Inbox: Will the outfield get a boost?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yankees fans' questions
Yankees pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 12, which means that we're less than a month away from seeing some baseball action. Until then, the Hot Stove continues to simmer, so let's take a crack at this week's Inbox topics.
It looks like the outfield is pretty sewn up right now. What are the chances that Michael Morse ends up in pinstripes? He seems like the youthful injection that the Yanks need right now.
-- Zach D., New York
Morse absolutely makes sense for the Yankees on a number of levels: he's relatively young (31 in March), hits from the right side with power, can play the outfield and first base, and is under contract at the fairly affordable price of $6.75 million for the 2013 season.
The YES Network's Jack Curry reported that the Nationals aren't discussing moving Morse until their two-year deal with Adam LaRoche is finalized, but the Yanks have already contacted Washington to voice their interest.
The Nationals could use a left-handed reliever after losing Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez to free agency, so Boone Logan could fit into a trade. But the Yankees aren't alone in chasing Morse. That'll drive up the price, and it's likely the Nats will also be asking for prospects in a deal.
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With Hal Steinbrenner saying the $189 million budget isn't just for 2014, does this mean the days of the Yankees spending like crazy are over for good?
-- Tim Y., Albany, N.Y.
Unless the Yankees' front office wipes clean everything they've been talking about for more than a year, "fiscal responsibility" is a new buzzword around the organization. They still project to be among the league's top spenders and believe they can field a contender, but as Steinbrenner told reporters last week, "I believe that you don't have to have a $220 million payroll to win a world championship, and you shouldn't have to."
That's where the Yanks' payroll clocked in back at the end of 2009, by the way. Steinbrenner is a self-professed "finance geek," so it's only natural that he's keeping a close eye on the team's finances. But that doesn't necessarily mean profits are coming before winning. They've often spoken about $189 million as a goal, but it's not an absolute. Steinbrenner said that they want to be under $189 million, "but only if I'm convinced that the team I see we put together is a championship-caliber team."
Maybe it's true, as David Cone opined recently, that George Steinbrenner would have been taking the much different path of hunting all the big recent free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke. Then again, The Boss made sure we all knew he was no fan of paying luxury taxes, so we'll never really know for sure.
Everyone complained about the Yanks only hitting home runs and not manufacturing runs. Is it a plan on the Yankees' part to move away from homers and sign players who can hit for average?
-- Wayne S., Port Trevorton, Pa.
Not necessarily, but that's how the end result is shaping up. When your starting lineup figures to include -- by choice or necessity -- Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Francisco Cervelli, it's obvious that the Yankees just won't be able to count on power from every slot in the lineup. The big bats like Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson can still use Yankee Stadium to their advantage, and we don't have to overreact and start calling them the Bronx Bunters. But you'll definitely see the Yanks flirting with a smaller brand of ball.
"I know a lot of people have told me they think home runs are bad," general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post. "I'm not one of them. Well, those people are going to get a chance to see what it looks like."
With Cervelli's injury history, are the Yanks concerned about whether or not he is too beaten up to take on the tasks of being an everyday catcher?
-- Michael D., Madawaska, Maine
Cervelli has had some bad luck in the injury department, most recently suffering whiplash from a foul tip in the Venezuelan Winter League, but the Yankees say they don't have any lingering worries about that or his earlier concussions. Cashman said that he isn't worried that Cervelli wouldn't be capable of catching 100 to 120 games at the big league level.
What is the likelihood of Derek Jeter wanting to re-sign after this year? If so, what is the likelihood of the Yanks wanting to keep him at shortstop?
-- John R., Clairton, Pa.
The first part to that question is easy enough -- if Jeter plays in 2014, he'll be wearing pinstripes. I think any doubts about that were removed during the last round of contract negotiations in 2010, when Jeter was so offended at being invited to "shop it" around to other teams.
Jeter is under contract for 2014; he can trigger an $9.5 million player option -- the value increased from $8 million after he won the Silver Slugger last year -- or accept a $3 million buyout. If Jeter has a season anything like last year, when he led the big leagues with 216 hits and remained among the top shortstops in the game, his playbook is pretty simple -- take the buyout and start negotiating for a more lucrative deal.
Jeter has always said that he wants to play as long as he's still having fun, and it doesn't seem that he's given any thought to starting his post-baseball life so soon. At some point, the Yankees might ponder easing Jeter from shortstop, but to where? People have talked about third base, first base and even center field, but there's no slam-dunk shortstop replacement waiting, unless you're sold on Eduardo Nunez's potential.
Further complicating matters is that Alex Rodriguez will probably need the DH role more than Jeter, as A-Rod's hips will need to be treated gently if he's to play out the entirety of a contract that runs through 2017. So who knows? Maybe the Yanks can make it through '14 with Jeter at shortstop, at which point Elvis Andrus will be a free agent. It's not too difficult to envision the Yankees chasing him with wallets wide open, then bracing for a tough decision with the captain.