New York Yankees: Brian Cashman

Cashman: 'I have more work to do'

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
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Chase HeadleyDenis Poroy/Getty ImagesBrian Cashman said he got "a professional hitter" in Chase Headley, but the Yankees GM isn't done.
NEW YORK -- Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted today that the acquisition of Chase Headley was the culmination of a two-year pursuit that began when Alex Rodriguez had his second hip surgery before the start of the 2012 season.

But by no means does he consider the 2014 Yankees a finished product.

"I have more work to do," he said. "I’m going to still continue to try to improve on what we have."

In the past couple of weeks, Cashman has added a starting pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, and Headley without giving up very much. McCarthy came for Vidal Nuno and Headley for Yangervis Solarte, the April sensation, and a low-level minor league pitching prospect named Rafael De Paula.

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But he knows that will not be enough to get the Yankees to October, especially if Mark Teixeira's lat injury turns out to be a long-term problem -- Cashman doesn't think it will -- and if the non-surgical course of action chosen for Masahiro Tanaka's partially-torn UCL turns out not to work.

Asked if he thought the Yankees as currently constituted were good enough to make the postseason, Cashman said, "We'll see," which in our experience generally means "no."

“We’re competing for it," he said. "I think all of us individually have to focus on what we can do. The 25 guys that are in there have to focus on putting out the best performance they can and being in position to do so on a daily basis. That’s all they can do. All I can do is try to provide our manager and coaching staff the best 25 guys to go out there and compete every day. I’m going to focus on that aspect, let them focus on their aspect and hopefully all of it collectively becomes good enough in the last 2 1/2 months or wherever we’re at. That’s the focus for me.”

That sounds like a wordy way of saying he is still shopping, probably for another starting pitcher and perhaps a corner outfielder, since with Carlos Beltran's sore right elbow limiting him to DH duty, the Yankees really have just three outfielders on their roster. (Kelly Johnson, who started in right field Tuesday night, is an infielder by trade and had never played right at the major league level.)

Cashman tried to shoot down the widespread belief that the Yankees, with their aging, highly-paid roster and disappointing farm system, have few tradeable parts.

"We’ve got high-end stuff, without a doubt, players that other teams like," he said. "And those players would be available, or will be available, in the right circumstances."

That could mean the Yankees would entertain offers for Dellin Betances or Brett Gardner, who appear to be the two players on the big-league roster that have the most value. It could also mean that useful players like Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, Francisco Cervelli and David Phelps could be available.

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Yankees fans: Who do you want?

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"We’re open to anything," Cashman said. "We’re ready to rock and roll. We’re ready to try to do things. We’ve been trying to do a lot of things, but they’re just really hard to do. We’re going keep sifting through it and try to find ways to improve this club so we can get the team where it needs to be, which is qualifying for the playoffs. But I have more work to do.”

The GM was typically short on specifics -- CBA rules prohibit a GM from publicly discussing a player on another team -- but the names that have been linked with the Yankees include pitchers Cliff Lee and John Danks, although Lee's contract allows him to block a trade to the Yankees.

Cashman and manager Joe Girardi preferred to talk about Headley, who hit 31 home runs and led the NL with 115 RBIs in 2012 but has tailed off due to injuries since then. In fact, his slash line (.229/.296/.355 with seven home runs) for 2014 is roughly comparable to that of Solarte (.254/.337/.381, with six HRs) who had spent eight seasons in the minor leagues with two other organizations before making the Yankees' roster in spring training.

Cashman said a recent epidural injection in Headley's back had alleviated pain from a herniated disk, and that Headley had swung the bat much better in the month since. He praised Headley's increased "hit V-lo," which means how fast the ball is coming off his bat, and Girardi referred to his "production in the past," as if the last two seasons had not actually happened.

But the GM was candid on Headley's defense -- "Our scouts have him as an average third baseman" -- and didn't even try to propose that Headley's bat would add a much-needed jolt of power to the anemic Yankees lineup.

"I don’t think we’re getting a big thumper," Cashman said. "I think he’s a professional hitter and a switch-hitter that can spray it all over the place. I do think we’re getting an upgrade and a professional at-bat. He’s going to give you a good at-bat."

That's nice, but hardly enough to turn these Yankees from mediocrities into contenders.

"We just keep trying to find different ways to upgrade," Cashman said. "We’re hoping that we can get a jolt from every single addition that we bring in here."

QUESTION: Do you think Cashman is doing enough to improve the Yankees?

Reaction: Yankees acquire Jeff Francis

July, 11, 2014
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BALTIMORE -- The Yankees acquired journeyman Jeff Francis on Friday.

What it means: Brian Cashman will try to find little pieces to put together this pitching puzzle. I could see Francis possibly starting on Sunday or being part of the bullpen. Joe Girardi will fill us in later.

Is he any good?: The A's designated him for assignment. As good as the A's are, what does that tell you? The Yankees are giving up cash and a player to be named later. So, in other words, no, he is not great. He might not even be OK. But the Yankees will need to be more lucky than good right now.

His numbers: Francis, 33, is 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with the A's and Reds this season. In his career, he is 70-80 with a 4.95 ERA.

In other news: Jim Miller has been designated. Matt Daley is back up.

Question: Can Francis replace Masahiro Tanaka? (Relax, we're just having fun.)


NEW YORK -- If CC Sabathia has really pitched his last game as a Yankee -- and it is far too early to say that, even if the always-cautious Joe Girardi refused to rule it out -- his final game would have come on May 10, 2014, in which he worked into the sixth inning, allowed four runs (although just one was earned) and three home runs, another disappointing outing in a most disappointing season.

But while it is easy to look at last year, when he went 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, and this one, which was even worse (3-4, 5.28 at the time he went on the DL), it is just as easy to forget how good a Yankee CC had been for the previous four seasons, when he went 74-29, was named the 2009 ALCS MVP and finished in the top five in the AL Cy Young Award voting for three consecutive years.

In fact, as good as Sabathia was in his pre-Yankee life -- when he went 117-73 in seven-plus years with the Cleveland Indians and one glorious half-year in Milwaukee (11-2, 1.65), for a .650 winning percentage -- he was even better as a Yankee, going 91-46 (.664) with a 3.59 ERA.

These are the things to take into account when determining Sabathia's Yankees legacy, the time for which may be coming sooner than anyone would have thought.

