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Joe Girardi: Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing affects Yankees' offseason plans

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and third baseman Alex

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and third baseman Alex Rodriguez at spring training. (2011) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Joe Girardi said out loud what's been obvious for some time.

The uncertainty surrounding Alex Rodriguez's availability for next season complicates the Yankees' offseason plans.

"Whether you have him or not, it's important that you know because if we're not going to have him we need to fill that void," Girardi said Thursday morning at Yankee Stadium where he helped assemble about 5,000 USO Big Apple Packs for active servicemen. "It causes us to think a lot about do we need a third baseman or do we not need a third baseman? Hopefully we'll know sooner rather than later."

Rodriguez is in arbitration appealing the 211-game suspension handed down by MLB in August for his involvement in the Biogenesis PED investigation. Should A-Rod be out all of next season, the Yankees would receive about $31 million of salary relief, which would go a long way toward them reaching their goal of a $189-million payroll.

The arbitration hearing resumes Nov. 18 and a decision may not come for some time, possibly not until January. On Thursday, attorneys for Rodriguez appeared in a Manhattan federal courtroom for an initial conference in his lawsuit against Major League Baseball.

"I think it complicates [things]," Girardi said. "Hopefully it doesn't do that , hopefully it gets taken care of before that, but whatever happens we'll deal with it."

General manager Brian Cashman has steered clear of speculation regarding Rodriguez and the potential money coming off the books. "I'm not going to comment on the Alex stuff," Cashman said. "I can't look at it any way other than I have a signed player for next season."

Still, the organization is proceeding -- much as they did last offseason -- as if it will need a third baseman, a reason free agent Jhonny Peralta is getting serious consideration.

Rodriguez is one of many issues facing the Yankees. Among their priorities is retaining second baseman Robinson Cano, who has made it clear he intends to explore the marketplace. Girardi said he has not called Cano yet, but plans to.

"I don't think I need to sell him on the Yankees," Girardi said. " . . . I think he sees the impact the players have had on this community and the organization, whether it's a Mo or a Pettitte or a Posada and the legacy that they leave. He's earned the right to go out and be a free agent, see what the market is and hopefully he wants to come back."

Of last year's rotation, only two pitchers -- CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova -- are signed for 2014, making the acquisition of pitching paramount. It is the reason Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka, whom Girardi said he hasn't seen pitch and wouldn't comment on regardless because he's still the property of another team, is atop the club's free-agent wish list.

"The good thing is we have time to try and get our rotation to where we want it to be," Girardi said.

Derek Jeter, limited to 17 games last season because of various injuries, has started his offseason workouts in Tampa, but Girardi acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the 39-year-old shortstop.

"We're hoping that he'll be back to where he was in 2012 before the injury took place," Girardi said. "We'll go through the offseason, allow him to do the things that he needs to do and then keep our fingers crossed in spring training that it's all good."

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