The Yankees’ season ended short of a World Series berth, and now one of their most fascinating offseasons will begin.
Manager Joe Girardi and iconic stars Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do not have contracts for 2011. Cliff Lee will be a free-agent target once he’s done pitching in the World Series. What do they do with inconsistent A.J. Burnett, aging Jorge Posada and postseason afterthought Joba Chamberlain? Are various Yankees going places or going nowhere? Brian Cashman, start your engine.
The Free Agents
2010 Salary: $2.5 million
Going places or going nowhere? A huge potential door slammed shut for Girardi when the Cubs hired Mike Quade as their new manager this past week. Girardi played it coy all summer when asked about potential interest in the Cubs’ job, never saying no. Now he has no real leverage. But he doesn’t need it. He’s a good fit for the Yankees and works well with Cashman.
2010 salary: $21 million
2010 stats: .270, 10 HRs, 67 RBIs
Going places or going nowhere? It’s inconceivable that Jeter would ever wear any uniform other than the pinstripes. It’s also inconceivable that a 36-year-old shortstop coming off his worst offensive season would command a multiyear contract at more than $20 million per year. But Jeter will get paid more for who he is and what he’s done than for what he will do in the future.
2010 salary: $15 million
2010 stats: 3-3, 1.80 ERA, 33 saves
Going places or going nowhere? The only thing that can stop Rivera is time. Like Jeter, it’s impossible to imagine him in any other uniform. He may go year-to-year now.
2010 salary: $11.75 million
2010 stats: 11-3, 3.28 ERA
Going places or going nowhere? Pettitte was having one of his best seasons before missing nine weeks with a groin injury. He’s dropped enough hints to make it seem as though he’ll come back for one more year. If the Yankees sign Lee, will they have room?
2010 salary: $10.5 million
2010 stats (w/Yankees): 2-0, 0.69 ERA
Going places or going nowhere? Wood’s outstanding performance after the Yankees acquired him July 31 helped solidify the bullpen. He’s said he’d love to come back, but would he pass up other chances to close? And would the Yankees want to commit closer money to a setup man?
Other free agents: Lance Berkman, Javier Vazquez, Marcus Thames: Of that group, Thames could be the only one asked back in 2011. Berkman wants to play every day and Vazquez was a bust for the second time with the Yankees.
The Thorny Issues
2010 salary: $16.5 million
2010 stats: 10-15, 5.26 ERA
Going places or going nowhere? Burnett has three years and $49.5 million on his contract, so it would be difficult even if the Yankees want to trade him. There’s always the hope he’ll harness his stuff. And hope is free. If Lee comes aboard and Pettitte returns, Burnett would be the most expensive fifth starter in baseball history.
2010 salary: $487,975
2010 stats: 3-4, 4.40 ERA, 3 saves
Going places or going nowhere? What exactly is Joba? At the moment, a middling middle reliever. The Yankees say they still envision him as a starter. Will they listen to offers from organizations that might be bigger believers, especially with Chamberlain due a sizable raise in his first arbitration-eligible season?
2010 salary: $13.1 million
2010 stats: .248, 18 HRs, 57 RBIs
Going places or going nowhere? Posada will enter the final year of his contract with top prospect Jesus Montero knocking on the doorstep. The easing-out process was painful at times as Posada came to terms with less playing time. He’s still an important part of the Yankee fabric. 2011 could be a farewell tour.
Is it too early to talk about free agents the Yankees will chase? Not when one of them is Lee. The Yankees thought they had him in a trade with Seattle, but the Rangers swooped in. If it comes down to pure money, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees getting outbid. And Lee obviously loves the big stage.
The other marquee free agents will include Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth and Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn. If Dunn wants to be a DH, Yankee Stadium could be a perfect fit.