Looking ahead to the Yankees in 2014
October baseball doesn't have nearly the same luster in New York City without the Yankees in the mix. What fans must ask after a season like the one that just ended is this: Will this be the norm going forward?
Legitimate concerns about the age and health of this team proved to be true in 2013 as most of the key hitters spent significant time on the disabled list. With the retirements of safety blanket closer Mariano Rivera and stalwart starter Andy Pettitte, even the pitching staff will venture into uncharted waters next year.
Oh, and don't forget the team's stated goal of getting the payroll under $189 million for next season.
With so much uncertainty surrounding 2014 in mind, here's a position-by-position look at the Yankees as they enter the offseason along with recommended action to improve for the future.
Francisco Cervelli's 50-game ban is behind him, and both he and Chris Stewart are arbitration eligible. Cervelli could come back and split duties with young Austin Romine for the time being. The future of the position is Gary Sanchez, but the 20-year-old only reached Double A this season. Don't expect big changes yet.
Mark Teixeira, 33, figures to be healthy next season. He's got 3 years and $67.5 million left on his contract, so he's not going anywhere for awhile. Free agent Lyle Overbay, who will be 37 next year, was solid as a fill-in and deserves to be welcomed back for the right price.
Re-signing Robinson Cano, the team's most valuable hitter in 2013, is an obvious priority, but the Yankees can't be bullied into giving out another super-long-term contract to a player who has already turned 30. Few teams are likely to beat what the Yankees will offer, so expect him back. Just hope it's for 7 years, $200 million and not 10 years, $305 million.
It all depends on Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension. It's hard to imagine he won't sit at all, so the Yankees will need a contingency plan. Kevin Youkilis, 35, was a bust thanks to a long-term back injury, so it might be wise to look for a younger, healthier alternative at the hot corner. Tigers free agent Jhonny Peralta, 31, would be a good choice, if the price is right.
Derek Jeter, who is expected to pick up is $8 million option for 2014, is now the Yankees' last link to the late-1990s dynasty -- aside of manager Joe Girardi, then a player. He'll also turn 40 before the next All-Star break and was limited to 17 games in 2013. Eduardo Nunez doesn't appear to be the answer, so the team better hope Jeter has one more year of magic left. Peralta wouldn't be a bad signing here, either.
Free agent Curtis Granderson might carry too high a price tag for him to be brought back. With him gone, the Yankees could trot out a trio of Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki on a regular basis, with Vernon Wells mixed in. Soriano was a sparkplug since his acquisition. If his power stroke remains next season, he could swat 40 home runs in pinstripes. Along with first base, outfield seems to be the position with the most stability carrying into 2014.
As long as Travis Hafner is willing to take a team-friendly deal, he's a candidate to return. He'll never play a full season again, but his bat has enough power to make him valuable to a team that, at times, struggled to generate runs. Mark Reynolds is an option, too, and at least he can play the field. But he'll undoubtedly come at a higher price tag.
CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are the two surest bets to be in the rotation. After that, things get murky. The team will go after Hiroki Kuroda, the team's top pitcher over the past two seasons, but the 38-year-old could just as soon decide to retire or play in Japan. Michael Pineda could finally be ready to pitch again, but that's far from certain given that he hasn't made an appearance in the Bronx during the two seasons since his acquisition.
As for the rest, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno could be in the mix if nobody new is brought in, but the team would be wise to let Phil Hughes walk. If the Yankees can afford to, Tim Lincecum and Ricky Nolasco would be experienced, back-end options available in free agency.
Much will be made of who will replace Rivera to close out games. The Yankees could go with David Robertson for the season to see what he's made of, or they could splurge on a proven option. Adding Joe Nathan for a year wouldn't be a bad choice. Brian Wilson is younger option, but would be willing to shave his famous beard? Doubtful.
Beyond Robertson, who is in his final arbitration year, expect Boone Logan to be retained if they can afford it. Joba Chamberlain, however, should not be brought back. Better to turn over more responsibility to younger, cheaper options such as Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne.