I've come here to praise the New York Yankees, not to bury them. It was a valiant effort this season to stay in contention as long as they did.
As someone who watched the trainwreck that was the 2012 Boston Red Sox, I have a ton of admiration for what the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi managed to do despite the numerous injuries and poor performances from most of the Yankees roster this past season.
But as the offseason begins, the Yankees find themselves at a crossroads, as a team with a large payroll but devoid of stars with the exception of Robinson Cano. Cano's status will be the No. 1 topic for the Yankees going into this winter with Cano on the brink of free agency. The Yankees desperately need to retain Cano.
But what is Cano coming back to? That has to be the main question on the lips of Cano's representatives. There are questions all over the roster.
Mariano Rivera is retired at the end of the season, removing the best closer in baseball history and one of the classiest players in MLB. The rest of the Yankees bullpen has performed poorly all season with the exception of David Robertson. Robertson is likely to become the closer in 2014 but questions remain all over the pen.
The rotation features 33-year-old CC Sabathia, who is no longer an ace, but he will be paid like one through 2016. Ivan Nova has shown signs of development, but New York will be faced with their most dependable starter, Hiroki Kuroda, hitting free agency after the season. It is an area where the Yankees need an infusion of youth and quality with no obvious solutions on the market outside of Phil Hughes, a player they are unlikely to re-sign.
Also retiring is left-hander Andy Pettitte, someone who has served as a security blanket for the Yankees rotation over the years.
Despite all of the questions that the Yankees face on their pitching staff, offensively, there may be more issues going into 2014. Mark Teixeira may never be the same player he was, and yet he is on the books until 2016. Alex Rodriguez has been the source of drama all season and is currently the awaiting a hearing on his 211-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. Rodriguez will likely receive a reduced sentence, meaning that he will factor into the Yankees’ future at some point, and he is on the books until 2017.
Outfielder Curtis Granderson will hit free agency, joining Cano and Kuroda as major decisions for the team. Bringing all three players back would likely cost the Yankees more than $50 million dollars next season.
Outside of Cano, no questions facing the Yankees may be bigger than the health of 39-year-old captain Derek Jeter. Jeter played in only 17 games for the Yankees in 2013 due to nagging injuries. Jeter has already signed a one-year deal for $12 million for next season.
New York will have to hope a full offseason helps Jeter regain his form. If Cano leaves, the Yankees might have to consider moving Jeter to second base and acquiring a younger shortstop.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has a full plate of decisions to make this winter. There is very little coming from the Yankees farm system, meaning New York will have to be creative in getting back to contention.
The Yankees have stated a desire to get their payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million next season, but it will be difficult to accomplish that with $86 million tied up in six players already and key decisions to be made with Cano, Kuroda and Granderson.
It figures to be a very active and interesting offseason for New York as the Yankees face an uncertain and murky future.