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How big a loss? Tough to say. Sabathia was pitching poorly at the time of his injury, and by his own admission, his right knee did not begin to trouble him until his second-to-last start. So there was no real reason to believe two months of healing for his knee would have done anything to improve his arm, which still could only muster between 89 mph and 91 mph on his fastball. Even when he was "healthy," Sabathia was no better than the fourth-best starter in the Yankees' rotation. Anyone who thought he was going to return to save the 2014 season was indulging in fantasy-world baseball. But one more live arm in the rotation certainly would have helped, if only to give Girardi the flexibility to remove either Vidal Nuno or Chase Whitley.

Immediate effect: Obviously, this raises the priority level for Brian Cashman to acquire a starting pitcher from Important to Imperative. Even though both have been on the DL for two months or more, until this week the Yankees were expecting to get Sabathia and/or Michael Pineda back into the rotation in either late July or early August. Now, it seems unlikely we will see either one of them this season, and Cashman's efforts to acquire a Jeff Samardzija, a Jason Hammel, a Cliff Lee or even a David Price -- although I seriously doubt the Rays would trade Price within the division -- will have to be intensified.

The question is, what would the Yankees be willing to part with for a short-term solution? It is well-known that the Yankees' farm system is light on tradeable prospects, but there is one player everyone is sure to ask for: Dellin Betances.

Do the Yankees dare part with the only truly live arm they have developed out of the so-called Killer B's on a crapshoot to salvage this season?

And Betances isn't likely to be enough. Along with him, you could see teams asking for John Ryan Murphy or Gary Sanchez or Francisco Cervelli or even Brett Gardner, who during spring training signed a five-year, $59.5 million contract that now looks like a steal for the Yankees.

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Long-term prospects: Even if Sabathia dodges a bullet and turns out not to need microfracture surgery on his troublesome right knee, can the Yankees really rely on him anymore?

The reality is, he's not going anywhere until 2017 at the earliest, because of the contract extension he signed after the 2011 season that guarantees his $48 million over the two seasons beyond this one, and includes a $25 million vesting option for 2017. The Yankees can buy Sabathia out after 2016 for $5 million.

So the odds are he will be a Yankee for the remainder of his career (he will turn 34 on July 21). And that his contract will be remembered as one of the worst in recent Yankees history, second only to the toxic Alex Rodriguez deal.

Weighty issues: Sabathia deserves credit not only for shedding the 40 extra pounds he carried through much of his career, but keeping them off. The theory that the weight loss contributed to his loss of velocity is not likely to go away, though, although it seems not only unlikely, but counterintuitive. A slimmer Sabathia was a more athletic, healthier Sabathia, and that had to be better both for him and the team. It is unfortunate, however, that his shaping up coincided with the apparent winding down of his career.

So what do the Yankees do next? Obviously, shop for a starter. But since Cashman can't, and won't, address any specifics regarding the trade market, I'll throw it out to you:

A. Which pitcher do you think the Yankees should pursue: Samardzija, Hammel, Lee, Price or someone else?

B. Would you include Betances in a package for any of them?

Who can Brian Cashman trade for?

June, 28, 2014
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NEW YORK -- Brian Cashman said again Saturday that he'd like to trade for a starting pitcher, sooner rather than later. He also said again that he's already been trying.

So what's taking so long?

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Well, you may have noticed that no other teams have been trading for starting pitchers lately, even though other teams besides Cashman's New York Yankees are shopping in the same market. And you may have noticed the current major league standings, which show that almost every team is either in the race or a weeklong hot streak away from feeling like it's in the race.

There's little doubt that a few teams are already obvious sellers on the midseason market. Both the Cubs and the Rays fit into that category, and both clubs are said to be ready to move starting pitchers.

It seems highly unlikely that the Yankees would have enough to offer the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija or the Rays for David Price, though. There's also the question of whether the Rays would be willing to trade Price within the division. Some rival executives who speak regularly with the Rays believe that they would consider it, but more likely to a team like the Toronto Blue Jays, who have more to offer than the Yankees do.

The Cubs would also be willing to deal Jason Hammel, who had some success in the American League East while pitching for the Orioles and will command a lesser price than Samardzija or Price.

The Phillies would no doubt be willing to move Cliff Lee, a pitcher the Yankees have pursued in the past. Lee is both hurt and expensive, not exactly an attractive combination. He wouldn't provide any immediate help, but since the Phillies are hoping he'll be back sometime around the All-Star break, he may be worth keeping an eye on.

The Padres may be willing to trade former Yankee Ian Kennedy. The Rockies would likely listen on Jorge De La Rosa.

Most other teams either still have a chance (or think they do) or don't have much in the way of attractive starting pitching to deal. Most teams that want to trade a starter now are like the Boston Red Sox, who have been trying to dump the expensive and underperforming Jake Peavy.

The good news for Cashman is that things can change quickly, and that there's still more than a month to go before the non-waiver trade deadline. But that's good news only if teams with pitchers whom the Yankees like (and can afford, prospectwise) go bad over the next month.

Remember, there was a time not long ago when people were asking when the Royals would trade James Shields. Then the Royals got hot; they went into Saturday's action with a record just half a game worse than the Yankees'.

Cashman looking to make a deal

June, 28, 2014
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NEW YORK -- If you're one of those saying Brian Cashman needs to make a trade, you're not alone.

The New York Yankees general manager is saying the same thing.

Asked Saturday if the Yankees as currently constituted are good enough to make the playoffs, Cashman didn't say he's looking for injured pitchers to return. He's said he's looking at players -- presumably pitchers -- who aren't yet in the organization.

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"I'm looking to make some additions if I can," Cashman said.

And while CC Sabathia was set to make his first minor league rehab start Saturday night, which would start a clock that would have him back in the majors before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, Cashman said he would prefer not to wait.

"I'd like to try to do it before [Sabathia and/or Michael Pineda] get back, if possible," he said. "But we've been trying, and there's a reason we haven't done anything yet. It's not because of a lack of phone calls."

The Yankees entered play Saturday night with a 41-37 record, 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East and one game out of a wild-card spot.

"We're keeping ourselves in the mix, but we'd rather be in position to excel," Cashman said. "We'd rather excel, take control, maybe pull away. We're not in the control-and-pull-away category. We're in the in-the-mix category. If I can do my job, I'd like to be able to assist us into that higher category."

The Yankees have three-fifths of their original starting rotation on the disabled list, and Sabathia is the only one who could return any time soon. Ivan Nova is out for the year after Tommy John surgery, and Pineda only began throwing off flat ground on Saturday. Although the Yankees won't rule out the possibility that Pineda pitches again this season, they certainly can't count on him.

A-Rod finally listened to Cashman

June, 25, 2014
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It was exactly one year ago today that Brian Cashman told Alex Rodriguez to "shut the f--- up."

