5 Most Important Offseason Decisions for the New York Yankees

Phil Watson@FurtherReviewCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2012

5 Most Important Offseason Decisions for the New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees have already made one of their biggest offseason decisions when they picked up the 2013 option for center fielder Curtis Granderson.

    Granderson struggled in the postseason, going 3-for-30 with 16 strikeouts and just one homer and one RBI. He was particularly unproductive against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. He was 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts and was not in the starting lineup for Game 4 of the sweep.

    But he did lead the Yankees with 43 home runs, the second-most in the American League. However, the front office doesn’t seem interested in talking about a long-term deal for the 30-year-old outfielder, according to CBSSports.com.

    What would have been a $13 million option increased to $15 million based on Granderson’s fourth-place finish in the MVP race in 2011.

    But there are other decisions the front office will have to make this winter. Here are some of the biggest of those:

What Happens with the Rotation?

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    CC Sabathia had surgery on Thursday, according to ESPN.com, to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow.  Sabathia is expected to be ready for spring training. He had two stints on the disabled list, including a 15-day stretch in August with what was called “left elbow inflammation.”

    With his status likely resolved, there are still other questions looming. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte will both be free agents once the World Series is over. Kuroda had a career-high 16 wins in 2012 and helped stabilize the rotation when Sabathia and Pettitte were both out.

    Pettitte, meanwhile, is also mulling whether to retire again. He didn’t play in 2011 before returning this season, but missed three months with a fractured ankle. ESPNNewYork.com reported last week that Yankees president Randy Levine believes Pettitte will return.

    New York traded for Michael Pineda last winter but the big right-hander never threw a pitch in 2012. CBSSports.com reported Monday that Pineda may not pitch until June at the earliest as he recovers from surgery for a torn labrum. Ivan Nova had a terrible year in 2012 and was shut down for a spell with a shoulder inflammation.

    ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews reported Tuesday that the Yankees may go hard after free-agent Kyle Lohse. Lohse was 16-3 for the St. Louis Cardinals this season and has 30 wins over the last two seasons. 

Austerity Measures

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    Hal Steinbrenner announced in March that he wanted to get the payroll below $189 million, which is the new luxury-tax threshold that takes effect in 2014. But Newsday’s David Lennon reported that the Yankees may be reconsidering that hard line.

    Lennon cited “a person familiar with the team’s thinking” when he wrote “budget concerns will have to take a back seat if the choice is between getting below the tax threshold by 2014 and building a championship-caliber roster every year.”

    New York already has $92 million committed for 2013 to just four players: Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter

What Will the Outfield Look Like?

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    Granderson will be back in 2013. But Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki are both free agents to be. So too are aging Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones.

    CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported in August that Swisher may be looking for a contract similar to that signed by Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals. Werth got $126 million for seven years when he was a free agent after the 2010 season. The Yankees are not likely to offer that sort of cash to Swisher.

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post blogged on Thursday that Suzuki wants to stay with the Yankees. Suzuki seemed re-energized in New York. He hit .322 in 67 games with the Yankees after batting just .261 in 95 games with the Seattle Mariners prior to being traded July 24. He also ran more with New York, stealing 14 bases in 19 attempts after the trade. He had only 15 steals prior to the deal.

    Sherman’s report included this from general manager Brian Cashman: “We haven’t had our pro scouting meetings yet, when we do we will rank the available players and we will see where (Ichiro) ranks and how it fits once everyone starts engaging the market (in trades and free agency).”

    Ibanez was quiet about his plans for 2013. While he was one of the few Yankees to produce in the postseason, he hit just .240 with 19 homers and 62 RBI in 384 at-bats during the regular season. Ibanez will also turn 41 next June.

    Jones is almost certainly gone after not making the postseason roster. Jones hit just .142 after the All-Star break with three homers and 12 RBI. He hit .197 for the season with 14 homers and 34 RBI. Jones is only 35, but the last time he hit higher than .250 was in 2006. Since 2007, Jones is hitting just .226 and if he seems older than he actually is, remember he made his major league debut when he was just 19 years old in 1996.

Who Will Be Behind the Plate?

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    Russell Martin did little to help his free-agency hopes in 2012 after hitting a career-worst .211. But he did get better late in the season, when he hit .257 with seven homers over the last five weeks of the regular season.

    According to ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews, the Yankees want Martin back, albeit at a lower price than the four years at about $6 million per season the club offered in spring training. Martin’s agent walked away from that offer.

    The options in free agency, though, aren’t promising. The Atlanta Braves have to decide on Brian McCann’s $12 million option for 2013. According to SI.com, though, McCann may not be available for the start of the 2013 season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum.

What About the Bullpen?

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    Longtime closer Mariano Rivera missed most of the season after suffering a freak knee injury in early May. Newsday reported Thursday that general manager Brian Cashman has spoken to Rivera about 2013, but that Rivera isn’t sure what his plans are yet.

    “He said he’s still thinking through some things,” Cashman said. “He hasn’t said he’s retiring, hasn’t said he’s not retiring.”

    Rivera’s two-year deal is expiring and he will be a free agent. Cashman said the Yankees would welcome him back.

    Rafael Soriano filled in admirably for Rivera, saving 42 games. Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras, told the New York Post last week that Soriano would likely opt out of his $14 million option for 2013.

    The Yankees aren’t likely to offer Soriano a long-term deal and Boras said Soriano would like to explore his options and try to turn his big year as a closer into a lucrative, long-term contract. Soriano has three days after the World Series ends to decide to accept or decline the option, according to the Post.

    If he opts out, he receives a $1.5 million buyout and the Yankees would have until five days after the end of the World Series to submit a qualifying offer. Soriano would then have a week to decide whether to accept that offer or enter free agency.