It feels like it just started but, for the New York Yankees, the 2013 season is officially over. The Yankees and Astros played a 14 inning final game of the season and, for the first time since 2008, the Yankees will be sitting out the MLB postseason.
The Yankees have been officially out of the post-season since last Wednesday but, with the simply perfect last pitches of Mariano Rivera's career and the few minutes after as he saluted the Yankee fans, to Andy Pettitte throwing a complete game victory on the mound in Houston as his last game as a major league pitcher, the finality hadn't really set in.
Now, however, as baseball is gearing up for its postseason, the pain of knowing that the famous Yankee pinstripes will not be a part of it is here to stay and, unfortunately, the offseason isn't looking any less stressful. Yankees GM Brian Cashman has his hands full, looking for solutions for almost every position on the field. Here are my thoughts about some of them-- the manager, the infield, and the back of the rotation.
Manager: Joe Girardi's contract is up and, although he's told the media he's loved his time in New York he has been relatively non-committal about returning. After his spectacular job managing the injury riddled Yankees this year, he'd have his choice of jobs whether it's managing or providing commentary in the broadcasting booth
Likely Resolution: I think Girardi returns. He's made his home in New York and has shown he can handle the intense scrutiny of the job. He likes a challenge and the 2014 Yankees will be serious underdogs. He'll want to take the Yankees back to the playoffs.
Infield: Every single spot in the Yankees infield is filled with question marks. At first base, Teixeira was already on a downward slide struggling to crack a .250 batting average. His one upside was that he maintained his power. Now, however, with a wrist injury, it's not clear that power will remain.
At second base, it's clear that Robinson Cano is looking for a serious pay day. And as a power hitting second baseman with the arguably sweetest swing in the game, he just might get it. If it's in the $300MM range, however, he'll get it with someone other than the Yankees.
At shortstop, Derek Jeter had the worst season of his career filled with injuries, setbacks and finally being placed on the disabled list to close out the season. Jeter has been adamant that, with a full offseason to strengthen his fully healed ankle he'll be all set for the 2014 season.
At third base, the arbitration hearing that will determine Alex Rodriguez's status for the 2014 season will start today and could take some time to resolve. Even if he is available at the start of the season, we could see another scenario where his legs betray him as they did this season.
Likely Resolution: I think Teixeira comes back and continues his trend toward becoming a slick fielding Jason Giambi: low average, no speed, capable of putting a ball in the seats but not worth his contract. Cano signs a deal with the Yankees in the 7 year / $200MM range, still too long and for too much money in my opinion, but what the market will bear. Jeter comes back and has a solid campaign, playing between 130 - 140 games at SS and posting a decent average; don't count out the Captain. Rodriguez gets a suspension of 65 - 100 games and comes back primarily as the DH.
Rotation: Phil Hughes is likely gone after his horribly inconsistent 2013 season that ultimately led to him being removed from the rotation with Girardi actively looking for matchups that would hide him and his homer-prone repertoire. Despite his poor performance, however, Hughes did take the ball almost every time out. Between Pettitte retiring, Hughes leaving, Hiroki Kuroda undecided and Michael Pineda still and unknown variable, the only certain thing about the Yankees rotation is CC Sabathia, coming off the worst full season of his career, and Ivan Nova, who had a fantastic second half but only after a first half so poor he was sent to the minors.
Likely Resolution: I think the Yankees go internal on this one and Kuroda returns on a third one-year deal, David Phelps steps in as the 4th starter and some combination of Pineda and Adam Warren is in the 5th starter.
Get busy Cashman. The 2014 season starts in just 181 days and I've already started the countdown.