Cashman's delivery was indelicate over a phone he abruptly hung up, but his advice was good. Rodriguez probably would be in a better position if he didn't decide a good offense was his best defense. All the noise on the internet, TV and in the newspapers didn't help. The lawsuits all failed. Rodriguez ended up embarrassed and suspended for a full season.

Now, it seems A-Rod is finally heeding Cashman's advice. While it may not be because of Cashman's words -- frankly, it probably isn't -- Rodriguez has stepped away from the spotlight during his exile from the game over his involvement in the Biogenesis PED case.

A source told ESPNNewYork.com last week that the Yankees are prepared to take Rodriguez back in 2015, "If he can still play." Either way, the Yankees will still pay the soon-to-be 39-year-old Rodriguez. They owe him $61 million over the next three years. If he were to hit six more homers, he would tie Willie Mays with 660 career long balls, which would be worth another $6 million.

For now, Rodriguez isn't talking to anyone. He has not had any sensational stories turn up on Page Six or TMZ. He seems to have decided to be quiet, which was Cashman's point all along.

On Deck: The Yankees finish their three-game series in Toronto on Wednesday night. Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.23) versus Drew Hutchison (5-5, 3.86). Wallace Matthews will be in the press box for all the action.

Yankees shifting philosophy on defense

May, 8, 2014
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Yankees ShiftAP Photo/Gerald HerbertThe Yankees even employed defensive shifts in spring training games.
About the time the "Moneyball" movie came out, a spoof trailer made its way around the Internet. "Too Much Moneyball," it was called, and it presented the New York Yankees as the very opposite of everything Moneyball and the Oakland A's stood for.

The only numbers that counted were the ones on the ridiculously outsized contracts. The only analysis was in how to spend all those dollars floating through the Yankee Stadium corridors.

It was brilliant. It was hilarious. And it was almost entirely misleading.

Moneyball probably isn't the right term for what the Yankees are doing. But if you're going to rank major league teams as to where they stand on the old-school vs. new-school debate, the 2014 Yankees are a lot more Oakland A's or Houston Astros than they are Detroit Tigers or San Francisco Giants.

"We consider them a smart organization," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said this week. "They don't talk about it a lot. They don't get a lot of publicity for it. But we do think they're a progressive organization.

"Way more than people think."

If you're looking for evidence, check out which teams have most completely embraced the move toward using radical defensive shifts.

According to numbers compiled by Baseball Info Solutions, the Astros lead all of baseball in shifts deployed (no surprise there). The Yankees are second (no way you expected that).

When the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays met last weekend at Yankee Stadium, it was the Yankees who were more likely to set up with three defenders on the left side of the infield. It was the Yankees who seemed to have their infield moving around for every pitch.

They were out-shifting the original shifters.

"They're exceeding us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It doesn't surprise me. It disappoints me. I much preferred when they thought we were nuts, that we were bastardizing the game.

"All I know is it bothers me. It means [Rays opponents] are all getting better, and it makes it more and more difficult to get an edge."

To be clear, the use of shifts doesn't completely correlate to whether an organization relies on analysis. Also, while the Yankees have outdone the Rays on shifting, so have a whole bunch of other teams. So far this season, the Rays rank 16th in the majors in shifts, and dead last in their own division.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter, Tom Foley
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports"We played them in the spring," Rays third-base coach Tom Foley said. "I looked up, and all of a sudden [Derek] Jeter's standing next to me."
"We have really taken a step back," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I don't know if it's just because we're getting more data. For whatever reason, it's worked."

The Yankees admit that their shifts remain a work in progress, open to adaptation as the season goes on, and even during games, as they get more information.

The Yankees also remind you that they continue to maintain a very large scouting staff.

"We're an organization that embraces all information," assistant general manager Billy Eppler said.

That's not exactly new. Joe Torre, in his book "The Yankee Years," tells of general manager Brian Cashman handing him lineup suggestions based on statistical analysis, as far back as 2007. Former Yankees scouts speak of how Cashman increasingly relied on information from Michael Fishman, whose title is director, quantitative analysis.

"I don’t think there's any doubt [Cashman] has always worshipped Billy Beane," one former Cashman employee said, referring to the A's general manager who was the star of Moneyball. "He's so enthralled with Billy Beane, it's unbelievable."

Beane remains highly regarded in the game, and his A's continue to win division titles with nowhere near the resources that Cashman's Yankees have. There's nothing wrong with trying to learn from what the A's have done, or even improving on it.

There's nothing wrong with embracing shifts, either, even if the early-season numbers said they have actually cost the Yankees three net runs (that wouldn't have scored without shifts).

Seriously, why should defenders always stand in the traditional positions, when the numbers say that the batter at the plate almost never hits the ball there?

Change isn't easy, and it's why the Yankees have stopped shifting behind veteran starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who wasn't comfortable with it (just as the Rays don't shift behind David Price, for the same reason). There are occasional grumbles from the Yankees' pitching staff about the shifts, especially when a hit goes through a hole that would have traditionally been filled by the shortstop or second baseman.

It is a work in progress, but it's a project that the Yankees are fully committed to, and are convinced will work. In a baseball world where shifts are increasing exponentially, they're now one of the teams leading the way.

"It's pretty remarkable," third baseman Kelly Johnson said. "We've even shifted on guys who don't have a lot of at-bats. That's kind of incredible."

The Yankees' shifts come from data delivered by Fishman and David Grabiner, coordinated with major league coaching assistant Brett Weber and then with third-base coach Rob Thomson.

"And then the players have to execute it," Eppler said.

From spring training, the Yankees leaned on Johnson (who had shift experience from his time with the Rays and Blue Jays) and second baseman Brian Roberts (who shifted regularly with the Orioles) to help explain the shifts to the other players. They've implemented shifts with their minor league affiliates, too, to get young players accustomed to it.

They've definitely caught a few opponents by surprise.

"We played them in the spring," Rays third-base coach Tom Foley said. "I looked up, and all of a sudden [Derek] Jeter's standing next to me."

He was there because the Yankees were in an exaggerated shift, the kind that once only teams like the Rays would use. It was their edge, making better use of information to counter the Yankees' greater use of money.

It worked for the Rays. Maybe it worked too well, because eventually the Yankees would start making more use of the same type of information themselves.

More and more, they have. More and more, they've become a data-driven team.

And that's no joke.

Mark Simon and Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this post.

Nunez era ends

April, 1, 2014
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HOUSTON -- At one point, the Yankees thought Eduardo Nunez could be Derek Jeter's successor. At another, he could have been the one piece to complete a Cliff Lee trade in 2010.

On Opening Day 2014, Nunez was designated for assignment, which essentially means his Yankees career is over. Nunez, 26, will either be traded or waived in the next seven to 10 days.

