While the best teams in baseball continue to put on a nightly show in the postseason, the Yankees are slowly moving forward with their offseason plans. They re-signed manager Joe Girardi to a new 4-year deal last week and they are in the process of re-signing his coaching staff to return with him. The word "stability" was used a lot when Joe's new deal was announced and it's something this organization needs to re-establish going forward, but there's still a lot that needs to be done to achieve that goal.
The coaching staff is just the first piece of the puzzle for the Yankees this offseason, and hardly the most important one at that. There's a lot of work that needs to be done with the roster and a lot of big decisions that need to be made to determine the direction this franchise takes in 2014 and beyond. A lot of those decisions probably won't be made until a decision is rendered in the Alex Rodriguez suspension appeal hearing, something the Yankees have no control over. There's plenty they do control, however, and they'd be wise not to sit on their hands while the A-Rod case plays out. If Cash is making a checklist of things he can control this offseason, here are the ones that should be the top priorities.
1) Get The Robinson Cano Situation Resolved
Whether that means hammering out a new deal and locking him up long-term or making the decision to cut bait and let him walk, it's in the Yankees' best interests to come to one of those conclusions sooner rather than later. Like with Girardi, the Yankees still have exclusive negotiating rights with Cano right now and they should be using as much of that time as they can to work towards an end result. They have Cano's first offer, he has theirs, the parameters for negotiating have been set. Get both sides in a meeting room and start working things out. Cano's status can have just as big an impact on the rest of the offseason as A-Rod's with respect to salary. Better to know how much more or less money they have to work with on the free agent market as early as possible.
2) Beef Up The Rotation
The 2014 rotation is all questions and no answers right now. Can CC Sabathia return to ace form? Can Ivan Nova put a full season together like his 2013 second half? Can Michael Pineda actually throw a pitch in a Yankee uniform? Will Hiroki Kuroda come back? If so, who's filling out the back end of the rotation? If not, who's filling out the #2-#3 spots behind CC? This team is going only as far as the starting pitching can carry it next year, and right now the rotation isn't capable of carrying it down a short hallway. There are options aplenty on the free agent and trade markets. Decide what your price range is and get involved on both fronts because there isn't any help coming from SWB.
3) Find An Everyday Shortstop
Not necessarily one who is going to take Derek Jeter's place, since we all know that's not going to happen, but one who is a better fit as an everyday shortstop than the 40-year-old with the bum ankle. Jeter is going to get a lot more time at DH next year and could spend some more time on the DL. The Yankees can't be left without a viable backup option again. The Nunezes and Nixes of the world just don't cut the mustard as everyday players so they need to go out and find one. A solid 2-way SS would be ideal, but at the very least someone who can handle the position defensively is a must.
4) Find Some Third Base Insurance
In a similar vein as Jeter, the Yankees need to improve their backup options for A-Rod at third, whether he ends up suspended or not. If he is able to play for any amount of time, Alex's days as an everyday third baseman are probably over, and he'll be spending his fair share of time at DH as well. The Yankees swung and missed trying to replace him this past season and their plan to address it this year needs to be more than "sign the most recognizable name". They gave Eduardo Nunez a chance late in the year and, as much as it pains me to say it, he actually played pretty well there. If Joe wants to give him a shot there again in ST, fine. But that can't be the only plan of action. Putting faith in Nunez based on a small sample size of meaningless games would be just as foolish as doing nothing.
5) Decide The Fate of Farm System Front Office Positions
Both Cash and Hal have implied that heads are going to roll for the farm system's inability to develop high-end Major League talent. It'd be best for all parties involved if they stopped implying and started firing. If a change needs to be made, make it now and get new people in those positions to start revamping the strategy down there ASAP. There's nothing to be gained by waiting. The Yankees could be looking at multiple 1st round picks again in the 2014 draft. Get the new people installed in those key positions and give them as much time to scout and formulate their draft plan as possible.
(Photo courtesy of The Star-Ledger)