While 2009 ended with a World Series championship, 2010 ended in disappointment.
While the Texas Rangers celebrated in front of their home crowd and were heading to their first World Series championship in franchise history, the 2010 offseason was beginning for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees and their 200 million dollar payroll, began their offseason earlier than expected. Now multiple uncertainties surround this team, with some of the greatest players in franchise history becoming free agents.
It's sad to write, but even the almighty Yankees can't be the best every year. Only most of the time.
As the Yankees get back to the drawing board, and look to re-tune for 2011, here are the 10 biggest offseason questions facing this team.
Sit back relax and enjoy.
Let's play ball.
Unless you've been living in a bubble playing Trivial Pursuit with George Costanza, deciphering whether the answer to the trivia question is the Moors or the Moops, you must be aware the Yankees are planning to empty their bank account, with the hope of signing Cliff Lee to a mega-contract.
After watching the pitching meltdown that was the 2010 New York Yankees pitching staff, how could they not?
CC Sabathia's postseason ERA rose from 1.98 to 5.63. A.J Burnett became the new rocket man, as his ERA sky-rocketed from 5.27 to 7.50. Dave Robertson imploded every time he was called upon to get a big out, and Boone Logan thought he was pitching batting practice to Josh Hamilton during the ALCS.
Despite having a pay-roll higher than the GDP of some countries, the Yankees fell short of championship number 28. They simply didn't have the pitching to get the job done, and now it's time to re-fuel.
Looking at the future of the Yankees starting rotation, Sabathia is the only bright-spot. Other than Sabathia, who's the foundation of this rotation for the next five seasons, spots two through five in the rotation remain a question.
Burnett's 2010 performance speaks for himself. Andy Pettitte might be calling it a career. Javier Vasquez should be given a one-way ticket, never to return to the Yankees again. And Phil Hughes, albeit has shown signs of stardom, is still young and who knows how is career will pan out.
Therefore, it's essential the Yankees re-unite Lee and Sabathia in New York and form the best 1-2 punch in the majors. But until Lee officially signs with the Yankees, the chances that he returns to Texas is still very much alive. A scary thought for all Yankee fans, but very much a possibility of becoming a nightmare of a reality.
What were to happen if Lee decides to take less money and stay in Arlington, Texas? What if Nolan Ryan empties his pockets and offers Lee the right amount? Or, what if Lee already knows he's staying in Texas, but is just taking the Yankees a long for the ride?
Where would the Yankees turn? Do they focus their attention on Jorge De La Rosa? Do they bring back Javier Vasquez? Do they beg Andy Pettitte to return for one final season?
If the Yankees fail to sign Lee, trading for Zack Greinke, although unlikely, could be a possibility. However, Greinke couldn't handle the pressure of pitching in Kansas City, he's certainly not going to be able to handle the pressure of pitching in a big game at Yankee Stadium.
If the Yankees fail to sign Lee, it would be interesting to see whom they focus on. So whether the Yankees organization has a backup plan for Lee is yet to be scene. But hopefully, that will not have to come to the forefront of this offseason.
Because if that's the case, 2010 could be a long season. And this time, it won't even end with a loss in the playoffs. As their season will be over after the final game of the regular.
Three years? Four years? Five years. Hey, how about a sixth year?
Those are the numbers on everyones mind, including the Yankee captain, who recently received a three-year offer worth about $45 million dollars—the first offer of what looks like to be a long, drawn out negotiation process.
Jeter has made it clear he wants a five or six year deal. I am a believer, the Yankees should pay Jeter whatever amount he wants, but signing him to a six year deal is simply too long.
Throughout his career, Jeter has always been the consummate professional, and the perfect team player. If there's a time and a place for Jeter to make a team decision, the time is now.
Although he deserves the money, Jeter shouldn't get greedy. Even at the age of 36, although he didn't have a career year last season, Jeter will bounce back next season, but eventually, his playing career will start to decline (if it hasn't already).
There's going to come a time, where Jeter will be unable to play shortstop. He'll stop winning gold gloves. He'll be unable to make his patent "Jeter up-in-the air throw". And when the Yankees need a big hit, one of the greatest clutch performers in baseball history will fail to come through.
Unfortunately for Jeter, he is in a lose-lose situation. No matter how many years he signs for, or how much money he gets, there will be Yankee haters out there who believe Jeter got paid too much, and the Yankees signed him for too many years.
Jeter should not allow his contract negotiations to get to that point. Jeter should accept a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year. If Jeter wants a six-year deal that badly, let him prove at the age of 40, he can still be an elite player.
Then, and only then, if Jeter proves he can still play, he will get that fifth and sixth year he coveted.
Having no idea where these negotiations are heading, everyone has their own opinion about Jeter's worth, and the contract he deserves. If the only way Jeter will be pleased is by signing no less than a four year deal, the Yankees front office should keep him happy.
If there's one player who deserves it, that would be Jeter. Let's hope the Yankees show Jeter the respect he deserves.