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"He possesses a great deal of talent," GM Brian Cashman said. "You can dream on him. We have, as a potential everyday shortstop. All that talent is still there."

The Yankees needed to open a spot on the 40-man roster to make room for Yangervis Solarte. With Brendan Ryan out with what is now described as a cervical spine nerve injury, the team felt more comfortable with Solarte's versatility, deeming him a better choice than Nunez at second. The team thought Dean Anna was a superior backup to Jeter.

Nunez's days with the Yankees appeared to be numbered as early as this past December. The Yankees only had a utility role for him, and the club had already decided in previous years he was not versatile enough.

Coming up through the minors, the Yankees played Nunez almost exclusively at shortstop because they envisioned him as a potential everyday player there one day.

Instead, he will mostly be remembered for his inability to keep his helmet on his head and an assorted amount of miscues. As Cashman pointed out, with a new uniform on, Nunez might be able to reach more of his potential.

RALLYING CRY: Joe Girardi and Cashman have been repeatedly asked if they should make like Ronald Reagan and "Win one for the Jeter." They both keep responding that the Yankees try to win every year.

"Jeter would be offended," Cashman said.

RYAN STILL HURTING: While the Yankees DFA'd Nunez, Ryan is not close to coming back, according to Girardi.

NO. 26: Solarte even took Nunez's old number, 26.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees GM Brian Cashman was an interested spectator at Jacoby Ellsbury's minor league game today, watching his $153 million center fielder's five innings of work from a stand behind home plate with assistant GM Billy Eppler and a scout.

It has been a good spring for Cashman. His prize acquisition of two years ago, Michael Pineda, performed the way he was supposed to in 2012, and with just three days left in camp, the Yankees have avoided the type of serious injuries that devastated their roster last spring.

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But most important, Cashman said, was that the Yankees don't need to scrounge up discarded players in the final week of spring training just to fill out a roster, as they did last year.

"We’re always looking at the waiver wire. We’re always looking at released players. We’re always looking at who's available," Cashman said. "Last year, we were living off that. This year, we really have some people we can look at right in front of us at least. We’re not desperate right now, like we were last year, and I hope it stays that way."

There are still decisions left to be made, such as filling out the bullpen and adding a second backup infielder now that it appears certain Brendan Ryan is headed for the disabled list. But the major roles have been filled, either through free agency (Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ellsbury) or return from injury (Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira).

"I think so far we’ve had a really collective, healthy camp, and almost everybody that’s come in has performed well," Cashman said.

As usual, the GM would not offer specifics about whom the Yankees might be interested in or whom they might be shopping, but he did say that Kelly Johnson, who struggled at third base Tuesday night, would be the Yankees' every-day third baseman and that teams have been calling looking to deal for either Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy, both of whom were optioned to Triple-A when Francisco Cervelli was named the backup catcher.

"We’re certainly hearing from a lot of people about these guys," Cashman said. "They’re assets. We’re not in any position where we have to do anything, but if something made sense, we’d consider it. But right now, we’re happy with what we’ve got."

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the job Cashman did this offseason?

A top Yankee scout leaves for ... the MLS

March, 17, 2014
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Will Kuntz, not even 30 yet, knew how good he had it. As the Yankees manager of professional scouting, he reported to assistant GM Billy Eppler and had the ear of GM Brian Cashman, giving him a voice in the team's major moves for Mashiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and beyond.

[+] EnlargeBilly Eppler
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallGM Brian Cashman (left), Billy Eppler, and manager Joe Girardi during spring training in 2011
"He had a seat at the table," Cashman said.

It was a dream job until Kuntz received a text during the Tanaka press conference in January. The 6-foot-6 Kuntz played basketball at Williams College and was already working in professional baseball, but he loved soccer. A buddy of his told him about the job as the Director of Player Relations for Major League Soccer.

"It was the one opportunity outside of baseball that would make me leave here," Kuntz said.

Kuntz cobbled together a resume for the first time in more than a decade and applied for the job. He got it and now will be working with a handful of MLS teams, managing their rosters, while doing prep work for the new collective bargaining agreement.

Raised in Brooklyn by a an accomplished judge and doctor, Kuntz first entered the Yankee picture by writing George Steinbrenner, a proud Williams grad, a letter about an internship in 2003.

From there, despite going to law school at night, he rose up the Yankees' ranks, just one position below earning a full-fledged picture in the media guide, which goes to assistant GMs and above.

Before Kuntz took the MLS job, Cashman told him, he could have a long-term career in baseball. "He is an extremely talented guy," Cashman said.

But is he a loyal one? Some in Kuntz's own family have questioned that. It turns out, he grew up a die-hard Mets' fans, which his sisters never let him forget. So who will he root for now?

"I've been through too much to not want success for the Yankees and the people I am leaving," said Kuntz, who still roots for the Mets to do well. "So I'll just pray for no Subway Series."

Kuntz, though, doesn't sound as if he would change a thing as he picked up a World Series ring in 2009 and sounded extremely appreciative of the chance to go after the best players year after year.

Cashman said he has promoted Steve Martone, who had been the assistant of Baseball Operations, to Kuntz' position. Cashman first said Kuntz was leaving in article in the New York Post.

Most burning question: Why now, Derek?

February, 18, 2014
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Derek JeterJohn Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER/USA TODAY SportsDerek Jeter will face the media Wednesday morning. And there's one thing, above all, we'd like to know about his impending retirement.
TAMPA, Fla. -- It is not often that a bunch of divergent groups with differing agendas can approach a story with the same basic question, but when Derek Jeter takes the podium Wednesday at New York Yankees camp to address his recent retirement announcement, GM Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi, most of his teammates, all of the media and millions of Yankees fans will likely want to hear just one particular question:

Why?

Why now, Derek?

Why announce you are walking away from the game before you even know for sure how much baseball you have left in you?

That is just one of many questions that remain unanswered, but to the team and its fans, it has to be the most important one.

Because if one thing has become clear in discussing Jeter with his boss, his manager and some of his teammates, it is that just about everyone was blindsided by the announcement, made not in a private phone conversation with Cashman or Girardi -- although Jeter did call owner Hal Steinbrenner -- but in a lengthy post on his Facebook page.

Cashman said he was “surprised" by Jeter’s announcement. Girardi chose “taken aback" as his reaction. CC Sabathia said he was “saddened." Mark Teixeira allowed that he was "shocked."

“I thought that Derek had a couple years left in him," Teixeira said. “I knew how excited he would be about this season, the same way I am. When you only play 15 or 17 games, you just get really excited about playing the next year. I could have seen Derek playing until he was 44 or 45; I really could have."

