New York Yankees: State of Franchise at the Start of the 2013-14 Offseason
The New York Yankees find themselves in a state of transition as they enter the 2013-14 offseason.
Gone is the team's beloved and dependable closer, Mariano Rivera. Also retired is Major League Baseball's most successful postseason starter, Andy Pettitte. Together with Derek Jeter and previously retired Jorge Posada, they represented one of the most successful eras in the storied franchise's history.
With the disappointment of not reaching the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons, the club will examine every segment of its business to ensure a repeat is not in the near future.
This is a look at each piece of the franchise and how it stands following the 2013 campaign.
When George Steinbrenner became principal owner of the New York Yankees in 1973, the team was in the midst of a period where it had won more than 83 games just once in eight seasons. Over the next 37 years (he died in 2010), the team surpassed that total 28 times.
With George at the helm of the organization, the team won 11 pennants and seven World Series titles. Willing to do whatever it took to put the best product on the field, Steinbrenner created a legacy of free-spending in the open market.
Following his death, George's sons Hal and Hank assumed control of the organization. It remains to be seen if they inherited their father's win-at-all-costs mentality or even the same desire to own the team.
In May 2012, rumors began that the Yankees might be up for sale. With the Los Angeles Dodgers being acquired for over $2 billion, the assumption was that the Steinbrenners realized it was the time to sell the team, which had been valued at over $3 billion.
That type of speculation would never have arisen with George at the top of the Yankees' tree.
Those rumors were slowly put to rest, and when 2013 arrived, Yankees fans had something new to worry about.
In an effort to set a budgetary goal under the luxury tax threshold in 2014, Hal Steinbrenner implied that the team would attempt to keep its payroll under $189 million.
Given the huge contracts the team already has tied up with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, it would seem that the Yankees will be handcuffed in this offseason's free agency.
How determined the Steinbrenners are with their stated frugality could be the deciding factor as to whether the team competes for a title in 2014.
Part of the Yankees' transition phase for the 2013-14 offseason will be to restock their minor league system.
While the team isn't completely lacking at levels below the Major League club, it isn't highly regarded.
Prospects like Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams and Tyler Austin all show great promise at the minor league level. Others like J.R. Murphy, Zoilo Almonte, David Adams and Ronnier Mustelier have already made appearances in the Bronx with mixed results.
Before Yankees fans lament the team's future, it should be noted that concerns about the lower level talent have not gone unnoticed in the organization. Principal owner Hal Steinbrenner recently held a meeting with Yankees brass to discuss the prospects' development.
It is a sign that the Yankees understand their need to improve within and are prepared to do something about it.
General Manager Brian Cashman will either feel like he's wearing a straitjacket or like he needs one as the team enters the offseason.
If ownership sticks to its goal of getting payroll under the luxury tax threshold, how effective can Cashman be in free agency? Will the team even be able to retain its one genuine superstar, Robinson Cano?
Yes, there are affordable players available in the free agent market, but the GM will have to be creative in his use of funds.
That may be difficult for someone who, up until now, had no restrictions in pursuing talent other than his own.
Payroll aside, Cashman will be dealing with perhaps the largest turnover in his tenure. Besides Rivera and Pettitte, it is more than likely that Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson have worn the pinstripes for the last time.
With the farm system in need of repair and priorities given to retaining Cano and manager Joe Girardi, the Yankees GM will rarely have a day off this winter.
For Yankees fans, now is the time for Brian Cashman to prove himself.
Yankees fans either love him or hate him, but it is hard to argue with manager Joe Girardi's success during his time with the team.
Since taking over from Joe Torre in 2008, Girardi's teams have gone 564-408 with three division titles and one World Series championship.
Unfortunately, life as a baseball manager—particularly in New York—is one of a "what have you done for me lately?" mentality.
In the past 19 seasons, the team has failed to make the playoffs twice, both with Girardi as manager.
Girardi's contract expires this offseason, and Brian Cashman has said the team wants him back.
Reportedly, the Yankees have already made an offer but could be challenged by the Chicago Cubs for Girardi's services.
It may come down to whether the manager wants to return to the Bronx or go back to the city where he began his playing career.
Only Girardi can say if his heart lies in the Big Apple or the Windy City.
Fans of the New York Yankees are among the most knowledgeable and passionate of any in MLB.
Consistently, the team draws well above the Major League average, regardless of the success of their season.
Even in experiencing only their second non-playoff year in nearly two decades, the Yankees ranked fourth in attendance for the 2013 season. In 2008, the other season without an October appearance, the club ranked first at the turnstiles.
Will the fans keep coming if the team trims its payroll, loses its star second baseman and fields a substandard team?
Of course it will.
With the sport's premier cathedral as the home for the team, the fans have a history of continuing to support their beloved Bombers.
Arguably, the franchise's "darkest" periods were from 1965 to 1975 and from 1982 to 1994. During those seasons, the team failed to reach the playoffs yet, of the 25 years, the attendance was higher than the MLB average 21 times.
To steal a quote from the movie "Field of Dreams": "If you build it, they will come."
The Yankees have built it (both the stadium and the organization), and the fans continue to arrive.