By the time the 2010 season came to an end, in my eyes, Brett Gardner had reached the peak of his playing career. If the Yankees were going to trade the speedy outfielder, now is the time to sell high on Gardner before he comes back to earth.
But in order to move Gardner, the Yankees must look at how other teams value him and how the Yankees must decide how they value him. If the Yankees rank Gardner as good as Carl Crawford, that would be a mistake because he's not, and you'd be foolish to debate that he is.
Crawford has shown a greater consistency, more power, has the same speed, and is one of the best five-tool players in the baseball. Knowing there are plenty of teams in baseball who could use a young, cheap lead-off hitter who can play any outfield position and give them Gold Glove-caliber work, if the Yankees are willing to part with Gardner, it wouldn't be difficult finding a landing spot for him. However, the difficult part would be finding a team that would give the Yankees the players they'd want in return.
If it was a guarantee the Yankees would sign Crawford, I would package pitcher Ivan Nova, and Gardner for a for a top-flight pitcher.
Gardner does give you speed on the base-paths, and is one of the few players who I have seen that hustles every play. Well, maybe if Gardner was making more than $452,000, he'd have a different playing attitude. Maybe that is wrong of me to say, but when players get paid, it's no secret that their attitude on the baseball field changes.
I'm not saying it happens with every player, but it definitely happens with some.
So, on a team of aging players, Gardner, who is only is 26 years old, provides the Yankees with some spark from time-to-time. But if the Yankees opt to trade Gardner, and sign Crawford, they'll be locking themselves into a large commitment for a player who'll be better, not only now, but for the next decade.
Gardner and Crawford are on not on the same playing field, but my gut tells me, Gardner will be in the outfield when the season begins.
It's hard to imagine the Yankees 2011 roster without Cliff Lee and/or Crawford. But at this rate, that might very well be the case.
At the age of 25, Joba Chamberlain has gone from Mariano Rivera's successor, to the eighth inning set-up man, to being called upon for mop-up duty. But even throughout his pitching struggles, believe it or not, Chamberlain still has some trade value left.
Although over the last two seasons, Chamberlain, who has pitched in 229 innings, and has managed just a 4.64 ERA to go along with an 8.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9, it wouldn't surprise me if Chamberlain is no-longer a Yankee when the season begins.
Despite pitching himself out of the set-up role, Chamberlain has shown signs of life, and if any team is looking to sure up their bullpen, Chamberlain can certainly provide help out of the bullpen.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but the Yankees should have never removed Chamberlain from the bullpen, and never implemented the "Joba Rules".
I am not saying Chamberlain would still be as dominate as he was when he first came onto the scene in 2007, appearing in 19 games, pitching to a .38 ERA and a .75 WHIP, while striking out 34 in 24 innings pitched.
But it's difficult to argue otherwise, because now, no one trusts him. His manager doesn't call upon him to pitch in a big spot, and the fans don't want to see number 62 come running out of the bullpen. The Chamberlain experiment is all, but over.
The Yankees struck out on this one, and now, before Chamberlain has zero trade value left, it's time to make a deal.
Let's make it happens before it's too late.
On the surface, the simple answer to the question will be no. How can you think differently?
Having three more years at $16.5 million per season (ouch), unfortunately for the Yankees, Burnett isn't going anywhere (ouch, again), and maybe that's a good thing for the Yankees.
Actually, I highly doubt that.
He can't handle the pressure of pitching in the Bronx. He's been nothing but a failure since being acquired via free agency in December of 2008. It's time for Burnett to go.
Former pitching coach Dave Eiland couldn't fix the problem that was AJ Burnett, and now, former Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild is called upon to be Burnett's savior. He has a lot of work to do, and I am not sure if Burnett is even fixable at this point.
During the month of September, Burnett managed a 2-4 record while posting a 6.14 ERA. Let's not even discuss his one appearance in the postseason. Although his pitching performance has been atrocious, he must be given a standing ovation and applauded for convincing the Yankees he's worth $82.5 million dollars.
Well done, AJ.
But no matter how much he's getting paid, Burnett needs help, and hopefully, Rothschild will be the coach who can salvage Burnett's career.
While in Chicago, Rothschild was blessed with the opportunity of having to handle the unpredictable Carlos Zambrano, who was a walking time-bomb every time he took the mound. Burnett won't physically erupt like Zambrano, or display the fireworks Zambrano has shown.
If Zambrano's September performance for the Cubs is any indication what Rothschild is capable of, the Yankees can be optimistic about Burnett's future and his role in the Yankees' rotation. But until Burnett can prove he can pitch, Rothschild has his work cut out for him. And no matter how great of a pitching coach Rothschild is, there are some players who aren't able to be fixed.
And maybe, Burnett is just one of those guys.
A changing of the guard is happening right before our very eyes. It's not taking place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Nation's capital, but rather, in the Yankees clubhouse. This past offseason, it was announced that Jorge Posada will make way for rookie catcher Jesus Montero, as Posada will become the Yankees full-time DH.
