The last time the New York Yankees weren't involved in the postseason was 2008, manager Joe Girardi's first year manning the helm. Now, with the very real possibility that the team won't be playing in October for the second time in six years, the fallout may mean that a completely different team takes the field in 2014.
Regardless of how the club performs during this final month of the regular season, there are sure to be changes for the Bombers. Future Cooperstown occupant Mariano Rivera announced at the start of the year that this season would be his last. Outfielder Curtis Granderson, starting pitcher Phil Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain are all free agents in 2014. It is unlikely that any of the three will be brought back to the Bronx.
The same can be said for DH Travis Hafner whose season officially came to an end when the team moved him to the 60-day DL, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). Hafner was signed to the Yankees in February but disappointed with a .205 batting average in 81 games.
But, what is to happen with everyone else? The aforementioned changes are for the most part no-brainers regardless of whether the team plays in the postseason or not. Only Granderson might be given a second thought if he stays productive in September.
If the team doesn't reach the playoffs, the changes could be more significant.
Leading up to the start of the 2013 campaign, it was widely publicized that the Yankees would be attempting to reduce payroll in an effort to avoid the luxury tax. As the season wore on and injuries started to pile up, the $189 million "line in the sand" became more of a goal than a directive. Yet, in trying to achieve that goal the team will need to decide what they will do with second baseman Robinson Cano.
The All-Star is a free agent in 2014, and in spite of hiring Yankee fan Jay-Z as his agent in April, he has yet to resign with the Bombers.
Even though Cano is hitting .308 with 26 home runs and 98 RBI, the inability of the team to reach the playoffs may mean that the overhaul begins with the Yanks saving money and letting him walk. After all, if you have an initiative to cut payroll and have a high-priced team that is breaking down and failing on the field, don't you start from scratch where you can?
More than any other player, the Yankees decision on what to do with Robbie will be the most difficult. The club's finish to 2013 could be the factor that influences the final determination.
And Cano is not the only player whose future in pinstripes is in question.
A failure to reach October play almost certainly means the end of Chris Stewart's stay in New York. The 31-year-old career backup catcher was thrust into the starting role with the Yankees when Francisco Cervelli broke his right hand. His .217 batting average, coupled with the advancement of prospects JR Murphy, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez means that without a postseason to improve his standing, Stewart's day's with the Yankees are numbered.
Another near certainty for departure if he can't prove something in October is first baseman Lyle Overbay. While the 36-year-old journeyman has been adequate at the plate (.252 average with 14 HR), he has shown limited range in the field.
The success of recent acquisition Mark Reynolds at first base (.300 average with three home runs and 14 RBI in just 20 games) provides the Yankees with a more appealing option to re-sign as a backup to Mark Teixeira after the season. Reynolds is able to play multiple positions (mainly first and third base) making him a much more valuable free agent in 2014—especially if Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld.
Ichiro Suzuki hit .305 in July, his average peaking at .283 on the July 20. It has been downhill ever since for the 39-year-old outfielder. He is limping to the finish of 2013 by hitting just .225 since August 1. The Yankees signed him to a two-year contract in December, but without an opportunity to reverse his slide with an October performance similar to the one he had in the ALCS against Detroit last season (he hit .353 in the four-game series), he may be playing himself to a part-time role off the bench in 2014.
David Huff's success out of the bullpen (opposing batters hit just .212 against him as a reliever) gives the Yankees a cheaper left-handed reliever to consider for 2014. While Boone Logan has been Girardi's most called-upon relief pitcher (he led the league with 80 appearances in 2012), his 5.37 ERA after the All-Star break this year could mean an end to the free agent's run in New York. He recently has suffered from a sore arm (overwork?) and the club signed southpaw Mike Zagurski as insurance should Logan be down for an extended period. With no contract for 2014 in hand, and without an opportunity to build on a stellar 2.35 postseason ERA (should the team fail to reach the playoffs), Logan will find himself calling another ballpark home next season.
Because the Yankees' expectations typically are higher than those of most other Major League clubs (27 World Championships will do that), the biggest fallout from not reaching the postseason could occur with the leader in the dugout—Joe Girardi.
Yes, the team has remained in contention in spite of numerous injuries to key players and their backups. Yes, the team has performed way above what the so-called experts predicted, given its advanced age coupled with the loss of talent like Russell Martin and Nick Swisher last offseason.
But, these are the Yankees, and the Yankees don't take failure to reach goals very well.
Girardi's contract is up at the end of the current year, and this season projects to be the Yankees' lowest win total since 2008 (the last time the team didn't reach postseason play).
An argument can be made that until this year the team hadn't won less than 95 games in any season since 2009. With a World Series title under his belt and his ability to keep this year's version of the team afloat, he should receive a new contract.
Unfortunately professional sports is a "What have you done for me lately?" business, and if the Yankees' organization truly wants a completely different look next year, then letting Girardi go must be considered.
The Yankees have a proud, winning tradition and no matter the result of the current season, the team will return to its successful ways via key free-agent signings and smart promotions from within.
Questions like "Will Andy Pettitte retire?" or "Will Derek Jeter's continued breakdown convince him to call it a career?" are painful ones to diehard Yankee followers but remain in the backs of their minds.
A failure to play into October for only the second time since 1995, and a conscious effort to avoid the MLB luxury tax will mean far-reaching changes for the New York Yankees in 2014.
What remains to be seen is just who will make up the collateral damage.
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