The 2013 MLB season is mercifully coming to a close for the New York Yankees. This season has seen its share of ups and downs; from the Yankees fighting for first place in the early months of the season behind the bat of Vernon Wells of all players, to the last week, where they were finally eliminated from the playoffs. I was amazed that the Yankees hung in there as long as they did with all the injuries and off-the-field stuff they had to deal with this year. As a Yankees fan, it has been a tough season, however, we all knew it was coming.
You can’t field a team full of aging former stars and hope to compete against teams such as the Red Sox, Rays, and Athletics who are all comprised of much younger players than the Yankees. Yes, the sheer amount of injuries could not have been predicted, however, the lack of any backups at key positions could have been prevented. This past off-season, the Yankees became frugal and tried to get under the luxury tax limit to reset that tax payment amount, but it came at a price.
That price was missing the playoffs for only the second time since 1995. The team performed admirably for much of the season, especially when you consider that at one point, they were fielding a team that was getting paid less than the Astros starters (if you don’t count a starting a pitcher or closer). The fact that the Yankees weren’t eliminated from the playoffs until this past week shows you how much pride the Yankees players had and that Joe Girardi is a very good MLB manager (even with the binder).
Now comes the off-season. The Yankees have some big decisions to make. First up is Robinson Cano. He is asking for a 10-year/$305 million dollar deal. While Cano is one of the best players in the game, he is 31 and if the Yankees have learned anything over the last couple of seasons is that you don’t want to be hamstrung with a contract like that for a player for that amount of time. So they have to decide – is it worth giving him the deal or do you let him walk? Rumor is the Dodgers will be willing to pay that asking price, so there’s a very good chance the Yankees could lose Cano. While I would hate to see Cano leave, I just don’t think he’s worth that kind of money.
Then the Yankees have to make a decision about Derek Jeter. There is no doubt that Jeter will pick up his player option for 2014, so the Yankees have to finallly make the decision they’ve been putting off for years – when do you make Jeter the permanent DH or move him to another position? With Alex Rodriguez’s suspension probably going to happen in 2014 (and maybe beyond) and the health of Kevin Youkillis in the air, the Yankees can move him to third and look for a permanent solution at shortstop this off-season (while Eduardo Nunez has done his best, his best isn’t good enough for the future) or they simply make him the right-handed DH. The Yankees will not be able to shop for a permanent solution at short until this is decided – no free agent shortstop is going to agree to come to the Yankees with the threat of Derek Jeter remaining the shortstop so the sooner they make this decision, the more options they’ll have in free agency.
The Yankees also need to resign Joe Girardi. While they might be tempted to let him walk (probably to the Cubs), Girardi did a fantastic job with very little this season, plus, if they let him walk, are they going to be able to find someone better to replace him? I think not. Give Girardi a three year deal and hope he can bring success back to the Bronx. The Yankees’ goal for the next three years should be to rebuild, and rebuilding means young players. Girardi has proven that he works well with young players (he did win the NL Manager of the Year award back as the coach of the Florida Marlins) and plus, Girardi is still young himself (remember, he was Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte’s catcher back in the day!).
Finally the Yankees need to go younger at almost every other position. While a player like Brett Gardner is still “young,” they are getting older everywhere else (RF for example) or are non-existent (catcher). The Yankees need to fill all their holes in the lineup with as good of players as they can but they need to try to keep the average age of those players under 30. They also have to dump Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, and find a suitable replacement for Andy Pettitte.
While missing the playoffs might seem unimaginable to Yankees fans who have only followed the team since the mid-90s, to those of us “older” fans, it’s not that big of a deal. When the team goes a whole decade+ missing the playoffs, then they can start to complain. My biggest fear at the beginning of this season was the age and health of the roster and that fear came true – granted, it was worse than I thought possible. Yankees fans need to realize what this season was – an aberration – and realize that the Yankees “failing” this season means they will hopefully readjust their plans for the near future and rebuild the team with youth and better contracts (just like they did in the mid-90s before Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera stepped into the House that Ruth Built).