it. If Cano can get more than six years from another club, then I think you have to let him walk.
It's still not clear what team, if any, would be willing to pay Cano more than the Yankees would. The Los Angeles Dodgers are always mentioned as a possible suitor, but they're already paying out big contracts and have more coming up. The Yankees may end up bidding against themselves. Let's hope they're smarter than they were in 2007 when they made a foolish deal to keep Alex Rodriguez.
What will the left side of the infield look like? Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games back in August. He appealed and now that appeal is being heard. You have to assume that A-Rod will not be part of the Yankees' plans in 2014. Even if his suspension is reduced, he'll most likely miss most of the year. Even if he does play at some point, he showed this season that he can't play third base on an everyday basis (designated hitter would be another story).
Jeter is an issue, too. You'd expect him to pick up his player option and return in 2014. But can he play shortstop on a consistent basis? Jeter has leg issues, and he'll turn 40 next season.
The Yankees will probably prepare for life without Jeter and Rodriguez, in the field at least. That means Eduardo Nunez will factor into their plans, as well as guys like Jayson Nix, David Adams, and Mark Reynolds. They'll probably have to look outside the organization as well.
Will the Yankees stick to the $189 million figure? If Rodriguez is suspended, the Yankees will save a bunch of money. This is a team that's been telling us that it's steadfast in its desire to stay under $189 million. Having said that, they'll have to pay Cano a lot of money if they want to keep him. They're going to have to add pitching, maybe re-sign Curtis Granderson, and possibly spend money to bring in a catcher.
The Yankees already have a lot of money locked up in the contracts they're paying to CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, among others. They have needs, and for the first time in a long time, there appears to be a limit on the amount of money they're willing to spend. The Yankees insist that money won't get in the way of them trying to put a championship team on the field. We'll see how much they're willing to spend.
How does the organization react after missing the playoffs? In 2008, the Yankees didn't make the playoffs for the first time since the 1993 season. They responded by spending $423 million on Sabathia, Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. As a result, they won the World Series in 2009.
This offseason is more of a mystery, as the Yankees have more holes to fill, have more questions marks on returning players, and have salary limitations. The league is also better.
The Yankees' path back to the postseason is far murkier than it was five years ago.
Charles Costello has followed the Yankees for 30 years. He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Yankees
- Robinson Cano