- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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The Yankees are no longer the dominant team of this or any offseason, ceding that title to Los Angeles' two clubs, while losing their own free agents to places like Cleveland. Still, Hal Steinbrenner's decision to cut payroll to under $189 million by the end of 2014 will, at the least, make the Yankees much more interesting.
There is no guarantee this club will even make the expanded postseason in 2013, but, if the Yankees were to get in, who is to say the legendary trio of Jeter-Mo-and-Andy don't have one more ring in them?
How ever the next 12 months play out, it is going to be a hectic year because there are a lot of issues surrounding this club. Let's run down the top five:
1) $189M or Bust: Hal is determined to save the $50 million per year that would come by having his payroll slashed by the end of 2014. The bloated payroll approach, along with smart management, has guaranteed the Yankees playoff appearances, but not titles. If the Yankees stick to this approach and it doesn't work, Hal will take the blame.
2) The Replacements: The Yankees are worse at catcher and right field, as this offeason closes out. Behind the plate, Russell Martin provided power in clutch situation that it is hard to imagine Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart or Austin Romine duplicating in '13. In right field, Ichiro Suzuki, at 39, is not as good as Nick Swisher, even if a lot of you disagree. I like the Yankees taking a chance on Matt Diaz as an Andruw Jones upgrade, but there are no guarantees with him.
3) Closure: This very well could be Mariano Rivera's final season. No one is betting against Rivera, even at 43 after a gruesome knee injury, but Rafael Soriano was so good that Rivera can only match him in the regular season, not be better. Andy Pettitte may finally, really, call it a career, though, I sort of think this time around the game might tell Pettitte it is time to go. I think he enjoyed his time back and will stay as long as he is still good.
4) Captain Chaos: Derek Jeter is going to be interesting to watch from beginning until end. After his amazing 2012, how will he bounce back from his awful ankle injury. The Yankees say he will be ready for Opening Day, but at soon-to-be 39, what will his mobility be at short? Can his body show the life it did in the second half of '11 and the '12 after looking lifeless for a year-and-a-half?
And then there is this: Jeter has a player option that, depending on incentives, will be worth around $10 million. Now, if he has another .316 season, do you think the Captain is going to accept a $7 million pay cut? Nor should he, for that matter. However, with $189M staring everyone in the face, every million you give to Jeter is another that can't go to help elsewhere. On the other hand, if Jeter regresses, can he remain the starting shortstop at around $10 million with limited range?
5) Heavyweight Battle: "In this corner, at 6-feet, 210 pounds, the Dominican Destroyer, Robinson Cano. In the other corner, at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, finance fanatic, spreadsheet savant, Hal Steinbrenner. Let's get ready to negotiate!!!"
With Scott Boras in Cano's ear and Randy Levine/Brian Cashman in Steinbrenner's, this will be epic. In the meantime, who doesn't expect Cano, 30, to have his best season in his walk year? He is too talented not to make it happen. However, what to pay Cano into his 30s will be debated on this here blog for probably around the next 12 months.
Those are five issues. We will get to more in the future. It's '13 and we didn't even mention No. 13 yet, but Alex Rodriguez's contract weighs on all the Yankees' plans. It should be a fascinating year.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which issue concerns you the most and why?
The Yankees are no longer the dominant team of this or any offseason, ceding that title to Los Angeles' two clubs, while losing their own free agents to places like Cleveland.