Two seasons ago, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first—and last—time this decade. They went into the offseason with a sense of urgency—a sense that holds none of the connoted nerves for Yankees fans, considering they always have the financial power to get the job done.
And they did.
The Yankees signed three of the top free agents to long-term deals. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira were all Yankees. They would go on to win the World Series.
After accomplishing the ultimate goal, the Yankees sought out to polish up the necessary pieces in the 2009 offseason and add in some smaller pieces that they thought could help their team repeat. Javier Vazquez, Lance Berkman and other small pieces were now Yankees.
These two situations are normal for Yankees fans. New York is always going to be in the bidding for the top free agents, and they will always look for ways to improve their team. However, in the 2010 offseason, the Yankees are going to enter some unfamiliar water, and it will be interesting—and essential—to see how it is handled.
Why is it going to be different? Among all the normal acquisitions, the Yankees are going to be dealing with players who have been essential to their past but may not be too important in the future. Additionally, they will be negotiating with players who will hopefully be replacing the players who were important in the past.
It all starts with Derek Jeter. Jeter, 36, has been a Yankee his entire life and is nearing 3,000 hits. He will be a Yankee next season—nobody doubts that. But the question looms over the amount and the duration. It is expected to be a smooth process—no other team is in the mix, and the Yankees need Jeter as a marketing piece—but look back in your memory and try to think of a time when an offseason move went smoothly for the Yankees, without any bumps along the way. Difficult, right?
Then there is Andy Pettitte. At 38 and as another member of the “core four,” Pettitte is statistically and historically set to pitch for another few years. However, he ponders retirement nearly every offseason in recent memory, and he will surely consider it this offseason as well. The Yankees will be happy to wait for his decision, but it will not help to have yet another possible tough decision looming over their heads.
The last member of the “core four” to be a free agent this offseason is Mariano Rivera. Rivera, 40, doesn’t seem to have any problems on the mound. Although he has had spots where he looked off, he is generally pitching at his norm. Two seasons ago, he hinted that this would be his last season. However, if he can still pitch, there will be no reason for him to hang it up so suddenly. Again, another tough decision will wander in the minds of the Yankees front office.
Then the youngsters come into play. Boone Logan, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, all aged 25 or younger, will be eligible for arbitration for the first time in their careers (except Logan who will be eligible for the second time in his career). Arbitration is always a messy process, and the Yankees will thus avoid attending the hearing by trying to work out a contract. However, these pitchers, all essential to the Yankees’ future, have never dealt with the Yankees before in a financial setting. We have no idea if their egos will take over. If such is the case, we could be in for a very, very messy process.
Lance Berkman will also present a tough decision. After putting on a show in the early rounds of the playoffs, the Yankees have realized how valuable he can be. He has a club option for 2011, and the Yankees will need to decide which direction they are moving in.
After that, it will be relatively easy for the Yankees. Small pieces such as Vazquez, Austin Kearns and Marcus Thames will become free agents. The Yankees will simply need to make yet another decision on all three of them. The good news is that there will be no serious repercussions.
And then, of course, come the big free agents. The Yankees are expected to go after Cliff Lee. Don’t expect that to be an easy process, with many other teams expected to bid as well. Furthermore, the Yankees have expressed varying interest in Carl Crawford, who will also be targeted by many teams. These decisions, however, are normal for the Yankees.
Just like every offseason, the Yankees will look to improve their team. However, for a change, the Yankees are going to be faced with many, many decisions that will induce crucial effects on the future success of the Yankees on, and off, the field. The Yankees love winning, but as we all know, winning has its costs.