That was what most people thought, that Jeter would be one of those guys who would need the uniform cut off his body before he would leave the field.

In one sense, it is better this way, because it pretty much insures he will not stumble through a prolonged, sad ending of the type that we’ve seen with other great players of the past.

But in another, it is a mystery why a player whose hallmark is his unshakeable self-belief would decide before even taking a single spring training batting practice swing that he could no longer commit himself to the game that has been his life for the better part of four decades.

It makes you wonder if the broken ankle that limited him to 17 games last season is still troubling him, or if his early fielding and hitting drills have made it clear to him that he can no longer play up to his former standards.

SportsNation

Who is the fifth greatest Yankee of all time (after Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle)?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,978)

But in that case, you’d think he would retire now, before the rest of the world could learn what he already knows.

The truth is, no one really knows how much game Derek Jeter has left. Hitting in the cage and fielding some soft grounder hit by a coach tells a player nothing about his ability to perform in a real game. Not even live batting practice, against a real pitcher, or the customary five innings in a preseason game can come close to simulating the intensity of a major league ballgame.

What if the guy rebounds from his torturous 2013 season to hit .300 again? We already know he’s capable of that kind of bounce-back from his 2012 season, when he batted .316 and led the American League in hits after suffering through a nightmarish 2011.

What if he racks up another 200 hits and finds himself suddenly fifth on baseball’s all-time hit list, needing fewer than 120 to vault himself over Stan Musial and trailing just Pete Rose, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron in all of baseball history?

How tempting will it be to rescind that Facebook post?

In that entry, Jeter said baseball had started to "feel like a job," and that he "could not be more sure" that his decision to pack it in after this year is the right one.

But why did he feel the need to announce it now, when he is sure to be asked about it at every stop the Yankees make this season? Why couldn't this most private of professional athletes keep such a momentous decision to himself for six more months?

There are dozens of other questions that will be asked of Jeter on Wednesday. Some will be hagiographic, others will be probing. What did he mean when he said he wanted to start a family? Is he on the verge of announcing an engagement, as well?

Jeter wrote he wants “new challenges," he wants to “see the world" and enjoy a first-ever summer vacation. Does that mean he will disappear from the public eye for a while? Relocate to Europe? Host barbecues at St. Jetersburg, the 30,000-square-foot mansion he owns not far from the Yankees' spring training complex?

And what of his post-baseball life? He wrote of pursuing opportunities in business and philanthropic causes. But what will his relationship with the Yankees be? Will he show up every spring in a Yankees hoodie to hit fungoes to the infielders, like David Wells? Could he see himself as a part owner, or a GM, or a manager? Would he be interested in working some games as a TV commentator?

Is he emotionally ready to appear at a Yankees Old-Timers' Day?

Or will he aim even higher, and try to leave his mark on the game as an MLBPA official or, dare we suggest, as the commissioner of baseball? The odds of any player ever being approved by the owners to occupy the commissioner’s office are slim, but if any player could serve as the perfect front man for the game, it is Jeter. He’s already done it for 20 years as a player.

Or will he take a page from the Jim Brown playbook and leave his sport behind in favor of Hollywood?

The possibilities are endless, and tantalizing to explore.

But of all the questions we might want to ask Derek Jeter on Wednesday, and all the answers we would like to hear, none is more intriguing than the simplest of all:

Why now, Derek?

That is the one question no one seems to have a satisfactory answer for.

No one, I presume, but Jeter. And I can't wait to hear it.

Long: I wasn't malicious

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
3:45
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Kevin Long-Robinson Cano "dog" story got new legs on Tuesday when Jerry Crasnick spoke with Lloyd McClendon.

Long reacted to McClendon's reaction, in which the Mariners' manger mocked Long for acting like a "hitting guru" in his book, "Cage Rat" and for being something of a Yankees spokesman.

"That's too bad," Long said. "I don't consider myself the spokesman for the Yankees. If you look at all the good things that were written about Robinson you would understand there was no malicious meaning behind any of it. If he wants to speak publicly like that, that is up to him. That is the way he interpreted it. I'm not going to get in a media war with Lloyd McClendon, he'd probably win that anyway.

"There were so many good parts, but it basically was, if anyone looks at it they are going to see that Robinson doesn't sprint down to first. I think if anyone puts a clock on him [they] would realize that. That's it. Other than, this guy is a tremendous human being, tremendous character guy."

When he read McClendon's comments about Long, Yankees GM Brian Cashman laughed. Cashman said he has no plans to talk to Long about his comments, but he was a little taken aback by them.

"I was surprised," Cashman said.

Cashman said he never had an issue with Cano.

Lack of hustle or no, Yanks will miss Cano

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
4:30
PM ET


TAMPA, Fla. -- There’s an expression for what the Yankees appear to be trying to do to Robinson Cano now that he has left them for the more lucrative expanses of Seattle: That dog won’t hunt.

For the better part of nine years, no one connected to the Yankees, from the manager to the GM to any of his teammates, expressed any displeasure with Cano’s rather leisurely pace from home to first.

The positives about Cano’s game, his wicked flash of a left-handed swing, his effortless grace in the field, his sunny demeanor in the clubhouse and, mostly, his daunting offensive numbers always seemed to outweigh this one rather trivial, if slightly annoying, negative.

I and others asked manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman, repeatedly, whether they had any problem with Cano not running full speed to first base, if only because of the perception in the minds of some that the Yankees’ best player was giving less than his best effort.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesThis year's Yankees infield may make Robinson Cano look even more like a top dog.
And every time, both of them said they had no problem with the way Cano ran the bases.

Until the final game of last season, when, with the playoffs already gone and Cano likely going, Girardi acknowledged that he had, in fact, spoken to his second baseman about his refusal to get out of first gear.

Soon afterward came a story from an anonymous source that Cano was “demanding" $300 million from the Yankees, a demand that the Cano camp strongly denied was ever made and one that, if it had been made, was clearly not a very firm demand because Cano wound up “settling" for a mere $240 million from the Mariners.

So it seemed a little gratuitous, to say the least, for Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to volunteer the opinion to John Harper of the New York Daily News that Cano was, to borrow his word, a “dog" on the basepaths.

“If somebody told me I was a dog," Long told Harper, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to."

Long -- who spent many hours working like a dog in the cage with Cano before games, often before any other Yankees were in the ballpark -- went on to mention Cano “taking plays off" and “giv[ing] away at-bats in RBI situations," which must not have happened very often, because Cano averaged 107 RBIs over each of his last four seasons with the Yankees.

You would hate to think the storied Yankees were orchestrating a campaign of disinformation to tarnish Cano’s image in the hopes of justifying their decision to let him go basically without a fight.

