New York Yankees: 10 Burning Questions Heading into the Winter

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IOctober 9, 2011

New York Yankees: 10 Burning Questions Heading into the Winter

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    On Thursday night, the Yankees season ended when they were defeated by the Detroit Tigers 3-2 in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

    Many people expected the Yankees to be the favorites to get to the World Series after winning the American League East, having the best record in the A.L. and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

    Considering they lost two of the three games at Yankee Stadium to Detroit, home-field didn't really help the Yankees much.

    And now, they enter the winter with a lot of questions surrounding their team.

    10, to be exact.

    What exactly are they for the Bombers? Let's find out.

1. Does Brian Cashman Come Back?

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    The contract is once again up for the architect of the Yankees.

    Brian Cashman has been the GM of the Yankees since 1997 and has four World Series rings under his belt.

    Some wondered during the season if Cashman would be back in the Bronx, or if he would bolt out of town and go elsewhere.

    The Yankees upper management has said they want Cashman back, and as far as we know, Cashman would like to come back.

    Signs do point to Cashman coming back to the team.

    But what if Cashman did really leave? That would be a huge void to fill.

    Figuring out if Cashman is coming back or not will be the first thing the Yankees will need to address in the winter.

2. Will CC Sabathia Opt out of His Contract?

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    The Yankees ace has an opt-out clause in his contract which was given back to him in 2008.

    Everyone expects Sabathia to use the opt-out clause and become a free agent again.

    Sabathia has insisted that he loves pitching in New York, and has avoided talking about the opt-out during the season.

    But if Sabathia opts out, the Yankees must act quickly.

    They can not, in any way, let Sabathia leave the Bronx if they have any chance of winning in 2012.

    The Yankees will break out the check-book and give Sabathia the money they would have spent to get Cliff Lee last winter.

    Sabathia has earned it from how he's pitched in three seasons with the Yankees.

    I expect Sabathia back for at least another five years.

3. What Do They Do with A.J. Burnett?

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    Burnett finished with an 11-11 record and a 5.15 ERA in 2011 and was under a lot of criticism for his inconsistency.

    But in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, Burnett pitched 5.1 innings of one run baseball and kept the Yankees season alive for at least one more game by beating the Tigers.

    The Yankees will have Burnett under contract for another two years and $33 million.

    He will also be 35 years old when 2012 comes, so you have to wonder if Burnett's skills are diminishing by the season with age.

    Would the Yankees dare to try and trade the starter to a team that is in desperate need of pitching?

    Or will they suck it up with Burnett for at least, another year?

4. Will Rafael Soriano Opt out of His Contract?

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    Soriano didn't exactly live up to the three-year deal the Yankees gave him over the previous winter.

    He pitched terribly early on, and then, he went on the disabled list for a few months, which lead to David Robertson taking over for Soriano as the setup man.

    When Soriano returned from the DL, he pitched well, and helped what was at one time, a depleted Yankees bullpen.

    Soriano has an opt-out clause in his contract, and if he wanted to become a closer again, he could use it and try to test the free agent market again.

    But given what happened in 2011, I doubt Soriano would want to do that, because he would be turning down a lot of guaranteed money from the Yankees to try and be a closer again.

    And given how many other established closers are on the market after 2011, Soriano would be wise to stay in the Bronx for 2012.

    At least, that's what we would think.

5. Jorge Posada's Future in New York?

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    Posada's contract with the Yankees runs out this winter.

    And at age 40, Posada has a major decision to make about his playing career.

    His regular season was not very spectacular serving as the Yankees designated hitter.

    But in the playoffs against the Tigers, Posada hit .429 and was one of the Yankees best hitters.

    So now becomes the question.

    Does Posada call it a career with the Yankees?

    Or does he come back for one more season and potentially not play with the Yankees in 2011?

6. Do the Yankees Bring Back Nick Swisher for 2012?

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    For three years, Nick Swisher has been one of the most popular Yankees of recent time.

    He's well-liked, he handles the media, he's a great teammate and brought a lot of energy to the Yankees.

    And he's also a horrible postseason hitter.

    In 2011, Swisher hit just .211 and couldn't get a big hit with runners on if his life depended on it.

    Yankee fans expect players to perform in October, and Swisher has not been what they expected on the biggest stage.

    The Yankees have a $10 million option on Swisher for 2012 with a $1 million buyout.

    Do the Yankees exercise the option on Swisher, or do they go in another direction for right field?

7. Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon's Spots?

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    In 2011, the Yankees went with veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the rotation.

    Colon, at age 38, was 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 26 starts.

    Garcia, at age 35, was 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts.

    Garcia started Game 2 of the American League Division Series, but lost to the Tigers.

    Colon didn't pitch in the postseason because many felt that his arm was done, and he didn't pitch very well in the playoffs in the past.

    But, without Colon and Garcia in the Yankees' rotation, the Yankees likely do not win the division and make the playoffs.

    But, nobody expects either Garcia nor Colon back in 2012.

    So now they have to figure out who takes their spots in the winter.

8. Will Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos Get Called Up in 2012?

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    The Yankees held onto their two top pitching prospects during the trading deadline this season.

    The Colorado Rockies requested both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances in a deal for Ubaldo Jimenez, in which the Yankees said no thanks, a move that turned out to be a good one in the end because Jimenez was not great for the Cleveland Indians.

    Banuelos made it as high as AAA in 2011.

    Betances did get called up to the Yankees and made a start for the Yankees on the very last day of the season.

    He didn't pitch very long in the game, but in his brief start against the Rays, he showed signs of being dominant for the Yankees.

    I expect Betances to compete for a spot in the rotation in 2011, but I think he'll end up starting back in AAA.

    Same goes for Banuelos, he'll likely begin in AAA too with Betances.

    But, will the Yankees call up their top prospects in 2012?

9. Do the Yankees Try to Trade Jesus Montero for Pitching?

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    On September 1, the Yankees called up their top catching prospect in Jesus Montero.

    In 18 games, Montero hit .328 with four home runs and 18 RBI and spent most of his time as a DH for the Yankees.

    Montero's strong September got him a spot on the Yankees playoff roster, but didn't see much time because Jorge Posada played very well.

    But with Montero, he still does not have a permanent position in the field.

    It's likely that Russell Martin will be back at catcher for 2012 along with Austin Romine as the backup catcher.

    The Yankees will try to use the DH as a spot for guys like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter to have a day-off in the field.

    The Yankeess have to figure out what to do with Montero.

    Do they try and find him another position, or do they try and trade him for a top of the line starting pitcher?

10. The Yankees Free Agency and Trade Plans?

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    If CC Sabathia opts out of his contract, we know he is priority number one in free agency.

    Most expect Russell Martin back too at catcher for 2012.

    But as far as the rest of free agency goes, nobody really knows an exact plan for the Yankees.

    Would they have major interest in Rangers starter C.J. Wilson? I'm 50-50 on the Yankees interest in Wilson.

    Would they dare have interest in Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder for the offense? Most don't think so, but with the Yankees, you never know.

    Will they continue to try and ask Seattle if Felix Hernandez is on the market for a trade?

    Could they get really creative and try to ask the Dodgers if Clayton Kershaw is available for trade?

    Last year, Cliff Lee was the main target for the Yankees in the winter.

    They missed out, as he went back to Philadelphia, a move that worked out for them in the long-run to save them money.

    This year, their main interest in the winter is a big unknown.