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Countdown: 12 days to spring training

1/31/2013

We continue our countdown to Feb. 12, the day pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. Each day between now and then, Wallace Matthews, Mark Simon and I will present a list dealing with a specific issue facing the Yankees this season. Today, we take a look at some of the underlining complications with the $189 million mandate.

THREE POINTS TO CONSIDER ABOUT THE $189 MILLION MANDATE

1. WIN OR ELSE: Hal Steinbrenner has given himself a teeny, tiny little bit of wiggle room if the Yankees were to fail to win this year. When I say fail to win in this post-George era that means not making the playoffs. Even as a second wild card, the more pragmatic Hal could rationalize that the Yankees got into the tournament and didn't win what amounts to a crapshoot.

If they make the playoffs, then it will make it much easier for Hal & Company to stick to the plan. If they fail to go to the '13 postseason, Hal would have to overcome a possible fan revolt.

2. CANO OR NO: Keeping Robinson Cano is going to be the biggest decision of the $189 million quandary. It probably has less to do with the $189 million threshold than the merits of overpaying the best second baseman in the game as he enters his mid-to-late-30s. If the Yankees let him leave -- hello, L.A. --- Hal will be looked at, fair or not, as cheap.

Still, as good as Cano is, there is a valid argument as why not to go super long-term at his age. Exhibit A wears No. 13.

3. JUGGLING ACT: The Yankees conceivably are going to have to sign eight free agents next offseason, which is a lot of balls in the air. They may to replace or re-sign Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera. This doesn't even include Kevin Youkilis or the possibility that Alex Rodriguez may not be a regular third baseman anymore or a Yankee, for that matter. It also doesn't factor in if Ichiro Suzuki -- who is signed through 2014 -- is not really an everyday outfielder anymore. Plus, relievers Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan are set to be free agents.

"It is one of the most difficult tasks signing two or three free agents," Scott Boras said. "Eight is a major burden."

That will be quite a puzzle the Yankees will try to put together on the fly, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman isn't sweating it.

"We'll have to wait and see," Cashman said. "I'm not fast-forwarding. A year from now, we could have a lot of candidates coming from within. I just don't know."

QUESTION: DO YOU THINK THE YANKS WILL STICK TO THE $189 MILLION PLAN IF THEY DON'T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?