Every off-season, each and every team faces key free agency decisions. Primarily, these are decisions about position players and pitchers. Every so often, however, the team’s most critical free agent priority is it’s manager. This is the predicament the New York Yankees find themselves in at the moment. Joe Girardi’s contract expires after this year’s World Series. The Yankees desperately want to keep Girardi around, of course. He was at the helm when the team won their most recent World Championship in 2009, and has other wise handled the duties well.
But, what does Joe want?
For one reason or another, an extension was not hammered out before now. That is somewhat surprising, but not completely alarming. When a player is in his walk year and doesn’t sign an extension, the assumption is that he is intending to test the market, or has decided to part ways at season’s end and ply his trade elsewhere the following season. We are free to speculate if Girardi had similar ideas in mind as he passed on any chance at an extension, but we will find out in the coming months what his plans are.
Waiting certainly can’t hurt. At the end of any season, managers are terminated, not renewed or retire. Happens every year. As a recent championship manager, Girardi will have no shortage of suitors, should he choose to test the waters. As of this moment, one job that would appear to be quite tempting for Girardi would be the Chicago Cubs job, due to his time with the organization as well as being from that area. There could be some sentimental feelings drawing Joe back to the Windy City.
Other jobs open include the Nationals job and the Mariners job, but I don’t believe either of those has the likelihood of luring Girardi away from the Bronx. The wild card in all of this is Tim McCarver’s spot on the FOX broadcast team. Girardi is well-spoken and highly thought of, so it’s not such a crazy thought that he might decide he’s had enough of the day to day grind of managing a ball club in the biggest US television market and move on to the booth. What does this all mean for Joe Girardi? Leverage. Whichever decision he makes, he is going to be one highly compensated employee very soon.
But, what should he do? If George was still running things, I’d say he has the preeminent job in baseball, working for a demanding owner who wants to win at all costs. But, these Yankees are not your father’s Yankees. Steinbrenner’s sons run the show now, and are quite intent on getting the payroll under the salary cap to avoid the luxury tax. Never thought you’d see the Yankees try and save money, did you? With the Yankees facing a daunting off-season in which they stand to lose their starting 2nd baseman to free agency, as well as a number of other key position players and a rotation that will also face similar losses, it’s not too far off to say they may face a bit of a rebuild. Mariano Rivera is gone. Andy Pettitte too. Derek Jeter is not too far behind. The farm? Hasn’t panned out quite like they’d hoped (remember when Phil Hughes was an untouchable prospect? Now he may get non-tendered). And, oh yes. There’s Alex Rodriguez and his appeal of his pending 211 game ban for his usage of PEDs. Coming back to New York is going to require dedication to what may be some tough years ahead before they can get back to the playoffs. GM Brian Cashman may make some shrewd moves that allow the Bronx Bombers to have a Red Sox-like turnaround, but that’s highly dependent on the pending off season.
The Cubs are in a known rebuilding process. Theo Epstein has been working to stockpile prospects, and things are progressing, but the Cubs talent is still likely a year or two away as well. So if you are Joe, you could re-sign with one team facing some fashion of a re-tooling, if not a re-building. Or, you could opt for a team that is absolutely in a rebuilding phase, but in a city close to your heart.
Assuming money is equal-and, since he’s got leverage, wherever he lands will be paying him well-it seems that if he stays a manager, both prime choices would not be in “win next year” mode. The Yankees are probably a lot closer in the short term, however. For all the negatives, they still do have some solid pieces returning.
Honestly, if I was Joe Gerardi, having won a World Series in New York, I’d be very likely to move on and take the Chicago challenge. I am discounting the Chicago ties for a moment, and basing my decision purely on one reason-the Chicago World Series drought. It was discussed as Epstein left Boston for Chicago as well-end one long drought, go find the next long drought. For Girardi, there’s nothing left to prove in New York, but how monumental would it be for him to be the manager who took the Cubs back to the World Series and won?
But, will that challenge be enough to make Joe change his pinstripes this off season? We shall find out soon enough.