Changes could be in store as Yanks turn page to '13
With many key free agents, GM Cashman knows tough decisions will need to be made
NEW YORK -- During an end-of-season news conference, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked if the roster he currently has on hand should be expected to bring a championship to the Bronx in 2013.
"As many free agents as we have right now, no," Girardi said, with a chuckle. "I'm not saying we couldn't have won a world championship with the team we had a week ago, but we have a number of guys that could possibly not be with us next year. Those have to be ironed out."
Girardi said that he thought the 2012 club had what it took to bring the franchise's 28th title home, but prolonged lineup brownouts popped up in the postseason and sent the Yankees home with a bitter ending.
Now, even while the World Series is under way, the second Yankees season -- the one played in the Hot Stove league, where there are no standings but seemingly just as many newspaper back pages -- is already in motion.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the club has already started talking about the tough decisions it has ahead for the winter months, needing to retool its roster to prepare for another run at a title in '13.
It is possible, considering the number of choices that need to be finalized before the team reconvenes in February, that major alterations could be made over the next several months.
"We've got a lot of free agents, and every year the roster changes," Cashman said. "I can't really tell you what constitutes major or not, but we do have a lot of players that are free agents. Almost every one of them has contributed in a big way here. We always have tough decisions every winter."
The Yankees would love to get younger and cheaper, keeping managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner's $189 million payroll target in mind for 2014, but Cashman said they're also fine with re-signing older players if they happen to be better than available options. Raul Ibanez, who hit several huge home runs down the stretch and in the postseason, was a prime example.
"I'm not going to apologize for it," Cashman said. "We got there and we are old. If you're old and still good, then it's not an issue."
Despite the punchless postseason showing, Cashman also said the Yankees won't get away from how he sees their ideal makeup: selective hitters with power, or as he prefers to summarize it, "big, hairy monsters."
"I am not going to turn myself into, as Joe used earlier in the year, 'the Bronx Bunters,' because all of a sudden we didn't hit for this week in October," Cashman said. "That's not our DNA. That's not what makes us successful and that's certainly not what's getting us in the postseason every year but one year  since I got here."
Free agents: Eric Chavez 1B/3B, Freddy Garcia RHP, Ibanez OF/DH, Andruw Jones OF/DH, Derek Lowe RHP, Hiroki Kuroda RHP, Russell Martin C, Andy Pettitte LHP, Mariano Rivera RHP, Ichiro Suzuki OF, Nick Swisher OF/1B.
Eligible for arbitration: Joba Chamberlain RHP, Brett Gardner OF, Phil Hughes RHP, Boone Logan LHP, Casey McGehee 1B/3B, Jayson Nix IF/LF, David Robertson RHP.
Club options: David Aardsma RHP ($500,000), Robinson Cano 2B ($15 million or $2 million buyout), Pedro Feliciano LHP ($4.5 million club option), Curtis Granderson OF ($15 million or $2 million buyout), Rafael Soriano RHP ($14 million player option or $1.5 million buyout).
A position-by-position look at where the 2012 roster stands going into 2013:
The Yankees approached Martin with a three-year extension before the season, which Martin declined, gambling that his 2012 season would produce bigger numbers. That didn't pay off, as Martin batted under .200 for much of the campaign before finishing at .211 with 21 homers and 53 RBIs in 133 games.
Martin's bat picked up late in the year, and he earned raves from the pitching staff, which might be enough to bring him back next season. The Yankees do not view Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli as starting catchers, and Minor League catchers Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez aren't ready to take the reins.
The Yankees are set with Mark Teixeira at first base, as the switch-hitter enters the fifth season of his eight-year contract. Teixeira had an eight-season streak of reaching 30 homers and 100 RBIs snapped -- he missed most of September with a left calf injury -- and was also slowed early in the year by a nagging cough. The four-time Gold Glove Award winner batted .251 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 123 games. Swisher showed himself to be a capable first baseman in 41 games, and Chavez saw 10 games of duty.
