The New York Yankees may be on cruise control to the postseason, but there are issues general manager Brian Cashman should address sooner rather than later.
It's time to begin the process of signing Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson to new contracts. Now we know that Cashman will say that the Yankees have team options on both players for next season and there is plenty of time to negotiate.
The truth is, however, the Yankees cannot afford to let either player enter his walk year when nothing is guaranteed.
By Yankee standards, Cano, who turns 30 in October, and Granderson, who is 31, are youngsters. The Yankees' roster is the oldest in the majors, averaging 31.2 years. And the Bronx Bombers didn't get any younger when they traded for the Ancient Mariner Ichiro Suzuki, who is 38.
Great depth has enabled the Yankees to thrive despite advancing age but it figures to catch up to them sooner or later. Alex Rodriguez, currently on the disabled list with a fractured finger, and Derek Jeter represent the oldest left side of the infield in baseball.
Nick Swisher will probably leave for free agency after this season, and catcher Russell Martin, who is batting .182, is unlikely to be re-signed. Raul Ibanez has cooled off somewhat after filling in admirably for the injured Brett Gardner, but he is 40 and probably finished after 2012.
Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones are also well into their 30s and a year-to-year proposition. The Yankees simply do not have enough major league-ready prospects to fill all those potential holes on the roster.
Given the Steinbrenner family's edict to reduce payroll to the $185 million range to avoid luxury taxes, Cashman needs to see exactly what it would take to get Cano and Granderson on board with long-term deals, in this case from three to four years.
Both players may look for more years, but the Yankees should have learned their lesson after signing A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, who have decent numbers but not the kind of numbers befitting the mega salaries they command for several years to come.
Cano is the team's best all-around player when you evaluate batting average, power, run production and defense.
Granderson has emerged as the Yankees' preeminent power hitter. Yes, it has come at the expense of his batting average and willingness to steal bases, but he will probably hit 40 home runs again this season and only Teixeira, if he gets hot, can come close to that.
We still don't understand why manager Joe Girardi bats Granderson second in the lineup except against lefties, but with A-Rod out for two months, Granderson will have a chance to be more of a run producer batting third or cleanup.
There is speculation that the Arizona Diamondbacks are willing to entertain offers for Justin Upton, who is only 24 but having a disappointing season. It would cost the Yankees a couple of their more prized prospects, but Upton would infuse the team with needed youth and team with Granderson and Gardner in the outfield.
Upton is signed through 2015 and is owed $37 million on the final three years of his contract. That's a bargain for the Yankees, who would have to pay about the same to sign Swisher to a new contract.
Acquiring Upton would enable Cashman to know how much flexibility he has financially in negotiations with Cano and Granderson. If the Yankees pick up Cano's option, he will be paid $15 million in 2013. Granderson would cost $13 million.
And Upton would be an insurance policy if either Cano or Granderson decides to test the free-agent market after next season.
So enough talk about what Cashman should do for the rest of this season. It's time he factors the future into the equation.
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