Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Updated: November 7, 3:16 PM ET
Yankees could have some major holes to fill

By Sean McAdam
Special to ESPN.com

For almost any other franchise, a 94-win season and a spot in the postseason would qualify as a successful year. But not in the Bronx, where the championship drought has reached seven seasons, an unacceptable span. The Yankees did a nice job integrating a handful of young pitchers this season, most of whom gained valuable experience as the team contended for a division title. But the unrest after the season ended -- Joe Torre's rejection of a contract extension and Alex Rodriguez's decision to opt out of his remaining three seasons -- has led to a franchise in disarray.

Primary needs

NEW YORK YANKEES
Yankees GM: Brian Cashman
Manager: Joe Girardi
'07 record: 94-68, 2nd AL East
'07 payroll: $195.2M, 1st MLB
Runs scored: 968, 2nd AL
Runs allowed: 777, 7th AL
OPS: .829, 1st AL
ERA: 4.49, 8th AL
Fielding percentage: .985, T-3rd AL
1. If the Yankees are to be taken at their word regarding their decision to not pursue Rodriguez, the team must find someone to play third base -- and produce runs.

2. Great Yankees teams often have great center fielders, and with Johnny Damon unable to play the position full-time, the Yankees will look for an upgrade.

3. First base was split among a handful of players last season and the Yanks would like to stabilize that position.

Free agents

C Jorge Posada, 3B Alex Rodriguez, RHP Mariano Rivera, LHP Andy Pettitte (player option), C Jose Molina, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, RHP Roger Clemens, RHP Luis Vizcaino, LHP Ron Villone.

The Yankees must re-sign Posada and Rivera to continue to compete, since there are no obvious replacements behind the plate and at the back end of the bullpen.

Keeping Pettitte, too, would help, since he remains an effective and experienced starter, though the team's backlog of young arms could help mitigate the lefty's loss.

Torii Hunter

Hunter

If the Yanks are looking for upgrades in center, they might start with Torii Hunter. Andruw Jones is another possibility, though the Yanks might have had their fill of Scott Boras' clients for a while.

Mike Lowell represents a unique opportunity, too, since he could replace Rodriguez at third and simultaneously hurt the Red Sox.

Trade bait

Increasingly, the name of Melky Cabrera is heard as someone the Yanks might be willing to move. That talk will increase should the Yanks sign a big-name free-agent outfielder. Like the Red Sox, the Yankees have nicely stocked up on impressive young arms, but would probably rule out dealing the vast majority of them.

Farm aid

Joba Chamberlain, who was nearly unhittable over the final six weeks, will still be a rookie in 2008 and is the best of the Yankees' many pitching prospects. Ian Kennedy is also expected to play a major role for the pitching staff. Outfielder Jose Tabata is seen as a five-tool outfielder and could contribute in the second half of the season if he continues to progress, though he won't turn 20 until August.

Outlook

The Yankees seem to be at a crossroads this winter, with a new manager and the potential exodus of a number of key veterans, all of whom were part of the team's championship run from 1996-2000. The continuing development of the organization's young pitchers is a boost.

Resources, as always, are plentiful for the Yankees to address their needs, though increasingly, the team seems wary of entering the free-agent market for aging veterans and losing draft picks.

If they can re-sign the troika of Posada, Pettitte and Rivera, though, the Yankees would seem positioned to remain a factor in the American League.

Sean McAdam of The Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.