Five biggest questions facing the Yankees

Joe Girardi leaves the pitcher's mound after changing Joe Girardi leaves the pitcher's mound after changing pitchers in the fifth inning during Game 4 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. (Oct. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Is Joe Girardi in trouble?

It's hard to hold the manager responsible for virtually an entire lineup going into a postseason tailspin, so it's difficult to imagine Girardi, who has one year left on his contract, going anywhere. There were some rumblings from above when the Yankees were in the throes of their late-summer swoon, but Girardi and his team righted the ship and finished strong, two games ahead of the Orioles in the AL East.

Brian Cashman supported Girardi's move to bench Alex Rodriguez for ALDS Game 5 and the final two ALCS games, but there is concern in the organization about how that will play long-term, as A-Rod has five years left on his 10-year, $275-million contract. But none of that falls on the manager. A change or two on the coaching staff isn't out of the question.

Speaking of contracts, what about those of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson?

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Under managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees have had a fairly non-negotiable policy of letting contracts expire before talking extensions. Exceptions weren't made for Jorge Posada, Girardi, Cashman or even Derek Jeter. But in July Cashman opened the door to doing so with Cano and Granderson, both of whom are due to become free agents after the 2013 season. Cano has a $15-million club option for 2013; Granderson's 2013 club option is $13 million.

And although Jeter isn't thought to be in the same situation, technically he is. He is due $17 million next season and has an $8-million player option for 2014.

Think Jeter might want to get in line if Cano and Granderson get their deals redone? Coming off the season he had, Jeter certainly would be entitled to do so.

Prediction: The club policy stays intact.

Will Rafael Soriano return?

The closer, who excelled after taking over for Mariano Rivera, has an out clause in his three-year deal that those around him expect him to trigger. That doesn't mean the 32-year-old righthander, who was 42-for-46 in save chances this season, won't be back next year. It's just likely that Soriano, due $13 million next season if he doesn't opt out, will test the market and see what kind of money he can get as a closer, his preferred role. Yes, Soriano recently said he'd be happy to go back to some kind of setup role next season, assuming Rivera is back, but that is likely to happen only if he doesn't land big money as a closer elsewhere.

Speaking of Mariano, is it guaranteed he'll be back?

It's certainly likely. The Yankees want Rivera back and the closer has made it clear that he has no desire to pitch anywhere else.

But there are potential obstacles to a deal easily getting done, not the least of which is that he'll be a 43-year-old coming off knee injury who hasn't pitched in nearly a year. The Yankees gave Rivera a two-year, $30-million deal two offseasons ago but might be reluctant to make that kind of commitment, given the above factors, this offseason.

Meanwhile, questions surround another veteran pitcher, 40-year-old Andy Pettitte. The lefty hasn't said what he's thinking for 2013, and his answers to such inquiries have provided enough for those inclined to read tea leaves to feel strongly both ways.

Was 2012 the end of Swishilicious in pinstripes?

Nick Swisher dumped his former agent, Joe Bick, two years ago and signed with power agent Dan Lozano. Clients don't sign on with the Los Angeles-based Lozano, who put together Albert Pujols' $254-million deal with the Angels last offseason, to give discounts. Swisher has spent the last four years saying how much he loves playing in New York, but he undid much of that goodwill by criticizing fans after hearing some barbs for yet another poor postseason performance. At 31, he sees one last chance at a big contract. With Steinbrenner's mandate to cut payroll by 2014, he probably won't get it here.

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