Because their stated reason for letting Cano go was solid enough: Between having been burned by the disaster-movie of a contract given to Alex Rodriguez, seeing the Angels' 10-year deal with Albert Pujols going up in flames, and holding their breath over their own long-term deals with CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees simply didn’t think it wise to commit that many years and dollars to a player already in his 30s, even one as gifted as Cano.

That should have sufficed.

But now, a couple of months later and with the full glare of the Florida spring training sun exposing the holes in their infield without Cano, perhaps the Yankees think they will need some more ammunition, er, information, to mollify their fan base.

Because the truth is, they are going to miss Cano a heck of a lot this season.

Already, Girardi has acknowledged, more than once, that his roster has no one bat to build a lineup around, no one hitter who will strike fear into the heart of an opposing pitcher, no one player who will have his counterpart in the other dugout telling his team, “Don’t let that guy beat us."

Cano was that guy, and no one feared he was going to do it by beating out an infield hit.

He was going to do it by belting the ball out of the park, or by drawing a walk because you didn’t dare pitch to him, or by causing a pitcher to lay a fat one into the guy hitting in front of him hoping to get out of a jam before Cano came to the plate.

Or he was going to do it by plucking a hot shot headed for the hole between first and second, taking that little pause of his, then flipping the ball to first with that unique underhand delivery that ended so many threats.

This season, Cano will not be at second base for the 150-plus games he gave the Yankees for seven straight seasons.

Instead, his place will be taken by Brian Roberts, a 36-year-old whose last full season was in 2009. Since then, he has played in 59, 39, 17 and 77 games, in that order, all with the Baltimore Orioles, who did not even bother to offer him a contract this winter after 13 years of service.

Roberts will flip the ball to Teixeira, who missed all but 15 games last season with a wrist injury that required surgery, and he will form a new DP tandem with Derek Jeter, who at 40 will be the oldest starting shortstop in baseball and is coming off an injury-torn season in which he was limited to just 17 games.

To Roberts’ extreme right will be Kelly Johnson, another journeyman who is not only expected to replace A-Rod, at least against right-handed pitching, at third, but is also being relied upon by Girardi to back up at short, second and first. Johnson will be helped by Eduardo Nunez and Scott Sizemore.

What it adds up to is that the Yankees' infield, once the backbone of their offense and extremely reliable on defense, is being cobbled together out of a collection of backups.

It won’t take long before Yankees fans will grow nostalgic for the sight of Cano ambling to first base as though he were out on a Sunday stroll, because unlike most of the guys who will play in the Yankees' infield this season, he regularly made the entire circuit at that speed.

The fact that Cano never was in much of a hurry to get to first base didn’t seem to matter when he was also getting to home plate more often than just about any other Yankee for four years running, if I may use that word in connection with him.

Because if for nine years as the Yankees' best all-around player, Robinson Cano was a dog, he’s a dog the Yankees are going to miss dearly this season.

Short takes on Derek Jeter's announcement

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
3:50
PM ET
video

What was your first reaction when you heard that Derek Jeter is planning to make 2014 his final season with the New York Yankees?

HAL STEINBRENNER, Yankees owner

Derek called me this morning to tell me that he planned to retire following the season. In our conversation, I told him that I respected his decision because I know he put a lot of thought into it. I also let him know that I thought it was great that he was letting fans know now so they will have a chance to say goodbye to him.

He is unquestionably one of the greatest Yankees ever. He has meant so much to fans, the organization, my father and our family. I’m glad we have this year to celebrate everything he has meant to us and all the great things he still stands to accomplish.

BRIAN CASHMAN, Yankees general manager

It has been an incredible honor having a front-row seat for one of the great players of all time. Derek has been a winner every step of the way. I am already looking forward to an exciting final chapter of his storied career.

JOE GIRARDI, Yankees manager

Derek Jeter has been a great representative of what the Yankees have stood for over the years. He has been a team player who has only cared about winning. He has also been a fine example both on and off the field over his long tenure as a Yankee. It has been a real pleasure to manage him and play alongside him.

BERNIE WILLIAMS, former Yankees teammate

I'm so happy that Derek will get to go out on his terms -- and his way. He was as special a teammate as any player could ever have. I'm blessed to have played with him. Yankees fans and baseball fans all over the world will have a lot to celebrate this season.

JORGE POSADA, former Yankees teammate

It was an honor and privilege to have Derek next to me for all those years. He made me a better player and a better person. I'm so proud of our friendship, and I love him like a brother. Derek was a true champion and the greatest teammate I ever had.

IAN O'CONNOR, columnist

I was returning from walking my dog, running a tad late for a trip to the airport and a flight to Florida when my wife stopped me in the street. "Derek Jeter just announced he's retiring at the end of the season," she shouted from the front door. "Say that again," I shouted back. There was no need. She was hoping this wouldn't interfere with a few days in Fort Lauderdale ahead of the storm. "You don't have to write, do you?" she asked. I assured her that, yes, with one of the all-time Yankee greats retiring, it would be a pretty good idea if I wrote, even if I had to finish the column on a floor inside Newark Airport.

[+] EnlargeMariano Rivera
William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY SportsEmotions flowed throughout Yankee Stadium as Derek Jeter, left, and Andy Pettitte, right, pulled Mariano Rivera in the closer's last home outing.
JOHNETTE HOWARD, columnist

My first thought when Derek Jeter made the stunning announcement Wednesday that the 2014 season will be his last: the sight of Jeter and Andy Pettitte walking out to the mound to remove Mariano Rivera from the last game he would ever pitch at Yankee Stadium. Jeter had grown up as a man and a baseball player with both players. Now Andy had pitched his last game in New York and Mo, fighting back tears, was officially done, too?

After the game, Jeter's feelings seemed even more shuttered than usual. While Yanks manager Joe Girardi openly wept -- first when he hugged Rivera in the dugout, then again at a postgame news conference -- Jeter had the distracted air of a man who knew he was getting an emotional test drive of his own baseball funeral. And the look on his face was poignant. His legs are unreliable; his range diminished. The Yankees shortstop didn’t tip his hand that anything like this was coming that day. Speaking of Rivera and Pettitte, but surely himself, too, all he said was: "It's a shame all good things must end."

DAVID WRIGHT, Mets third baseman

I was fortunate as a young player in this town to be able to watch how Derek Jeter conducted himself on and off the field. I had the privilege to call Derek a teammate during the World Baseball Classic and got to see firsthand how to lead by example. I've always been a big Derek Jeter fan for what he has done on the baseball field. I became an even bigger fan after getting to know Derek and learning there is more to this game than what goes on between the lines. Excluding the Subway Series, I wish him all the best in his final season.

