Let’s be honest. Not many fans (outside of New York) are going to shed a tear for this news, but with Derek Jeter tweaking his ankle yet again over the weekend, it may be time for Yankees fans to brace themselves for the possibility that they could be in for some rough years up ahead.
At the end of the season, you will have no more Mariano. You have two once promising pitchers who are in need of contracts (and with serious question marks). And, oh yeah. Alex Rodriguez has that little PED suspension looming too. Not to mention a second baseman (Robinson Cano) who could be their centerpiece moving forward who is also going to be a top free agent, with a price tag to match. For Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys, it is going to be a challenging offseason, to say the least.
One of the hardest things for Yankees fans to see has to be their captain, who has been such a key part of the Yankees since the 90’s, winding down his career hobbled by injuries. When he’s healthy he’s still a solid player, but this year just hasn’t gone well for Jeter. With Mariano Rivera retiring at the end of the season, it’s not unreasonable for Derek Jeter to at least begin to ponder life after baseball. He would turn 40 in the midst of the 2014 season, and honestly there just are not that many 40 year old position players in the Majors. He’s earned 5 World Series rings, he’s got a plethora of Yankee records along with a number of bests for the shortstop position. Like his longtime teammate Rivera, there’s really very little for Jeter to prove. Whether he hangs up his spikes this year, or soon after, the Yankees understand they aren’t far away from having a new shortstop in town.
Rotationally speaking, there are concerns here as well. In terms of seniority, outside of Mo you have Andy Pettitte-himself no stranger to retirement. He turned 41 during the 2013 season, and his contract is up at the end of the year. Statistically speaking, his 2013 line is pretty average at the moment . That’s not to say the Yankees wouldn’t want him back-I expect they would. The question is whether Pettitte wants to toe the rubber one more season.
Other question marks in the pitching ranks would be for one time prized prospects Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. It was not long ago, when the Yankees were looking to improve at trade deadlines and these two were two of their untouchable pieces. Prospects every trading partner inquired about but was rebuffed on. Now, both are impending free agents, and it would be no shock if the Yankees only retained one of the two.
In the outfield, you have Curtis Granderson as another impending free agent. One would think he’d likely be brought back, as he’s been a valuable piece for them, but he’s one of many expiring contracts the Yankees will be forced to contend with.
The most pressing contract question this offseason will be that of Robinson Cano. Now repped by Roc Nation Sports, he will be looking for a big payday as one of the best 2nd basemen in the majors and perhaps this offseason’s best free agent. While the Yankees have many holes to fill, Cano should be the type of player they cannot afford to lose. First, he plays 2nd base, a position with a dearth of alternatives. Second, he’s in his prime, and with Derek Jeter nearing the end, this is, or should be, Cano’s team shortly. I can’t see the Yankees not re-signing Cano; the question, however, is how expensive he is.
Then there is the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Alex Rodriguez and his 200+ game PED suspension. Barring a win of his appeal, the Yankees are going to need a 3rd baseman next season, much like they did at the beginning of 2013. That’s one reason they brought in one time nemesis Kevin Youkilis-himself also an expiring contract, who barely played for the Bronx Bombers this year due to nagging injuries. If I am the Yankees, I am now planning for life without A-Rod, and I’d be trying to remove that albatross of a contract quickly. Whether they bring back Youkilis or seek an outside option, change is coming to the hot corner.
Keeping this all in perspective, with the number of aging stars and question marks, you would think this is a team floundering in the middle of the pack. In reality, they begin the week just 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. What that tells you is that, with some smart moves over the offseason, the Yankees can head into the ’14 season and expect to be in contention once again. As Pettitte and Jeter eventually retire, it may be the end of one era, but with Robinson Cano and a new core of Yankees, they will be ready to challenge for that 28th World Series crown soon enough.