After getting swept by the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 ALCS, it was clear that the New York Yankees would need to make some tough decisions in the upcoming offseason. With Derek Jeter out, the offense was stagnant at best, and the team with the most wins in the AL (95) missed the World Series for the third straight year.
General manager Brian Cashman has some decisions to make this offseason. Here are a few realistic moves he should consider making to help the Yankees get back to the World Series in 2013.
When the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners during the season, questions swirled around the move. Would getting a 38-year-old outfielder who seemed to be way past his prime really help the Yankees?
Ichiro quickly put any questions to rest by hitting for a .322 average in only 67 games with the Yanks. He was also one of the only hitters to actually bring some production into the postseason for the Bombers.
Ichiro also brings a running game to a Yankees lineup that is filled with lumbering home-run hitters. This added dimension could help the Yankees play some small ball and push runs across the plate without waiting for the big blast.
When Mariano Rivera went down with an ACL injury, some thought the Yankees were done for. Even with the game's greatest closer on the shelf, the Yankees still owned the most wins in the AL with 95.
Although the Bombers survived without Rivera, having the best closer in history at the back end of their bullpen, even at 43 years old, couldn't hurt their chances at closing out close games.
After the injury, Rivera hinted at retiring, but he might have one or two good seasons left in him before he calls it quits. Cashman should persuade Rivera to try and don the pinstripes for at least one more year.
And if it doesn't work out, what is the worst that could happen? The Yankees go back to using Rafael Soriano or David Robertson to close out games? That wouldn't be a horrible scenario to have in the bullpen.
It's no secret that the Yankees are an old team; in fact, they have the oldest average age among all MLB teams. Their position players average an age of 32.7 years old, while the pitching staff has an average age of 30.3 years old (via beyondtheboxscore.com).
The captain of the Yankees and current shortstop, Derek Jeter, is 38 years old, and their resident third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, is 37. That is not optimal for two infielders in positions that command a lot of mobility and arm strength.
In order for the Yankees to compete in the future they need to start grooming replacements for these superstars.
Proof of this came last year in the playoffs. Jeter fractured his ankle during the first game of the ALCS against the Tigers and was out for the rest of the postseason. The fact is, there is no one on the bench Joe Girardi can put in who will replace the future Hall of Famer's production.
Rodriguez's struggles at the plate were terribly obvious: He was 3-for-25 (.120) during the Yankees' postseason run.
The Yankees are stuck with Rodriguez's huge contract and Jeter still has some time left in pinstripes before he hangs them up, but the Yanks cannot continue to just plug up the holes these players leave behind when they are not playing—the team needs to have solid replacements for these two guys if the Yankees are going to compete in the future.
Russel Martin struggled mightily at the plate for most of the 2012 season. He batted only .211, but belted 21 home runs. He is solid behind the plate and is the Yankees best option for the 2013 season.
With high-grade catching prospects Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez in the minors, the Yankees are hoping one of them can become the long-term backstop for the team. Until that time, Martin is the way to go.
Hopefully, Martin can find his stroke in 2013 and give the Yankees time to make a decision on the long-term future of the catcher position while not worrying too much about the short-term.