MATT HARVEY, Mets pitcher

When you grew up watching baseball, that was the guy that you watched and wanted to be like. The amount of respect that he has in the game and in New York, it’s going to be sad to see him leave. But he’s had such an amazing career. Obviously, he’s ready to move on with whatever he is interested in, but as a fan of New York sports, it’s going to be a sad thing to see him leave.

JASON KIDD, Nets coach

He's one of the best. To play as a Yankee for that time, on the big stage, and to be able to deliver each time. He's everyone's role model. ... As kids grow up playing baseball and want to be a shortstop, everyone wants to be Derek Jeter. For this to be his last year, everybody will miss him, but he had a great run and hopefully he can end it on a positive note.

RAY FELTON, Knicks point guard

Just heard about it. Long career, great career. It's a good time. He's definitely a scholar. It's definitely the way you want to carry yourself.

J.R. SMITH, Knicks guard

Pissed. I'm pissed. You know, he gave us a lot of years. You got to bow down to Jeter. He's the greatest ever.

ANDREW MARCHAND, reporter

I was surprised when I heard the news that Derek Jeter was retiring. A text from my friend Josh Krulewitz, [who] alerted me to the story while I was at the airport waiting for my flight to Tampa. Krulewitz, who works in ESPN's public relations department and is a die-hard Yankees fan, sent me the link to Jeter's Facebook post. Since Jeter isn't known for being into social media, I thought it might be a fake.

I immediately called a Yankees source, who said the club hadn't been informed yet. Then Jeter's agent, Casey Close, confirmed to me that the Facebook post was real. Later, team president Randy Levine told me Jeter had called Hal Steinbrenner with the news in the morning but asked Steinbrenner to keep it a secret.

Jeter really is retiring, and, if you are of a certain age like me -- I was born 13 days before Jeter -- you feel a little older.

RYAN RUOCCO, ESPN New York 98.7 FM

There's only one person I've ever idolized outside of my family, and that's Derek Jeter. I literally have taken moments and thought to myself, "What would Derek Jeter do in this situation?" And tried to follow his course.

He is the picture of security and confidence. His competitive fire is legendary. Over the last two decades, he has been the face of New York sports. For people of my generation (I'm 27), saying goodbye to Derek Jeter is like saying goodbye to our childhood. I'm just glad we're going to get to do so properly.

IAN BEGLEY, reporter

Stunned. One of the greatest competitors many people my age (31) have ever seen is on his way out. The first thing that comes to mind is Jeter sprinting toward the mound and with his hands in the air after the final out of the 1996 World Series. A look of pure, unfiltered joy. One of the great things we have in sports. Here's to hoping young stars see Jeter as an example of how to carry themselves on and off the field.

MIKE MAZZEO, reporter

A few days before DJ became DJ3K, my editor told me that if Jeter's 3,000th hit was a home run, it would be my job to chase down the fan who caught it. Given Jeter's flair for the dramatic, it came as no surprise when that's exactly what happened. Of course it did. They don't call him Captain Clutch for nothing.

DAN GRAZIANO, reporter

It made me feel old! I covered Jeter from 2000-08 and remember so many great moments, but what amazes me is that he was able to play so long as a superstar in New York without ever once embarrassing himself or the team on or off the field.

ETHAN DONALDSON, associate editor for ESPNNewYork.com

"From the time I was a kid, my dream was always very vivid and it never changed: I was going to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees," Derek Jeter wrote in The Facebook Post Heard Around the World on Wednesday.

Truer words have never been spoken ... about me! As a kid growing up in Ohio, my dream was the very same. Thing is, Jeter lived it. Even better, The Captain played every out of every game like he was on borrowed time, as if he'd wake up one day and it all would be gone.

After the 2014 season, the alarm will finally sound on my childhood sporting hero's storybook career. And thankfully, this is one dream that no one will soon forget.

KIERAN DARCY, reporter

Facebook??? That was my initial reaction. Then I read what Derek Jeter wrote and it all made sense.

You have to renounce your fandom in order to cover a team objectively -- but my son doesn’t. Aidan is 5½ months old now, but he actually attended his first Yankees game while still in the womb. (God bless my wife.)

Deryn and I went to the gift shop before first pitch, looking for a souvenir. I was never a jersey-wearing kind of guy, but Aidan can be if he wants. And you can bet I’ll be picky about whose jersey he wears.

I’ll never forget whose jersey he wore first: No. 2. Derek Jeter. And I can’t wait to tell Aidan all about him.

MATT MARRONE, senior editor for ESPNNewYork.com

Derek Jeter's heroics have made the Stadium shake -- from the Jeffrey Maier game in '96 and Mr. November in '01 to the Dive against the Sawx, the Speech in '08 and hit No. 3,000 in 2011.

But though I was on hand for so many of his greatest moments, I was also sitting in the stands when he had to be carried off the field during the 2012 ALCS, when his ankle finally gave way following one of his most incredible seasons.

Never have I heard such silence in the Bronx. Walking out that night had the aura of a funeral procession, the polar opposite of how Jeter has made Yankees fans feel for nearly 20 years. His absence reverberated like no other Big Apple ballplayer’s I've seen.

Everyone there that night -- or watching on TV or listening on the radio -- knows exactly how much he'll be missed.

Use the comments section to give us your short take, or tweet us at @ESPNNewYork.

12 burning Bombers questions

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
12:00
AM ET
Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos BeltranAP Photo, Getty ImagesThe Yankees missed the playoffs, then promptly reloaded. So what can fans expect in 2014?
NEW YORK -- Every baseball season begins the same way. Players report for spring training. Reporters start asking questions.

Some of those questions, naturally, cannot be fully answered until the season is over, and sometimes not even by then. But that doesn’t stop us from asking them, or trying to guess at their answers.

In that spirit, as the Yankees' pitchers and catchers prepare to report to training camp on Friday, we begin asking our questions today. And coming off only their second playoff-less season in two decades, this year's Yankees team faces some serious issues.

We’ve come up with a dozen questions the Yankees need to answer if they’re going to have a bounce-back 2014 season.

1. Who's on First? This is an easy one, although since he played in just 15 games last season, you might have forgotten about Mark Teixeira. He is said to be healthy and ready to go following wrist tendon surgery, but what kind of player will he be? Teixeira will turn 34 in April, and by his own admission last season, may well be in the start of a decline. And as a frame of reference, Jose Bautista, who had the same surgery in 2012, had a pretty good 118 games in 2013 -- .259 BA, 28 HRs, 73 RBIs, .856 OPS -- but was nowhere near the force he had been in his MVP-caliber 2011 season.

