(Long Island, N.Y.) Anything short of a 28th World Series title this season was viewed as a failure to the New York Yankees, but there were many positives to take away from it. Making the playoffs again and outlasting two quality teams in their own division (Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox) is nothing to be ashamed of and the Texas Rangers, who defeated the Bronx Bombers in the American League Championship Series four games to two, are certainly no slouches.
Just as every other team, the Yankees will look to improve in the offseason. There are a few in-house questions to answer before looking outside the organization and once they are addressed, then the addition of an impact player such as lefthanded starter Cliff Lee can be broached.
The Yankee manager was the first one to be brought back. General manager Brian Cashman wanted him here and there is some unfinished business to tend to. Girardi, 46, received a three-year deal for approximately $9 million and he has led the Yanks to a 287-199 (.591 winning percentage) mark since 2008. There had been some speculation that the Peoria, Illinois native may entertain an offer from the Chicago Cubs (whom he played for from 1989 to 1992 and 2000 to 2002) but they made their managerial hire before the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs.
The captain may expect superstar money but he is starting to slow down and his stats do not command a raise. This past season, he hit .270 with 10 home runs and 67 RBI. Jeter is the epitome of a team player and brings so many intangibles to the table that does not show up in the scorecard, but he has to be reasonable. Even the Yankees have a budget and need to address other positions, so Jeter cannot expect to tie up too much money in an overpaid long-term deal.
Jeter in another uniform? Don’t count on it. He will be where he has been for the past 15 years come Opening Day.
When Joba Chamberlain faltered in the role, Kerry Wood was brought in via trade to be the set-up man. The former starter and closer excelled and was an important part of the September run. Expect Wood to get a good deal on the open market as a closer, so Cashman has to make a decision here. Does he give up on Chamberlain and move him? Can either David Robertson or Boone Logan step into the eighth inning spot? None of it matters unless Rivera is warming up.
Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher are serviceable and did their jobs, but neither is close to superstar status in a town used to it. Carl Crawford (Rays) and Jason Werth (Phillies) are free agents and will not come cheaply, so Cashman has to weigh their value. Crawford is a sparkplug and is a terror on the base paths while Werth has some pop and could be on the threshold of stardom.
However this plays out, the Yankees will certainly make a big play for Lee, who they thought they had before the trading deadline only to have the Seattle Mariners nix the deal for a better one from Texas. But Jeter and Rivera need to be locked in before the Lee courtship begins.