New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, Cliff Lee and 5 Offseason Priorities
The New York Yankees, by their own impossibly high standards, were a failure this season. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, and the rest of their cohorts failed to bring home the ultimate prize.
In the Bronx, that simply will not do.
That being said, it's safe to say that there will be changes made in the offseason by Brian Cashman to ensure that this "failure" is an aberration.
Cashman and his seemingly unlimited bank account will have his hands full as he tries to pin down the most pressing issues of the offseason.
Here are five things Cashman and the braintrust must do if they plan to get back to the World Series in 2011.
Name Jesus Montero the Starting Catcher
One thing is clear; Jesus Montero will be a part of the Yankees major league squad next season. The question is, how big of a role will he play?
Montero is already a prodigious hitter and many thought he was ready to hit big league pitching last season while at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With the farm team, Montero hit an impressive .289 with 21 homers in 123 games as a 20 year old.
The questions surrounding Montero have always been about his defense, though it improved enough last year for him to be considered serviceable. He threw out a respectable 23% of potential base stealers and in any case he has to be a defensive upgrade over Jorge Posada.
Posada, an unquestionable team leader and prideful player, must come to grips with reality and realize that he cannot start the majority of the games at catcher. If he can accept his role as the DH/back-up catcher, Montero will have the benefit of working under someone who could teach him a thing or two about playing in New York.
The sooner they make this official the better; both Posada and Montero need their minds at ease so they can prepare themselves for what will be an interesting season for the both of them.
The Yankees will be much better off next season and making this move should be a major priority.
Re-Sign Kerry Wood
The Yankees declined the $11 million option on Kerry Wood for the 2011 season, but that doesn't mean he can't come back.
If the Yankees are smart, they will come back with an offer for Wood that he can't resist. It might not be $11 million, but they can still put together a nice package to retain Wood's services.
While he didn't have a great 2010 playoffs, he was nearly unhittable after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline.
As the Yankees eighth inning "Bridge to Mariano," Wood posted a miniscule 0.69 ERA with a rate of 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
He's the perfect eighth inning specialist and the Yankees need him back. He can come in even late in the seventh inning and give the Yankees a quality effort with the ability to get out of jams with a timely K.
Wood may want to be a closer elsewhere, but he should realize that the Yankees can give him the best money and the best chance to win. The Yankees bullpen was strong this year, and Wood was a major reason why.
Though his stuff isn't quite as electrifying as it was in 1998, Wood can still bring the heat and drop in devastating curveballs. He needs to be the eighth inning man if the Yankees want to win.
Re-Sign Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera may be on the wrong side of 40, but that seems to be of little concern as he once again put up great numbers this past season.
Closers are hard to come by, especially ones as talented and accomplished as the Sandman. Eventually he has to slow down, but until then the Yankees need to keep him as their closer.
There's no one else in the league that the Yankees could sign that could give them the kind of peace of mind that Rivera provides. He is in perfect health and still throwing his usual 92-93 MPH.
They all know the cutter is coming, and there's nothing they can do about it. He added three more saves this postseason to bring his career total to 42 for October play.
October is the Yankees month, and they could never find someone to replace what he gives them in the playoffs.
If the Yankees want to get back to the World Series in 2011, they'll need Mo Rivera making the games eight inning contests.
Re-Sign Derek Jeter
Much of what was said about Mariano Rivera applies for Derek Jeter. The Yankees won't find someone any better to replace him and they certainly won't find anyone with the playoff experience that Jeter possesses.
Sure, they will have to pay a lot of money for a shortstop who didn't put up huge numbers last year, but there are mitigating circumstances to consider.
Namely, Jeter is the leader of this team, and his captaincy is important to the success of the Yankees.
Also, last year could have been a fluke. I realize he's about to be 37 and a year like this is probably an indication of things to come, but in 2009 he enjoyed an MVP caliber season. I find it hard to believe that it all went this bad, this fast, permanently for Jeter.
Finally, his name and brand are so tied to the Yankees that I don't think he would ever leave. Sure, his agent Casey Close publicly says that he needs to be paid handsomely, but would Jeter really leave?
His popularity is owed directly to the Yankees. If he's playing for the Brewers next year, he will be just another old shortstop. As a Yankee, he can continue to live in the spotlight and produce in October.
A team like the Yankees can get away with Jeter at shortstop even if his 2011 regular season looks like his 2010 regular season, because Jeter is built for October baseball. The Yankees will make the playoffs and they'd have a much better chance of reclaiming the World Series title with Jeter in the lineup.
Sign Cliff Lee
This is priority No. 1.
The Yankees need to do whatever possible to ensure that Lee is wearing pinstripes come next season.
Lee is a good pitcher in the regular season, but he is a one man wrecking crew in the playoffs. If he came to the Yankees, he would have the opportunity to pitch in the playoffs every year.
Clearly, he loves the pressure of October baseball and relishes the chance to make the best hitters in the game look foolish. Texas could be just another flash in the pan; the rest of their rotation was populated by young guys pitching the most innings of their lives. There's no telling if they can do it again next year.
The Yankees, on the other hand, will have him in the playoffs every year. If he teamed up with his good friend CC Sabathia, they would be the best 1-2 combination in the American League, if not all of baseball.
Signing Lee would immediately make the Yankees the favorite to win the World Series, and Cashman as well as the Steinbrenner brothers are well aware of this fact.
Mike Osterberg is a student at Penn State University and a writing intern at BleacherReport.com. Follow him on twitter @Mike_Osterberg.