2. What's on Second? Well, it won't be Robinson Cano, doncha know? Right now, the job belongs to Brian Roberts, the veteran Baltimore Orioles second baseman who was signed to a one-year deal by the Yankees as a free agent this winter. Roberts, a career .278 hitter who has averaged roughly seven HRs a season over 13 years -- his high was 18 in 2005 -- will make no one forget Cano at the plate or in the field, but he is a serviceable player who should fit in well.

3. I Don't Know's on Third? Again, we do know who it won't be: Alex Rodriguez. Right now, barring a last-minute signing or the picking up of a late spring training castoff (a la Lyle Overbay last year), it will either be new signing Kelly Johnson or old pal Eduardo Nunez. With the exception of the circus that seems to follow A-Rod, neither can be seen as an improvement: Johnson's past three seasons pretty much mirror A-Rod's production for power, averaging 17 HRs a season, but his BA over that span is .226 and his OPS barely scrapes .700. Nunie, of course, is Nunie -- always an adventure in the field, rarely an explosion at the plate.

4. A short season for the shortstop? Derek Jeter remains a huge question mark, since beginning with spring training last year he was never able to play two back-to-back games in the field and return healthy. True, he’s had more time to heal this winter and presumably will benefit from a normal offseason workout routine. But he will also turn 40 this June and you have to guess he'll spend a lot of his time as a DH this season.

5. Nervous ninths? You betcha. With Mariano Rivera gone, the ninth inning of a Yankees game will not be the same this year, and probably never again. Even if David Robertson rises to the occasion -- and he certainly has the capability to do so -- there's just no way anyone in the stands, or the Yankees' dugout, for that matter, will ever head into a ninth inning with a one-run lead thinking, “This one’s in the bag." With Mo, that was a nightly occurrence, but with Robertson's penchant for putting runners on base -- and admittedly, usually leaving them there -- there will be a lot of sweaty palms in the ballpark before that last out is made.

6. Crazy eighths? Probably, because the Yankees didn't just lose their closer when Mo retired, they lost their eighth-inning guy as well. And no one in baseball set up his closer better than Robertson, who in moving up leaves a gaping hole behind him. Who in the Yankees' bullpen will step up to fill it? Right now, the guess is Shawn Kelley, who was a revelation last season after recovering from a second Tommy John surgery.

7. From whom will the Yankees get minor contributions? As in, from the minor leagues? Well, in the three-part series Andrew Marchand and I did last week on the Yankees' farm system, maybe no one. GM Brian Cashman is hopeful 22-year-old phenom Manny Banuelos, coming off Tommy John surgery, will show enough in spring training to make the team as perhaps the second lefty out of the bullpen. Cashman also believes 24-year-old right-handed flamethrower Jose Ramirez could make an impact. And there is still hope for Dellin Betances, as there should be for any 25-year-old who can hit 97 on the gun.

But aside from those three pitchers -- and J.R. Murphy, who will be given a shot to win the backup catcher's job behind Brian McCann -- there isn’t much on the farm that is ready to be harvested. Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin and Mason Williams are all several years away.

8. Will the new offense make up for the loss of Cano and A-Rod? Possibly. The Yankees lost their best bat in Cano, but you have to remember they got virtually nothing out of the catcher's spot last year -- .213-8-43, .587 OPS -- and McCann will make a huge difference there. Also, Carlos Beltran should be a major upgrade over Vernon Wells, Jacoby Ellsbury -- if he can stay healthy -- is a more powerful version of Brett Gardner, and the Yankees will have the benefit of a full season of Alfonso Soriano, who figures to get the bulk of the right-handed DH duty. It might be difficult to replace the home runs lost with the departures of Cano and Curtis Granderson, but didn't we say that before last season, too? The 2013 Yankees matched the 2012 Yankees for home runs -- in April, anyway. Overall, last year's club hit 101 fewer homers than its predecessor.

9. Can CC find his lost V-LO? Who knows? Sabathia will turn 34 this season and barely avoided finishing as a .500 pitcher for the first time in his career. More alarming was his ERA, which skirted 5.00 (4.78) and was the highest of his career. Most alarmingly of all, the big man’s velocity has steadily declined over the years, from a high of 94.1 in his first season as a Yankee, to an average of 91.4 in 2013. Publicly, the Yankees continue to maintain they believe CC will find those lost mphs this season, but plenty of pitchers his age have had to make the adjustment from thrower to pitcher and he may now be one of them. Also, for those of you who believe he was "too thin" last season, he looks to have lost even more weight this winter. If size = velocity, that may turn out to be good news for CC's cardiologist but bad news for the Yankees.

10. Can Hiro go the distance? It's a legitimate question now that Hiroki Kuroda has shown a disturbing tendency to fade down the stretch in both his seasons as a Yankee. In 2012, he went 4-1 in September but posted a 4.71 ERA. That was good compared to last year, when, to borrow Graig Nettles' famous line about Sparky Lyle, he went from Cy Young to Sayonara virtually overnight, going 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA over the final two months. Hiro turned 39 on Monday and if the Yankees hope to go far in October -- or even get there in the first place -- they need him to stay strong to the finish.

11. Will Masahiro Tanaka come as advertised? Depends on what you’re expecting. Cashman might have offered a clue this weekend when he told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor that he felt the 25-year-old right-hander could develop into "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Later, Cashman said his words had been “misconstrued" and that he meant Tanaka could be a No. 3 "this year." Whatever. At $155 million, Tanaka has got to be better than that, hasn’t he? And all those teams who lined up to bid on him couldn't be wrong, could they?

All we know is, there's always a lot of adjustments to be made when coming from the Nippon Baseball League to MLB. Some make it seamlessly, like Kuroda and Yu Darvish. Others struggle to keep up, like Daisuke Matsuzaka. And some never make the adjustment (dare we mention Kei Igawa?) Sabathia, Kuroda and Ivan Nova form a nice foundation for a starting rotation, but if Tanaka can’t make the adjustment, all the offense in the world is unlikely to help the Yankees.

12. Is Cashman on the hot seat? Highly doubtful. The GM is in the final year of his contract, but he made some gutsy choices this offseason and if the team rebounds the way it might, he should reap much of the credit. Besides, Hal Steinbrenner is not George M. Steinbrenner; he has shown no inclination for scapegoating or knee-jerk firings and I can't see him kicking Cashman to the curb if the team fails to produce. Now, might Cashman decide to walk on his own?

Well, that’s just one more question that we can ask today, but won't be able to answer for another six months. At least.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .282
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 62
OPSB. Gardner .768
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135