The Yankees feel the 22-year old, who batted .289 at Scranton with 21 home runs, 75 RBI and a .517 slugging percentage, is ready to become the every-day catcher. If this decision was based on Posada's 2010 performance behind the plate, who at the age of 39, threw out just 10 of 82 runners attempting to steal during the regular season (12.2 percent), I do not blame the Yankees for making the switch.
But Posada's deserves the respect and the chance to still be the every-day catcher. At least allow him to start the season behind the plate, and then, if the Yankees feel Posada is unable to get the job done, then make the switch.
While it's slap in the face to Posada to take the job away from him, if the Yankees are looking for Montero to replicate Buster Posey's rookie performance, they shouldn't hold their breath.
The Yankees are asking a lot from Montero to provide for them what Posada has given this organization over the years. The veteran pitchers might not want to pitch to a rookie, and Montero must be prepared for the shattering of boos he's going to here if he begins his major league career in a slump.
Although Posada, who is due $13.1 million in 2011, the final season of a $52.4 million, four-year deal, saw a major drop in production in homeruns, RBI, and batting average from last season, while spending some-time on the disabled list with a fracture in his foot, he's not done just yet.
Having been on the disabled list four times in his career, all since 2008, the end of the road is near for Posada. It might not be what Posada wants, but it's what the higher powers of the Yankees organization want, and unfortunately for Posada, they have the final say.
While all the focus is on Derek Jeter's contract, and trying to sway Cliff Lee to become a member of the Yankees, free agent pitcher, Mariano Rivera still remains unsigned.
Okay, I get it. The Yankees will not begin the 2011 season without Rivera.
The Yankees will pay Rivera, but when free agency began, it was reported that Rivera was looking for a one year contract, with an option for a second-year, wanting the choice to retire on his own terms, and not be forced to walk away in the midst of his contract.
But as weeks passed, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported the Yankees expect Rivera to want a two-year deal. Rivera, who turns 41 later this month, posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.83 WHIP along with 33 saves in 38 opportunities this past season.
With no signs of slowing down, the Yankees probably won't have an issue with that, and it would be a disgrace if they did.
He's still the closer I'd want on the mound in the bottom of the ninth to save a game. He's still the best closer in the game, and deserves to be paid like one.
When dealing with an older team, not having depth on your roster can come back to haunt you—the Yankees might learn that the hard way.
On days that Jorge Posada were to have a day off behind the plate, now that he's the everyday DH, Girardi loses Posada as that pinch-hitting option. Yes, they'll be days where Posada doesn't play giving Girardi a reliable bat to come off the bench to pinch hit, but the Yankees do not have a dependable player who can be that pinch-hitting superstar.
Francisco Cervelli can't hit. When Alex Rodriguez doesn't play, Ramiro Pena doesn't provide the power A-Rod does. Austin Kearns will not be resigned, and hopefully, sent back to Cleveland. While Marcus Thames is one of the few players who provides some power off the bench, his home run barrage which we saw for a six game stretch in August, hitting 6 home runs and 11 RBIs in 21 at bats, will not last forever.
Let's pray everyone makes it through the season one-hundred percent healthy. Otherwise, if the Yankees need a player to fill a void, maybe you know where the offense is coming from—because I don't.
After being acquired from the Cleveland Indians, Kerry Wood's performance with the New York Yankees was one of the few bright spots of the 2010 season.
After posting a fantastic 1.23 ERA and 0.69 WHIP in 26 innings this year for the Yankees, including 21 straight scoreless appearances, the Yankees opted to decline his $11 million dollar option, allowing Wood to test the free agent market.
Teams who are vying for a closer, will undoubtedly be looking at Wood, and according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Yankees are expecting Wood to sign elsewhere this offseason.
Of course, Wood would be welcomed back as a setup man, but the 33-year-old apparently wants to close again. A number of clubs are in need of a reliable ninth-inning man and Wood, despite his recent injury problems, could have pitched himself into a closer's job for this season.
Failing to re-sign Woods, leaves the Yankees in desperate need of a set-up man. Having any of the current Yankee relievers in the role would be a scary thought. Therefore, the Yankees should negotiate with Wood, and bring him back for 2011.
He's the Yankees best option.
For the first time in a while, the Yankees enter this offseason with the future of the team in doubt. Yes, they will always be the Yankees, and some may say, they will always be able to buy talent.
But with Alex Rodriguez starting to age, the Captain getting older, Rivera and Posada nearing the end of their careers, AJ Burnett being a complete failure, and a mediocre outfield, the Yankees could be in trouble.
It might be bold, and might be extreme, but their 2011 season depends on one player - Cliff Lee .
If Lee signs with the Yankees, the Yankees become the favorite to win the AL East, and undoubtedly will compete for their 28th World Series championship. However, if Lee decides to remain in Texas, the Yankees will be fortunate to make the playoffs.
You might disagree with me, but it's the truth.
Although the Yankees always have a back-up plan, and if they don't sign Lee, it's only a matter of time until it's implemented, there's no player out there who can replace what Lee will provide for this team.
If Lee isn't in pinstripes when the season begins, this off-season will be considered a complete failure.
It's Lee or bust. It's that simple.