"I think you have to assume those guys can play out the whole year," Girardi said of whomever the Yankees sign. "Our hope is it's going to be four to six months. You can't predict what's going to happen, and you can't predict how he's going to come back."
Monday it was announced the 37-year-old Rodriguez will undergo surgery on his left hip in January and that he would be out 4-6 months.
But given Rodriguez's age and complexity of the surgery, four months might be optimistic.
"When you have these type of injuries, you worry about setbacks," Girardi said. "You worry about how a guy's going to come back."
And even if A-Rod comes back in four months, it's unlikely the Yankees would play him every day in the field. They rarely played him two straight days in the field last season after his return from a broken hand.
All of which leads back to Girardi's point: The Yankees are looking for someone other than a hold-the-fort kind of player.
It's a problem easily diagnosed but not easily solved as the market isn't in the Yankees' favor.
"There's not a lot of choices out there," Cashman said. "It's a very limited sandbox to play in."
Among the free agents in play -- and who have drawn interest from the Yankees -- are Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Keppinger, Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, and Eric Chavez, who played with the Yankees the past two seasons.
In the case of Chavez, injury-prone in his career, Girardi said signing him -- something the Yankees would do at the right price -- necessitates a second signing.
"We talked about that, if it takes two guys to fill that spot, it takes two guys," Girardi said. "The lineup might have to be creative every day in a different sense because those two guys might have to be changing roles. But I don't think it necessarily takes anyone out of the mix. It just might take two guys to get 162 games in."
On the trade front, the Yankees have kicked the tires on the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera.
"There's a lot of players in the marketplace," Cashman said. "But I don't think the marketplace is full of a lot of players that I like."
Another option could be Hiroyuki Nakajima, a Japanese infielder the Yankees won the post for last offseason but could not reach an agreement with on a contract. The righthanded hitter, a free agent, wants to play in the majors and the Yankees have had plenty of discussions about him again this offseason.
Cashman, while repeating he expects A-Rod back next season, didn't downplay Girardi's concerns.
"I understand what he's talking about," Cashman said. "You need to have the protection."
But he won't acquire it at the point of a bayonet, meaning forcing the issue.
And complicating things, as always, is the mandate of getting the payroll to $189 million by 2014, making one-year deals the preferred route.
"The preference is always to get your problems solved but the realistic side of that is it's going to take time," Cashman said. "And if you don't feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn't solve it until you feel comfortable. I'm prepared to drag this thing out, hopefully everyone else is, too."
With David Lennon