There is still a fair amount of head-scratching over Cano's postseason struggles coming off a red-hot finish to his campaign, one in which he batted .313 with a career-high 33 homers and 94 RBIs in 161 games. But they'll chalk it up to a bad nine-game skid; the Yankees aim to pick up Cano's $15 million option for 2013 and will consider a contract extension in the near future as well. Nix proved himself a capable backup, and the Yankees should take looks at prospects David Adams, Corban Joseph and Jose Pirela in the spring.
Derek Jeter led the Major Leagues with 216 hits this season, batting .316 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 159 games. The Yankees will keep their eyes on Jeter as he enters his age-39 season and returns from the fractured left ankle he suffered in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but Girardi still sees Jeter as a viable everyday shortstop and doesn't expect the injury to change that.
The Yankees have Nix and Eduardo Nunez on board as backups; an experiment with Nunez as a utility player has been scrapped and the Yankees are trying to develop him only as a shortstop, potentially as trade bait.
Alex Rodriguez was essentially reduced to a well-paid platoon player in the postseason, his struggles against right-handed pitching so glaring (0-for-18, 12 strikeouts) that Girardi and Cashman agreed the Yankees had a better chance of winning games with A-Rod on the bench. Still, the Yankees believe Rodriguez is healthy and see him as their everyday third baseman in 2013.
While trade talk may continue to stir, Rodriguez is under contract through 2017 at a price tag of $114 million guaranteed, making it extremely unlikely the Yankees will find a trade partner. Chavez was Rodriguez's primary backup and enjoyed a comeback season, hitting .281 with 16 homers.
The Yankees' changes for 2013 could begin with Swisher's expected departure following yet another batch of postseason struggles in the Bronx. After hitting .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 148 regular-season games, Swisher could land a multi-year contract elsewhere; the Yankees will likely make just a one-year qualifying offer to ensure they pick up Draft compensation.
Center fielder Granderson is coming off a career-high 43 home run showing and remains under team control with a club option that the Yankees are expected to pick up, prepared to live with his strikeouts in exchange for power. Gardner should return to the mix after missing most of 2012 with a right elbow injury. It would not be surprising to see the Yankees tender an offer to Ichiro, who batted .322 in 67 games after being acquired from the Mariners, though an outfield with Gardner and Ichiro doesn't replace Swisher's power. Zoilo Almonte, Chris Dickerson and Melky Mesa should get looks in the spring.
Ibanez etched his name in the Yankees' postseason books with a late run of clutch home runs, giving the team its money's worth after signing him away from the Phillies this spring. Ibanez turned 40 during the season and said he isn't sure about his future, with retirement thought to be on his mind. The Yankees are ready to cut ties with Jones, who hit just .197 and was left off the playoff roster.
The Yankees expect to have CC Sabathia back to head the rotation after surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow, but there are question marks beyond that. Pettitte will again wrestle with retirement, but he hinted that a light workload didn't fully exhaust his pitching itch. Kuroda jumped to the AL and was a wise $10 million investment, but could now command a multiyear deal as a free agent.
Hughes figures to be back with a raise through arbitration, and the Yankees need to decide what to make of Ivan Nova after his late-season struggles bumped him from the playoff rosters. The Yankees could also have David Phelps and Adam Warren compete for a rotation spot. Michael Pineda is coming off labrum surgery and isn't expected to be ready until June; Manny Banuelos would have been in this mix but will miss the entire year following Tommy John surgery.
Soriano is expected to take advantage of a 42-save season to opt out of his contract, leaving a $14 million pay day on the table in search of a new multiyear deal. The Yankees were fortunate to have Soriano around as an insurance policy when Rivera went down for the year in May, but it's unclear if they will pursue a new deal with Soriano.
Rivera told Cashman that he isn't sure about pitching in 2013, though the Yankees will certainly have a contract for him if he says the word. Losing both Soriano and Rivera could press Robertson back into closer duty. As currently comprised, the Yankees' bullpen also figures to include several selections from the group of Chamberlain, Cody Eppley, Logan and Clay Rapada. Lowe's sinker ball style worked well in the bullpen, but he might seek offers to start. The Yankees also have promising righty Mark Montgomery working his way up the chain.